I moved to London when I was 22. It had always been my boyhood dream; I was enticed by the romance of Fleet Street. If you want to make it in movies as an actor you go to Hollywood – if you wanted to make it as a news photographer, you went to Fleet Street. I wanted to work among the best in the world. When I first arrived I lived in a small flat in Muswell Hill. It had an amazing view of Alexandra Palace, which I loved.
I grew up in Geelong, Australia, and at one point I did three different jobs. I worked as a news photographer on a local paper, a DJ at club nights and in a supermarket. Although this enabled me to buy my own house at the age of 19, I suffered a physical breakdown as a result. But it didn't deter me, my motto is you live on potential till you're 25 and after that you have to live on achievement. Now I have houses in Dubai, St Tropez, Sydney, Melbourne and London. I don't take photos any more, only for big clients as I chair several businesses, MrPaparazzi.com being the largest website for celebrity news, and I run nightclubs, restaurants and real estate companies.
One of my passions is interior design and I have just designed the interior of one of my nightclubs in Australia. It has a Diamonds are Forever feel. I bought this two-bedroom flat just a stone's throw from Hyde Park for £500,000 in 2001 after I got married. I wanted to live in Kensington as I was working for the Daily Mail and wanted to live in the area.
When my now ex-wife stepped in to the house I thought she'd love, she said she couldn't stand it. She hated the colour – it was all a ghastly yellow. I painted the walls dark purples and greens and put in dark stained wooden floorboards and chandeliers in every room, even the kitchen, and stained-glass windows.
The hallway is plastered with photos and newspaper clips about my life and career. I have a picture of Kate Middleton walking along the beach in the Caribbean next to a picture of Robbie Williams and Liz Hurley. There is also a photograph of me and scantily clad girlfriends on board my boat Champagne Lady, in the South of France. That was before I kicked the alcohol and drugs – I used to have rather a decadent lifestyle.
This summer I'm hoping to drive my little spaniel down to my house in St Tropez, but she has been in hospital with Addison's disease so I'm waiting on her recovery. I used to drink and smoke and take a lot of drugs, but I gave it all up, and now my passions are playing polo and going to the gym. In the centre of the hallway is a huge gilt-framed mirror that I picked up for a fiver on the Fulham Road years ago. I had the mirror replaced, but I love the ornate frame. I also adore my collection of Warhol paintings. I've always been inspired by Andy Warhol and was so excited when I was able to buy my first Marilyn in New York 10 years ago. Now I have five here – and more in Australia.
I love living in London, I think it is one of the coolest cities – it is the centre for fashion and popular culture. I'm really into brands, and I think London is a great brand. I grew up in a cathedral-like house, that my father, an architect, designed and built out of half-bricks. Set in five acres, it was surrounded by trees. It is a very beautiful building and I'm still very inspired by my father. He has a strong influence in my home here.
I have two bedrooms, the one at the back is like a spare room and I often have friends staying. Both have four-poster beds, which I love – as they're so English. They are specially lowered to fit in to this house, as the ceilings are quite low. One I bought from the Cotswolds and the other from Devon. In the spare bedroom I have a portrait of a naked woman by Christian Furr, the youngest artist ever to paint a portrait of the Queen. I love naked women, wildlife, polo ponies and chandeliers. I have eclectic taste.
The wardrobe in the back bedroom holds my ever-expanding collection of "Mr Paparazzi" leather jackets that I have designed in Paris. They come in pink, purple, leopard print and silver. I don't like bling in my home, but when it comes to clothes I am very bling, I'm afraid. I also like to change my hair colour quite a bit – it is platinum blond now, but it has been purple, pink and even blue. I think that is one of the things that keep me feeling young.
I adore Pop Art and as well as my Warhol collection, I have two prints by Peter Blake and a signed sketch by Damien Hirst in the kitchen. It was drawn on a napkin and I bought it from the doorman at The Ivy where Damien had been eating his dinner after he had sketched it. I hate to think what it would be worth now – but I bought it then for £1,000.
I've seen some shocking celebrity homes, in America, especially. I have found the worst homes usually belong to people with too much money. When I saw Sylvester Stallone's home, I wanted to rip it apart. Sometimes the more money people have the more ways they spend it on crap.
Although I now have a few homes in my favourite places in the world, who knows, one day it all might come crashing down.
Darryn Lyons's autobiography, 'Mr Paparazzi: My Life as the World's Most Outrageous Celebrity Photographer' (John Blake Publishing, £17.99). www.mrpaparazzi.com
Darryn Lyons, 42, the self-styled Australian "Mr Paparazzi", owns the world's largest celebrity photographic agency. He lives in Kensington with his dog, Amber.Reuse content