Freya North: Family fortunes

Bestselling author Freya North found the magic formula for a happy life – a Wendy house for the children, and a £30,000 kitchen for mum
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The Independent Online

I have lived here since December 2002 – we moved in just five weeks before I gave birth to my daughter, Georgia. She's nearly five now and my son, Felix, is six. We used to live in a neighbourhood I call Poor Man's Highgate – rather too near Archway Road, in north London – where we had a Victorian terrace, but coming to this Edwardian house, which is only a few miles away, it all felt very grown-up – the house is double-fronted with big, square rooms.

Our road is on the site of the ancient "mossy well" from which Muswell Hill gets its name. You can tell because even at the height of the very dry summer the year before last, the gardens in our street were lush thanks to the underground water in the area.

The house has four really nice-sized bedrooms. I dithered about a loft conversion but in some ways it's great having the loft for storage. I thought having a loft would mean that I would become totally slobbish, but it is actually rigorously organised. In winter, summer clothes are put up there, in summer, winter clothes go up. One of the first things my agent said to me was, "You've got to keep six first editions of each novel," so also in the loft are boxes and boxes of books.

When I first saw the main bathroom, I thought it looked like a hotel. It has two sinks, but we never use both. We all crowd around the one sink and the other gets used for dumping bath toys. The bath is huge. I love baths with scented candles and magazines to read, but I am quite short – 5ft 2in – and in a huge bath I slip down under the bubbles and soak my magazine. So when I redesigned the en suite to the master bedroom, I chose a short bath. The en suite is like a small spa with tumbled travertine tiles and under-floor heating.

The hallway has two big rooms either side. To the right is my study, where I keep all the foreign editions of my books, my dictionaries, thesaurus and books of quotations. But for writing, I take my laptop to the local library, because there I can be far more disciplined. You can't have your mobile on and I've even disabled the wireless connection in my laptop so I am not tempted to join the library network.

On the other side of the hallway is what we call the "posh room". It's meant to be a child-free zone. After we moved in, I went to the Heal's sale and bought one of my favourite possessions – a coffee table made from burr oak. I thought that the posh room should have only the stereo and no telly – it should be the having-grown-up-time room. As it turned out, the coffee table was the perfect height for the children when they were learning to stand up and walk; and when Felix got his first Hornby set at the age of five, it was put on to a piece of wood which sat perfectly over said coffee table.

I wish I could be adventurous with wallpaper but I can't, so there's a lot of chalk white, which is a wonderful warm colour. Rather than wallpaper, I prefer to have one statement wall of colour. In the family room one wall is duck-egg blue, which goes beautifully with the brown sofas.

The kitchen was the single most expensive thing in the house. Eighteen months ago I got a Roundhouse-designed kitchen. It's cream with a lovely mocha worktop, which is similar to Corian but a make called Zodiaq. The kitchen is laid out with that perfect triangle between cooker, fridge and sink. The previous owner was a 5ft 11in tall model. She had a very chic kitchen, but I couldn't reach a thing. I went to town on it and, including the fridge-freezer and pull-out larders, must have spent almost £30,000 – but now it's a really user-friendly kitchen.

When we moved in, the front garden was basically a lot of woodchip. Front gardens should welcome you and also have a "come back again soon" kind of feeling. I designed the slate and brick swirls for a more Zen-like welcome. The back garden was terribly architectural – everything was spiky and big. It's not a huge garden and I thought, "I've got to make this space more gentle and the scale of the plants slightly smaller". I don't have any plants that flower in any other colour but pink, blue or cream. It's beautiful and gives a real consistency to the garden.

What I thought was a shed at the bottom of the garden was the most perfect little Wendy house, with little windows and even an upstairs. When Georgia was a baby, I spent this lovely time doing a Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the interior of the Wendy house, painting it mint green and pale lemon and buying soft furnishings for it. I am sure it will go through many different styles as the children get older – and it will probably be where they have their first cigarette. And their first snog.

Novelist Freya North, 40, was born and brought up in London. In her mid-twenties she gave up a PhD in art history at the Courtauld Institute to write her first novel, Sally. After a publishers' bidding war, she sold the book for a six-figure sum in 1996. Her ninth novel, Pillow Talk, is out now. She lives with her family in Muswell Hill

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