Will Greenwood: Time to aim for the sticks

When he was playing for Harlequins, Will Greenwood struggled to find an affordable family house near Twickenham. Now his heart is set on village life
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The Independent Online

Iwas slow to invest in property. I waited until the age of 26 before I bought my first house in Leicester. My wife says I should have extended myself earlier, but Northerners are cautious, and being a rugby player, I thought I should re nt because I couldn't be sure where I would be in a few years' time. I should have bought a place and sold it when I moved - I could have made a lot of money.

I've lived in Southfields for seven years. We were drawn to this area because it was close to Twickenham and I was playing for the Harlequins. I couldn't afford to live in Fulham or Wimbledon, but Southfields is slap between the two and house prices were within our reach.

It is very much a family area - they call it Nappy Valley. It's an old Quaker town, so there are no nightclubs and there are great junior schools and indoor play areas. Our neighbours have children close to Archie's age and in the summer we pass them over the fence so they can play together.

I've had two houses here. For the first four years, we lived one street down in a three-bedroom terrace that had an open-plan downstairs and very small garden. It was the classic tiny London space, but we knew we wanted room for children, so three years ago in 2004, my wife found another terraced house with a loft conversion already done.

Caro is in charge of mergers and acquisitions, so when we she says we're moving, we move. She called me one day when I was in training to say she'd seen this house in Southfields and put an offer on it. When I saw it, I loved it. It all happened quickly - we paid £485,000 and moved in just three weeks after finding it.

We're on the District Line here, and a 10-minute walk from the overland, so whichever one strikes, you can always get into London. And it's good to be so near the A3, so we can get in and out of the city very easily.

But now we're thinking of moving to a village called Cookham near Henley-on-Thames. We'd like to find a family home for the next 20 years. We saw a detached five-bedroom property with a large garden and we put in a sealed bid, but our offer wasn't high enough. It's hard: everybody wants a large house with a big garden close to good schools. We fell in love with the area and if anyone is thinking of selling there, I'd like to know.

When you've got children, open-plan living spaces aren't great - you need to be able to shut doors to get peace and quiet. This house has a kitchen/diner, a serene sitting room that's for the adults, and a messy play room full of toys - closing the door on that is a relief.

Caro always turns the houses we buy into fantastic homes. We have a very nice painter and decorator, Colin, who helped us decorate our first home in Leicester, and whenever we move, we get him down to stay for four weeks. He goes through the whole place with Caro from top to toe changing the colours, hanging wallpaper, putting floors down, building cupboards and putting up shelves.

Our hall now has a walnut floor and it's large enough for a double pram to go through. The first door on the left is our sitting room; when I saw what she'd done to it, I thought Caro had run out of money: the wallpaper is only on one wall, but apparently that's what you do nowadays. She's done it in the bedrooms too.

The paints came from the Paint and Paper Library, a ridiculously expensive paint shop. We have Sand 1, Sand 2 and Sand 3, Clay 1, Clay 2 and Clay 3, and Stone 1, Stone 2 and Stone 3. Each room has a ceiling in the third colour, the walls are in the second colour, the woodwork is in the first colour.

The play room has the cheapest carpet in the house for all those spillages. We've had big bookshelves made to store all the toys. The kitchen, which we had retiled and rewired, is long and thin. We put in new lights and changed the worktops to thick oroko wood. Caro likes Belfast sinks, so we had to have those in the kitchen and the utility room - she loves to be able to chuck the pots and pans in and run the tap. But my favourite room is the loft conversion. Originally we had it as a guest room, but when Archie was born we put him in the master bedroom at the back of the house - we don't like to have the children exposed to the noisy road at the front. So now we sleep in the front bedroom, which is a bit smaller, and I have my office in the loft.

Up in the loft there are double dormer windows, so there's plenty of light and storage space. I have to have Sky TV up there so I can work with the sport in the background. That's where I write my newspaper column and I watch DVDs of recent rugby games. I love my desk. Caro had it made for me in our first year together. It has extra high legs so my knees don't get stuck. And being 6ft 5in, I need a customised dining table as well.

Will Greenwood is a brand ambassador for Braun shavers

The former England centre Will Greenwood finished the 2003 Rugby World Cup as joint top try scorer. Now 35, he lives in London with his wife, Caro, 33, and their children, Archie, three, and Matilda, 19 months