Private view: A house with real X Factor
Exclusive, extraordinary and for sale. There are the homes that just have to be seen - so we've hunted them down for a fascinating and very private view.
This week: No.15 West Heath Avenue, London, SW11
What: Last year's infamous X Factor house where contestants lived inside and teenagers mobbed them outside
Standing in the cool, quiet, white-walled hallway of Number 15, West Heath Avenue it is difficult to imagine the screaming whirlwind of publicity, noise and nerves that engulfed this address when it was home to the X-Factor finalists.
During the closing weeks of the show last winter hoards of mischievous teenagers milled around outside, a weird circus watched by TV crews, newspapers reporters and bemused locals.
The house, which was built in 2008 by developer Matthew Frayne to replace a less appealing 1970s redbrick edifice, was used as accommodation for TV production staff and contestants but was also used to tape interviews with the finalists as the competition progressed – including winner Joe McElderry, Lloyd Daniels, Olly Murs and the hair-raising Irish double-act, Jedward.
Originally, Frayne was approached in early 2009 and told the show wanted to rent a house in London and asked if he could make it available for 16 weeks. Frayne had been trying to sell the house for £6.25 million but says he couldn't resist the opportunity that the X Factor publicity presented.
All over the papers
"Because of the column inches it created, when you're talking to banks and other business partners and you mention this house it creates an instant profile in their minds – they assume that X Factor wouldn't pick any old house to rent," says Matthew.
The house is now back in immaculate condition after its brief spell in the rental sector, but during the show it took a battering as clumsy teenage contestants and film crew treated like a hotel – and it's only now ready to go back on market after an expensive refurbishment.
"Most of the contestants who arrived here were bewildered by the place at first," says Matthew. "They had never seen architecture like this or a house so big – I think most of them came from fairly modest backgrounds."
On the ground floor the house has a dining room (used during the show for make-up sessions), study (employed as the show's photographic studio), but the one room sure to have had contestant jaws dropping is its ground-floor kitchen diner (above, right). Like the rest of the house it features walls that appear suspended, which gives this airy and sparingly-decorated room the feel of a daytime TV studio – particularly as one wall is made of glass.
"I don't think they did much cooking here – Sainsbury's used to send over food for them to eat but all they cooked up were Super Noodles," says Matthew.
Next door is the master lounge (above, left), which is where most of the pre-show interviews were held; X Factor fans will recognise the flickering gas fire used as a backdrop. In the basement is the house's secondary lounge, which leads into a sun room overlooking an outside 'stone garden' (below, right) festooned with water features but it's the first and second floors where the house really opens out.
The high-ceiling master-bedroom, which was fitted out with bunk beds to create a dormitory for the older contestants, is now back to the high-end design first expected of it including a bespoke rosewood headboard, built-in wardrobes and a 26in TV in its huge en-suite bathroom.
"It must have been weird for them to come back and enjoy a bath here while watching themselves on TV," says Matthew. The first floor features another large bedroom plus two smaller ones and upstairs there's a further two 'attic' bedrooms where the younger or more vulnerable contestants slept by themselves – including the winner Olly Murs and Joe McElderry.
"I got the impression that most of the contestants liked to lark about in the house, but Olly and Joe were more focussed on winning and wanted to be away from the mayhem downstairs," says Matthew.
One person who might appreciate the property's finer points is Danii Minogue, who brought a cake for the contestants on the day she paid a visit. The house is under-floor heated all the way through and features green air conditioning and water heating systems. "We wanted to put in solar heating panels, but the neighbours said 'no', says Matthew.
This stunning home – which is strikingly different from any others on this leafy North London road near to Hampstead Heath, is now part of TV talent show history. Robert Kramer of local agent Glentree, who helped rent out the property and is now helping sell it, has worked with TV companies before to find properties for The Apprentice, Paris Hilton's British Best Friend and This Life.
"The house we found for the last X Factor didn't have a security gate at the front so fans could peer in through the windows," says Robert. "But luckily this time they couldn't get that far."
The house is currently on the market for £5.65 million.
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The contestants had never seen architecture like this or a house so big – I think most of them came from fairly modest backgrounds