unlikely obsessions: sue tilley and homes under the hammer

In a new series of interviews, i-D talks to all manner of creative and interesting folks about specific things they love that you somehow wouldn't expect them to...

by James Anderson
10 March 2015, 12:08pm

Sue Tilley - author, life model for the artist Lucien Freud, bezzie mate of the late Leigh Bowery, civil servant, cultural commentator and self-proclaimed "telly watcher and social media whore" - has been rubbing shoulders with the stars of London's alternative nightlife, art and fashion scenes since the early 80s. But she also loves a bit of daytime TV and in particular is an unashamed fan of BBC1's low budget properties-being-sold-at-auctions program, Homes Under The Hammer. Here, she explains the appeal of this seemingly humdrum daytime show...

When did you first discover Homes Under The Hammer?
I can't remember when I first saw it. I just stumbled across it when I had a day off work, it was many years ago. If I'm off work in the week it's my ambition to get up by 10am to watch it and I'm glued. I don't do anything else. I don't mind if I'm not ready until about 20 past 10 though, as long as I see the first transformation

Martin and Lucy, the presenters, are fascinating. What do you make of them both and which of them would you prefer to go to the pub with?
I think the enthusiasm of Martin and Lucy is part of the charm. Of course I would rather go to the pub with Martin so we could discuss our mutual love of 80s music. I was surprised to discover that Martin is married as he is so disheveled. I just looked up his wife on Google and she's not over groomed and has a lot of hair. I was glad to see that Martin even wore an open neck shirt for his wedding. I think Lucy would be a good laugh too, and can see her cracking open the white wine at any opportunity.

The extremely literal background music is one of the best aspects of the show. A man plastering a wall will be set to the strains of Smooth Operator by Sade, for example. Any particular Homes Under The Hammer music moments which stick in your mind?
I know that I am often left open-mouthed at the literalism of the songs they pick. I seem to remember them playing Coldplay's Yellow when they were showing a kitchen… guess what colour it was?

Have you ever felt inspired to head to an auction in somewhere like Darlington and bid for a semi-derelict flat above a launderette, as a result of watching Homes Under The Hammer?
I'm not really an auction type of person, I don't think I'd be able to stand the tension and would end up bidding well over the odds. But I moved to Roman Road in the East End, almost 3 years ago and the program came in very handy when I was looking round flats. I could imagine knocking down walls to make the layout more my cup of tea. In the end, I bought a very dull council flat but I managed to change it into something much more interesting using knowledge that I had gleaned from Homes Under The Hammer. I opened up the hall and moved the kitchen door to make it part of the lounge making the whole space seem much roomier and modern. I also had a bathroom and kitchen fitted and managed to fit a walk-in wardrobe into my bedroom.

Is it true that Martin is a Duran Duran fan? Which Duran Duran song do you think is his fave?
I read that his slightly mullet hair do is a hangover from his Duran Duran fandom. Surely his favourite song would be Wild Boys, isn't it everyone's?

Do you know any interesting gossip about Lucy?
Funnily enough, I just discovered that she was the girl eating popcorn in Chesney Hawkes' video for The One and Only. She was also born in the St. Pancras area.

What do you imagine Martin's and Lucy's homes would be like, if we were able to have a nosey?
I imagine that Martin's home has a lot of original features and quite a few jobs that need doing. I imagine that his children's toys are dotted all over the place and he has an old wardrobe with overcoats and un-ironed shirts bulging out of it. I think Lucy's house would be more tidy, I am seeing a large detached 30s house with a garden all the way round. But although traditional on the outside, it would have lots of modern improvements inside and a huge kitchen with all mod cons.

What is it that is so strangely compelling about Homes Under the Hammer?
You get a peek into people lives, listen to their dreams and then see if they fulfil them. I like it when the purchasers have a bit of personality and flair, some of them are so boring… these are usually the magnolia paint and laminate flooring crew. I hate it when the presenters go back to see a property too early and the job isn't finished, but then sometimes if you are lucky they have a special show when they go back to properties that weren't finished first time round. I also like it when they get their children on just because they want to be on the telly. And of course, something I haven't mentioned is the dullness of the auction rooms and the seriousness of the estate agents. I am very keen on the estate agent-auctioneer from the West Country who had a very loud pinstripe suit. It is also amazing to look at a 3 bedroom house with a garden up north that is valued at £75,000 with a rental value of £400 per month! Living in London it's hard to believe that such prices exist!


Text James Anderson
Photography Alasdair McLellan

homes under the hammer
james anderson
sue tilley
unlikely obsessions