A Chelsea pad for Cheska

Reality show star Cheska Hull wants a home to match her glamorous social life. Amira Hashish helps her to find the perfect Chelsea pad
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Cheska outside Uverdale Road
£560,000: is this two-bedroom duplex in a terrace conversion in Uverdale Road ticking every box for Cheska?
So far, this has proved a pretty life-changing year for 26-year-old Francesca Hull. The former interior design PR has gone from working with celebrity clients to becoming a star in her own right - thanks to reality TV series Made In Chelsea, in which Cheska (as she is known to friends) plays a central role.

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The show follows the lives of a bunch of privileged Sloanes and socialites who treat King's Road as their own. The show claims that "truth is more fabulous than fiction" and the viewing figures would seem to agree. It has become Channel 4's most tweeted-about programme.

And now, for Cheska, life is about to get that little bit more fabulous as she hunts for her first flat - a Chelsea pad, of course. And like all first-time buyers she doesn't know where to start.

So Homes & Property stepped in to turn Cheska from a first time-buying novice into a savvy homeseeker in only five fun steps...

Step 1 What does she want?

Cheska's budget is about £500,000, for which she wants more than a studio flat. "I'm buying with help from my mother but also using my savings. I will be paying the mortgage myself," she says. "My mother lives in Devon but comes to visit once or twice a month and I'd like her to stay with me. This means if we see a good two-bedroom flat, we can up the budget a bit. It's always handy to have a second room even if it is only used as an office."

She is now in a four-bedroom terrace house in Fulham with best friends Binky Felstead and Ollie Locke. She knows location is crucial. "I used to live on Finborough Road, which is a nice area but the traffic was horrendous." A shopaholic, she has a soft spot for South Kensington and loves its French influence and boutiques. Her mum likes it too - she attended the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle there and became a French teacher. Mum now owns fashion boutique Amelia's Attic in Salcombe.

One of Cheska's plans is to bring another Amelia's Attic to King's Road so if she could find a flat nearby, she would be able to walk to work. She doesn't drive. A few lattes on and our brainstorming session has got the property ball rolling. Now it's time to call in the experts.

Spacious living room
£395,000: the spacious bay-windowed living room at our first viewing is a big plus

Step 2 Find an agent

After browsing Homes & Property's website for ideas, we contact three agents with plenty of Chelsea properties on their books: Douglas & Gordon, Chesterton Humberts and Hamptons International. Soon a stack of brochures are in our possession and we start a shortlist.

A £325,000 first-floor flat in Lotts Road with Chesterton Humberts is within Cheska's budget. It has a separate kitchen but with one bedroom and only 344sq ft of space could only provide enough room for one, she says. "But hopefully, I'll get married before I'm 30 and then I'll be able to have a bigger house. For now, this size could work for me."

Douglas & Gordon impresses with a £375,000 studio opposite the river on the Chelsea Embankment, but on a busy road. The building appears to be well-maintained and Cheska says at 396sq ft "it's a bargain". She could even buy without mum's help. "I can imagine living here and walking to work. The exterior looks a bit like a New York townhouse. It is very 'Sarah Jessica Parker', and the river views are gorgeous."

Hamptons tempts her with a £1.5 million two-bedroom "dream pad" in Eaton Place close to Belgrave Square, an amazing location. But this, of course, will have to wait until Mr Right comes along. Daydreaming over, it's time to face reality and arrange some viewings.

Cheska in the kitchen
Cheska can see herself using the "cute" kitchen at house number two

Step 3 Let's go viewing

We divide likely properties into three groups: under, on and over budget. Next we pick one from each group to view.

Hamptons provides us with a chauffeur-driven car and its senior negotiator Nat Wilde briefs us before each viewing. He says: "A lot about buying a house is to do with how you feel as you walk in the door. It may not be in the right area or have the best features but people tend to know when it is right for them."

First up is a £395,000 lower-ground garden flat on Ashburnham Road. Just south of King's Road near Chelsea Embankment, the location is ideal. Though the bedroom is "beautiful" the flat is not entirely to Cheska's taste. However, she adores the garden. "I can imagine having my friends round for parties. Or even using it as a place to escape and read a book," she says. The bay-fronted reception room with a cast-iron fireplace is a big plus, too, as is the ample storage: "I have so much stuff so that would be very useful." Wilde points out that it benefits from a long lease, which offers extra value for money.

Next we head a little over budget to see a £560,000 two-bedroom flat in Uverdale Road. Set on the raised and lower ground floors of a pretty period building, with a 27ft reception room/kitchen, family bathroom, separate shower room, study and private west-facing garden it is looking good. "This is really me," says Cheska. "The kitchen is so cute. It reminds me of a country house. Even though I live in London, I love the countryside. In many ways this is perfect.

"The upstairs shower room is a really good use of space. If I am rushing to go out and just want a quick wash it would be very convenient. I would turn the downstairs office space into a walk-in wardrobe because it is just opposite the big bathroom. It is in a very good area and so close to clubs like PUBLIC and Embargo, where I like to hang out. I would feel safe walking home."

Hampton's Wilde has little work to do here but adds: "It has a share of freehold, which is rare in this area, and really gives you control."

Cheska outside the Oswald Building
£820,000: the third flat, at the Oswald Building, is way over budget but would be "the ultimate city base", modern, minimalist and chic
We are still booked to see another property - this one is way over budget at £820,000 and is only a possible candidate if mum is very generous. It's in the popular Chelsea Bridge Wharf development, in the Oswald Building. It has two bedrooms and oozes glamour. Cheska is a big fan of the balcony and its river views. "It is the ultimate city base," she declares.

Modern, minimalist and super-chic it has a totally different vibe to the other flats we have seen and offers very impressive living. But it is clear Cheska has fallen in love already today. And it's not with this über-cool, Thames-side apartment.

Step 4 Some interiors advice

Cheska is keen to put her own mark on the place she buys, so we contact interior designer Katharine Pooley to see which of the properties offers the most scope for a makeover.

"If she choses the Uverdale Road flat [the second of our viewings] it will need modernising but it's a great opportunity for a first-time buyer to increase its value," she says. "I would suggest lighter and larger tiles on the floor of the kitchen, and some feature marble on the counter.

"In the garden add some climbers such as clematis, jasmine and climbing roses to keep this area full of colour and perfumed all summer. Create a little vegetable patch, too." Do the bigger alterations as money allows.

The most difficult of the flats to alter is the one at the swish Oswald Building, says Pooley. "But you could create more space in the entrance hall with an oversize antique mirror above a slim console table, and wallpaper it to make a feature of the area."

Adding colour to the garden space
Katherine Pooley recommends adding colourful climbers to property number two's garden to create a summer party space
Cheska wants a luxury bathroom. She says: "The first thing I will do up is the bathroom and then everything else can follow. It would be a great place to relax and recover from a hangover. If I won the Lottery I would have a Papillon Bath, carved in Cararra marble [£38,000]."

Step 5 It's decision time

Cheska reveals her favourite and she has taken Nat Wilde's advice. "I have to be able to imagine myself in my new home, and of all the properties, Uverdale Road stands out [hamptons.co.uk]. The duplex is in an excellent location, has a realistic price and is a good size."

Wilde thinks it would be a great choice. "If you want to live in Chelsea at a sensible price, this is it. And it's in one of the very few streets locally where you can get something with a long leasehold, or share of the freehold at least, for less than £1,000 a square metre."

Job done: we've found a suitably savvy first-time buy for our Chelsea girl.

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