Exclusive video: The Feeling frontman leads tour of his Hackney pub conversion

Dan Gillespie Sells, frontman of indie band The Feeling, put his stamp on an old Hackney pub with his eye for eclectic interior design.
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Charming, stylish and with a healthy whiff of self-confidence, Dan Gillespie Sells, lead singer of indie band The Feeling, makes for a likeable frontman.

The group first hit the big time in 2006 when their singles Fill My Little World and Never Be Lonely made a big dent in the pop charts. Brit and NME award nominations followed, along with a songwriters of the year accolade at the Ivor Novello Awards. They have played everywhere from London to LA, even fitting in a celebrity wedding on the way when bassist Richard Jones — Gillespie Sells’s best friend — married singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

After a quiet few years The Feeling are back with their best album to date.  Featuring sophisticated melodies and quirky lyrics, Boy Who Cried Wolf is a smart pop package that has thrust the five-piece band into the spotlight once more.


Comfortable yet spacious: the living room at Dan Gillespie Sell's Hackney home, a former Victorian pub
So when I get an email inviting me to meet the singer, 35, at his Hackney home, I assume it is to talk about music. Not on this occasion. Beyond the records and gigs lies another burning passion... a rocker who can turn his hand to interior design? This I must see for myself.

Gillespie Sells lives on a tree-lined street in a former pub, its original tiles still in place. A tower block on an estate stands on the opposite side of the street. He greets me at the front door which sits behind a gate and next to a giant Hollywood sign in his private “beer garden”. It is a deliciously glamorous and grungy entrance.

“Welcome to my bloody great big Victorian lump,” he says before leading me up the first flight of stairs, decorated with an array of paintings and posters, and into the kitchen for a cup of tea.

“I bought this place in 2010. It had been a gay bar and then it was empty for a while. I spotted it online and fell in love with it. It’s insane how much space there is.”

Duration: 1:49 min



He bought the three-storey, semi-detached property for £1 million which, considering the £500,000 average price of a home in Hackney, makes it a relative bargain. “There are houses a third of the size going for more now.”

With four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two kitchens, an enormous basement — now converted into a recording studio — and a garden with a separate terrace, this is a strikingly generous property.


Good spot for a catch-up: Gillespie Sells and housemates chew the fat over "gallons of coffee" in the kitchen
Gillespie Sells is very much a people person so there is no danger of this vast space feeling empty. He is currently single but is forever hosting parties “that start off being civilised but descend into madness”, inviting friends to cinema nights in his “projector room” or to drink “gallons of coffee” in the kitchen.

“For me a home is not only a place where you feel safe but a place you share with the people you love. I have a great group of housemates. They are all really bright, interesting people and I love coming home from touring to a lively house.” The star’s dog, Ted, “is man of the house, of course”.

Should any of the housemates move out, I get the impression the room would be filled very quickly, as Gillespie Sells likes to be as economical as possible: “The more of you that share a property, the cheaper bills are and the greater the use of facilities. I think Londoners make the most of their space. There are some beautiful homes in the country that are empty and going to waste but we are good at working with what we have. It is a better, greener way of living.”

While he enjoys sharing his space, he has put his stamp on it. From the family photographs to retro-effect kitchen equipment, every inch of this home oozes Gillespie Sells. “I like to think it’s the kind of house in which James Bond would live if he were gay,” he says. 


Contrasts work: Gillespie Sells is adept at teaming cutting-edge fixtures and fittings with older pieces
The majority of his furnishings are second hand, sourced from flea markets and charity shops he has visited on his travels. Armchairs don’t match, cushions clash with sofas and old maps have been given a new lease of life as wallpaper. This happy home breaks all the rules but reaps the rewards for doing so.

Gillespie Sells is a big fan of House of Hackney, and the quirky British interiors brand blends in well with his eclectic finds. He uses its prints to make a statement with the walls, incorporating leopard print on the top floor and floral patterns in a hallway that leads to the living room. 

Fittings from Labour and Wait and seating from Sofa.com also tie in neatly. “Plus, I buy tons of stuff on eBay. It has kept me busy on many a boring tour bus journey.”

He is big on artwork — the more vibrant the better. A Mona Lisa-style painting of Madonna, a poster of John Travolta in his Danny Zuko years and a Baroque-type tapestry stand out. But his most prized pieces are original Tretchikoff test prints made by his grandfather, who worked for the artist. Memorabilia close to his heart is dotted around each room. He says there are very few things in his house that don’t put a smile on his face or even make him laugh out loud. “I think even practical things should be pretty. If they’re not, I hide them.” 


Artwork passion, right: Gillespie Sells's most prized pieces are original Tretchikoff test prints (pictured) made by his grandfather, who worked for the artist. Cool home, city street, left: the star loves his lively neighbourhood
He is proud of his Ivor Novello Award and cannot resist displaying it — “it provides an insecure artist such as myself the odd brief feeling of validation. It’s pathetic, I know.”

A picture of his grandfather playing a piano sits atop the piano Gillespie Sells plays when entertaining friends in the living room. “I have several pianos but the one I treasure the most is the old honky-tonk I learned on at the age of five. I have also restored a 1911 Bechstein which a school gave me because they ran out of space to store it. When you’ve got the space, you get the stuff.”

Much of the “stuff” can be found in the lower ground-floor studio, on the original pub floor. Unlike many recording studios it has huge windows. But Gillespie likes to think of it as “a bit of a man cave” where he hangs out with his mates. “We can lock ourselves away in there for hours.” What is left of the bar has been converted into a kitchen and there is also a shower room “so there is no reason to leave once you get down here”. 


Party central: Gillespie Sells has several pianos and likes to play for visitors
A giant mixing desk which he is looking after for indie band The Magic Numbers takes up a decent proportion of the space and an old-school video game, from the days before tablets and smartphones, stands in the corner. “It actually belongs to Richard [Jones] but Sophie wouldn’t let him keep it at their home so he comes here to play it.”

Beyond his little palace, Gillespie Sells likes to stroll around the friendly local area  which “has been buzzing for the last few years.” He can often be spotted in his nearby coffee shop, hairdressers or wine store. Hackney Picturehouse and the restaurant Lardo are regular stop-offs, and he thinks London Fields Lido is “awesome”.

He loves the sense of community. His enthusiasm for his neighbourhood and his home is infectious so it isn’t surprising that he is frequently asked if he will sell. 

Actor Idris Elba is among those who are keen to call the property their own but each offer has been declined. “If I sold it I would never be able to replace it. There is nothing else out there quite like it.” Gillespie Sells knows he could sell up at an ample profit and buy an even bigger retreat out of town, but says you can’t put a price on London life. “I want to live in the heart of London when there is stuff going on and I can go to the theatre or a gig when I want to. Our city is amazing.”

1. House of Hackney’s floral Poppium wallpaper (£148 a roll, houseof hackney.com) in ivory, or Wild Card option (£72) in butterscotch for the leopard-print look. 
2. Enamel lampshade (£45, labourandwait.co.uk) and Linea Clarence antique brass chandelier (£100, houseof fraser.co.uk)
3. Buy the Sixty Six sofa (£900, atomicinteriors.co.uk) or the Sixty Seven sofa (£1,400, johnlewis.com) by G Plan Vintage in tonic mustard or marl green.
4. Chiltern accent chair (£899, dfs.co.uk)
5. Wimbourne extra-large pink footstool (£499-£949, marksandspencer.com) 
6. Oka plain velvet cushions in jewel colours (£45 from okadirect.com) 
7. Stag clock by Studio Thirty Two (£40, notonthehighstreet.com)
8. Grease 1978 print (£16.99) or Chinese Girl print by Tretchikoff (£29.99) both available from allposters.co.uk.
9. Taj Agra rug (£200, plantationrug.co.uk)
10. Monty extendable dining table (£299, made.com)

Photographs by Thomas Oxley

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