Property Secrets: Emma Bustamante of Cositas

Emma Bustamante of Cositas Gifts and Cositas Home.

Emma Bustamante of Cositas Gifts and Cositas Home. - Credit: Matt Adams

Cositas owner Emma Bustamante shares her house in Fleetville with her children, Gracie, 20, Elsa, 18, and Remy, 10. She tells us what she loves most about her home – and what she’s desperate to change.  

Is your house full of Cositas stuff?  

It is, but it’s stuff that’s broken, all the ‘pieces missing’ stuff! People say, ‘Oh, Emma, your house must be so nice!’ but everything I’ve got in the house, there’s something wrong with it. It’s like the crematorium for broken furniture.  

"That actual chest was featured on Money for Nothing," says Emma.

"That actual chest was featured on Money for Nothing," says Emma. "And I was also featured on Money for Nothing, buying it. Then straight away I was like, ‘I have to have that!’ so I took it home. It’s painted by one of their professional upcyclers, a really lovely lady." - Credit: Emma Bustamante

How would you describe your house?  

It’s a new build, which is unusual for Fleetville, and we used to live next door. When me and my husband were still together, we built a new house on a spare driveway, intending to sell it and keep living in the bigger house. But our circumstances changed and I moved into the smaller house with my children 12 years ago when we sold the bigger house. People say it doesn’t feel like a new house. It’s still soulful and characterful.  

Have you always been passionate about interiors?  

It’s always been something that I’ve loved. At first, I thought maybe I’d be an interior designer. But I preferred the thought of a shop and being accessible to everyone. I like that people can come into the shop and see how we’ve styled up our furniture and accessories and take ideas and inspiration from that — and for free! Opening the shop was what I’d dreamt off for ages.  

Emma's Fleetville kitchen is full of Costias items. 

Emma's Fleetville kitchen is full of Costias items. - Credit: Emma Bustamante

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When did you open Cositas Home? 

Four years ago, then we opened Cositas Gifts last September. Cositas Home is holding its own, but Gifts is stressing me out so much. It’s been slow, but hopefully we’ll get there. It can only get better!  

Where did you grow up?  

The idyllic garden at Emma's childhood home in Bushey Heath. 

The idyllic garden at Emma's childhood home in Bushey Heath. - Credit: Emma Bustamante

Bushey Heath. I lived there from age two until I left home at 23. There were quite a few of us in the house because my dad’s Chilean and when my mum’s dad died his family instincts kicked in and he said, ‘Okay, your mum must come and live with us’. it’s not that normal I don’t think in the UK. There was my nan, my mum, my dad and their growing family.  

We had a terrific garden. We had camps, we even had a caravan left over from the old owners. It was an idyllic childhood. We used to keep our horse in the fields. You’d see mum sunbathing in the garden, us playing and Scotty the horse wandering around the garden. Really different to Fleetville!  

The view from the Bushey Heath home where Emma grew up. 

The view from the Bushey Heath home where Emma grew up. - Credit: Emma Bustamante

When did you buy your first property? 

1998. It was a two-bedroom terrace in Albert Street, bought with my then-husband when we’d just got back from travelling. It was £120,000. We bought at just the right time I reckon, if we’d bought a year later we’d never have been able to move to St Albans. It was a great social place to be, our friends were always coming to us because we were right in the middle of town.

When I had Gracie we stayed there for two years, but then I got pregnant with our second and we were like, ‘Oh God, there’s no room in here’, and that’s when we moved to Fleetville. At the time it wasn’t the most desirable of areas. I remember some of our friends taking the mick, going, ‘Oo you’re going down on the social ladder!’ But we loved it from the very beginning and now it’s a really desirable area (not that it would have mattered if it wasn’t, I’d still love it here!) 

Emma Bustamante, owner of the Cositas stores in St Albans. 

Emma loves living in Fleetville. - Credit: Emma Bustamante

What do you like most about Fleetville?  

It’s eclectic and arty. I love that it’s so diverse. I love walking home from work down Hatfield Road, past the graveyard, smelling all the food. I love the convenience of being close to supermarkets. The community’s lovely, I love the culture, the array of shops. Some places can be a bit stuffy, but I think Fleetville celebrates its differences. 

What do you dislike about it? 

The parking! After 20 years of not having a driveway, having no parking has never annoyed me more than it does now. Now it’s just getting right on my wick. I need a house with a driveway. I am done with carrying my shopping! 

Are you looking to move?  

I would like to move; I do feel like we’re pushing it in our house at the moment but it’s tricky financially. If the shops start doing really well, I’ll get my driveway! I don’t want to move out of the area I would just love to have a driveway, a second reception room, a bigger garden, a wider house and an extra bathroom. Just a few small alterations!  

Do you have a dream road locally?  

I wouldn’t be angry if someone gave me a house in The Park. You can walk to places from there but it’s quieter and it’s a cul-de-sac and there are mature trees, which is something I’d love to have in my life now. And a garden that’s big enough to house those big trees. If anyone felt like they wanted to throw one of those houses over to me I’d take it with a big smile on my face!  

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

I lived in Australia for six months and absolutely loved it. I was there travelling, then we stopped off in Sydney, rented a flat in Surry Hills, got jobs, made our money back up and then went off again. But I’m so close to my dad and my brother and sister, I wouldn’t move further than I am from them. We all live 20 minutes away from each other and meet up every Sunday.

I love seeing new places and the lifestyle I led in Australia was beautiful, but I’m really happy here. I love St Albans.