Property Secrets: Founder of St Albans Mums Facebook group, Karen Snook

Karen Snook, founder of St Albans Mums Facebook group. 

Karen Snook. - Credit: Karen Snook

Founder of the hugely popular St Albans Mums Facebook group and Instagram page, and, Karen Snook lives in St Albans with her husband and three children. She shares her property secrets...  

Where are you from originally?  

I grew up in Harrow, Middlesex until I moved into London at 21. 

When did you buy your first property?  

Aged 23, it was a gorgeous top floor Victorian flat on Finchley Road – we were so lucky as prices shot up not long after we moved in. It had large, airy bedrooms, high ceilings and amazing London views.  

What did you like and dislike about it?  

I absolutely loved the locality to West Hampstead high street, and the open cage lift was such a talking point. I hated when the open cage lift wasn’t working (which was often)! 

Karen loved the open cage lift at her Finchley Road flat, apart from when it wasn't working! 

Karen loved the open cage lift at her Finchley Road flat, apart from when it wasn't working! - Credit: Karen Snook

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Where else have you lived? 

When I moved to London I lived in Cricklewood, Finchley Road, then the outskirts of Totteridge before moving to St Albans. I wish I'd had a chance to live abroad – New York in TriBeca or Austin, Texas would have been my ideal locations. 

Where do you live now?  

The Bernards Heath area of St Albans, with my husband and children, aged 14, seven and four. We moved into our house nearly three years ago after being in Marshalswick for five. My husband and his brothers were born in St Albans – he is the last one that has stayed in the area. 

Have you changed much about your house since you’ve lived there?  

Yes! So far nearly every room. Nothing structural has been needed but we've added a whole new plumbing system (really boring!), then we started on the aesthetics. 

Before: Karen's dressing room prior to its transformation. 

Before: Karen's dressing room prior to its transformation. - Credit: Karen Snook

After: The dressing room following its stylish revamp. 

After: The dressing room following its stylish revamp. - Credit: Karen Snook

What have you done so far?  

We haven’t touched the structure of the house, but are renovating one room and space at a time. We started 1.5 years ago after living in the house for a year and are still going. It has been completely worth the effort. We have lived in it whilst it is being done, meaning we have had time to make choices and changes. The house was built in 1906 so we are also trying to keep within the style of the Edwardian era. 

Before: Karen's living room was set for a total overhaul. 

Before: Karen's living room was set for a total overhaul. - Credit: Karen Snook

After: "We took the walls back to brick and repointed," Karen says. 

After: "We took the walls back to brick and repointed," Karen says. - Credit: Karen Snook

Is there anything you’d still like to change about your property?  

The kitchen! It is untouched from 1970 we think, and it shows. We would love a big American style kitchen with a double island, two cookers, huge fridge/freezer and pantry. This will be the very last part of the house we change, it will need a lot of structural work. 

Where do you shop for interiors items? 

I shop online for everything; Facebook marketplace, Etsy, Cositas in St Albans. I like buying pre-loved pieces, sometimes I get around to getting them repaired and sometimes I pass them on. I was given a beautiful Etienne style dressing table and mirror from my builder’s client’s loft! It is still in my office, just waiting for some time to get it repaired. 

What’s the best thing about your home?  

My bee door knocker. 

Karen is a big fan of her bee door knocker. 

Karen is a big fan of her bee door knocker. - Credit: Karen Snook

And the worst?  

It is HOT in the summer and COLD in the winter. 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?  

Locally it would be the house on Catherine Street [Dalton House] that used to be an interior showroom for Oliver Burns. If it was anywhere in the world, I would like to relocate to Austin Texas and live by the lakes.  

Do you have a dream road locally? 

College Street in a house we viewed years ago, it was four floors of character with off street parking.  

Do you see yourself moving on in the near future?  

NO. The stress of packing up and moving five of us is too much. We also love our house so much – the only issue we will run into will be senior school options. 

Where would you like to live next?  

We will stay in St Albans until the little ones have finished school. The schools are great, as is the community and I would hate to leave my friends. If we had to move, we would head back to Markshalswick for the senior school catchment.

Is there anything you dislike about the area? 

I initially found it really hard to settle into St Albans. When I moved here 14 years ago I was a single parent to a one-year-old, and although there were lots of playgroups and clubs I felt on the outside.  

Now I have a great friendship group, I have realised there is an amazing community here – especially the mums – and I love the way local charities and businesses all support one another. 

What are your favourite local shops, pubs and restaurants?  

I have SO many! We have a rolling table every Sunday at 1pm at The Rose & Crown, Sandridge. Our friends find it so odd and ask how we can’t get bored but Jamie and the team make us feel so welcome and the food is amazing.  

We then have a bit of a list – we love the dining pods at St Villa for girls’ dinners, Chez Mumtaj for anniversaries – the duck samosa is AMAZING – and for Indian takeaway it has to be Infuse. 

The bust in Karen's office is from Cositas on Holywell Hill, St Albans.

The bust in Karen's office is from Cositas on Holywell Hill. "We have got six original fireplaces and have decorated them all differently," she says. - Credit: Karen Snook

For me, Cositas Home is a brilliant shop – the homeware, interiors and gifts are quirky – I have got my eye on one of their huge gnomes! And not a shop exactly, but I love Trinder Hair Studios – Marc, Sophie and the team offer award-winning cutting and hair styling services. There is often a big waiting list, but it is worth it. 

Describe your dream home...

A converted barn or chapel or similar. Loads of character, stained glass windows, beams and original fixtures. There are some houses on Wilkins Green Lane, Hatfield that I love because of their style. There is also a great house opposite the Plough Pub in Sleapshyde, it has a post box in its wall and I love the outside.