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London leavers: 'we miss London sometimes, but love our £460k home in leafy Bristol'

One attic flat they viewed in London was on the market for £800k (Jon Harper)
One attic flat they viewed in London was on the market for £800k (Jon Harper)

It has been a year of seismic life changes for Siena Dexter and her partner Kieran Katwala.

In the past 12 months they have relocated, become homeowners, and set up their own business, which means they now live and work together.

In November 2022, the couple said goodbye to their rented flat in Muswell Hill and moved to Bristol.

“I am a real London girl, I have lived there almost all my life, but I have really fallen in love with Bristol,” said Siena.

“I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.”

Siena, 40, and Kieran, 34, met in 2018.

Siena was renting a tiny studio flat in Muswell Hill, and Kieran was renting an equally compact studio in Harrow. Siena was a partner at an American branding agency, Kieran was an artist and copywriter.

When the pandemic began they holed up together in Muswell Hill and in 2020 upsized to a two bedroom rental nearby, which cost £1,750pcm.

“We decided that we wanted to buy somewhere, we had had enough of renting and we wanted to start a family as well,” said Siena.

Moving to Bristol means they can escape the rental market and start a family (Handout)
Moving to Bristol means they can escape the rental market and start a family (Handout)

Buying locally wasn’t an option.

“We saw an attic flat in Muswell Hill, and it cost £800,000, it was crazy,” said Siena.

“We could probably have bought somewhere else in London but we would have had to sacrifice living in one of the nice, leafy areas that I love.”

On the suggestion of a friend the couple started to research the property market in Bristol.

They loved its greenness, its period housing stock, and the London-village vibe of its neighbourhoods, and went for a recce, spending a couple of weeks in an Airbnb in Clifton so they could have a good look around.

The couple also started looking at properties, just at the time when the great pandemic race for space was at its peak.

“It was a crazy time for property because you had to get in really quickly and there were bidding wars, and we had about a year of that before we found a place,” said Siena.

The property they plumped for is a two bedroom top-floor flat on the top floor of a Victorian house close to the 400 acre Durdham Down, and around two miles from the city centre.

After a bidding war they paid around £460,000.

“Bristol isn’t cheap but what you get here is more square feet for the price,” said Siena.

“We could probably have found a two bedroom flat in London for that but it would have been much, much smaller and with less green space nearby.”

Almost simultaneously the couple were setting up their own branding agency Naked Ape Brands, and Siena quit her job the month before the Bristol move.

“I had been working very difficult American hours, and we wanted to create a better working environment,” she said.

“Bristol is fantastic for independent brands, and it is really nice to work directly with the founders and choose who we work with.”

Siena still has pangs of missing London, although she doesn’t miss the stress or the commuting, and she has found Bristol a welcoming alternative.

“There is a really lovely arty community here, and we have made friends really fast,” she said. “We have made friends on our street too, which is not something you’d expect in London.

”They say that when you are bored of London you are bored of life. I am definitely not bored of London, but I am really enjoying living a different sort of life.”