How to land your home a leading role on TV - and make thousands 

While the focus on screen is usually the actors, your home could have a leading role, if you hire it  out as a location.Sommer Pyne’s sitting room and kitchen, with the high-end touches that appealed to the makers of McMafia
While the focus on screen is usually the actors, your home could have a leading role, if you hire it out as a location. Sommer Pyne’s sitting room and kitchen, with the high-end touches that appealed to the makers of McMafia Credit: Matt Clayton

When Hayley Williams and Sommer Pyne were adding the finishing touches to their respective homes, it crossed both their minds that they’d love to see the finished article featured in an interiors magazine. But in the end, they got a bit more exposure than that.

Hayley’s distinctive, forest-green kitchen was the fictional home of Olivia Colman in the second series of Channel 4’s black comedy Flowers, while Sommer’s bed hosted James Norton between its sheets in BBC One’s hit drama McMafia.

Hayley and Sommer are the accidental owners of location houses, spaces hired by professional production companies to shoot TV dramas, adverts and catalogues.

They can command between £750 and £1,200 a day for their homes to be used in this way. ‘For me, it’s just a really great bit of extra income that I can use for holidays or my business,’ says Sommer, who runs the online lifestyle shop House Curious.  

Sommer Pyne’s bedroom, which hosted McMafia star James Norton between the sheets of her own bed Credit: Matt Clayton

She made over £20,000 by handing over her home in Wandsworth, south-west London, to the makers of McMafia for two weeks. The sitting room and kitchen were reconfigured with fake walls to look like a mews-style house lived in by Norton’s banker character, but much of the original decor remained. 

‘It’s very high-end and on-trend,’ explains Katy Kitwood, an account manager at location agency JJ Media, who manages Sommer’s bookings.

Somer Pyne's breakfast bar Credit: Matt Clayton

‘It gets used a lot for product shoots because it has nice finishes, such as marble worktops and polished-concrete floors, and the garden is well manicured.’ 

JJ Media has more than 2,500 properties on its books and handles around 50 bookings a week. So what should you consider when decorating, if you want to get paid for hosting?

For me, it’s just a really great bit of extra income that I can use for holidays or my business

‘Keep it true to you, as trends change,’ Katy advises. ‘Think about how you can create different looks within your property. Making a stark difference between reception rooms, or bedroom and living spaces, will result in more spaces for someone to shoot.’

Some people even design a house to double up as a location space from the get-go. Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote, who run boutique agency The Beach Studios, have turned their discerning eye and 20 years of expertise in the business to creating spaces they know will appeal to art directors.

Colour-coordinated crockery on display Credit: J J Media Group

The two dozen homes on their books – including their own house and coastal holiday retreat – are frequently used by Vogue, John Lewis & Partners, The White Company and Boden.

Atlanta’s ‘basic bones’ for a photo-worthy home are lots of space and natural daylight. ‘You need a neutrality as well,’ she adds. ‘It’s a combination of a neutral interior that also has standout features. It’s not as easy as it sounds. A really popular location will have a winning combination of all those things, plus easy-going owners.’

The kitchen in the house owned by Dave Coote and Atlanta Bartlett; the couple themselves; their house has been used by Boden and The White Company Credit: J J Media Group

Hayley Williams, a stay-at-home mother, enjoys the interaction with the creative workforce that she finds herself hosting. ‘They’re often very sociable people,’ she says. 

Interestingly, a house doesn’t have to be grand and high-end to be considered as a location hire. ‘Everything is useable, even an unfinished property,’ says Katy Kitwood. J

J Media has launched a service called Connect, similar to Airbnb, where owners pay a small subscription fee to upload pictures of their property and connect with brands looking to hire spaces directly.

Hayley’s kitchen – painted in Carriage Green, an archive colour by Farrow & Ball (farrow-ball.com) – was used as a location for Flowers, starring Olivia Colman  Credit: J J Media Group

‘Everyday family homes with nice finishes are very popular,’ says Katy; M&S, Tesco and Next have all used the service. Contracts can be downloaded online and the day rate is £750, which goes directly to the homeowner.

Many locations are concentrated in London but demand is now growing around Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Hayley’s childrens’ room Credit: J J Media Group

While the income sounds attractive, Atlanta Bartlett warns that hosting shoots is ‘not for the faint-hearted’. All agencies are insured and will make good any scuffed walls, but things do occasionally get damaged.

After McMafia, Sommer Pyne had to have all her whitewashed floors sanded and repainted due to wear and tear. However, you can pick and choose your bookings, as she now does.

‘Surreal’ is how she describes seeing her home on national television. ‘All of a sudden, you realise the whole world is in your bedroom. It’s really crazy.’