My Barnet: Sharon Czapnik Down

In this regular feature we meet local interior designer and fund-raiser Sharon Czapnik Down who lives in New Barnet.

I’ve lived in the London Borough of Barnet for most of my life, moving to Finchley when I was 7 and have lived in various parts of the borough over the years. I was a working, single mum for many years, then was lucky enough to be introduced to my husband Andy on a blind date, and life for me really did begin at 40! Sadly the venue for our first date, The Torrington Arms in Finchley, is no longer there and has been replaced by Starbucks. Such a shame as it was a great music venue.

We really enjoy eating out and have so many great restaurant choices locally. Particular favourites are The Clissold Arms in East Finchley is a lovely restaurant and party venue. Their Motown nights are legendary. Our first choice in Whetstone is usually The Haven for great cocktails and consistently good food, and we’ve recently become rather partial to Melange in Barnet with a trip to The Monk afterwards, especially when they have live music.

It goes without saying that the transport and road links from Barnet are outstanding. We live within walking distance of Oakleigh Park Station and can be in Kings Cross in around 20 minutes, with so much redevelopment and new restaurants and bars in that part of London it’s a great link for us. We travel a lot and, as much as I love to see new places and experience new cultures, I am always happy to come home to the best city in the world.

The Spires and Barnet High Street are looking a little tired these days, but I’m looking forward to seeing the positive changes that are promised. We need some decent retailers to bring some life back into our community.

Spending a considerable amount of time in meetings, we take any opportunity to get out and about and enjoy the wonderful green open spaces on our doorstep. We really enjoy walking to Totteridge, usually finishing up in The Orange Tree. Other favourite walks are in Hadley Woods, strolling around Jack’s Lake or having lunch after a long walk around Trent Park which has a lovely café. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to give Go Ape a try.

Losing my father to cancer was a huge turning point in my life and made me reassess my future and to take stock. My husband had asked me for years to join him in his business, and this seemed the time to bravely leap into something I’ve always dreamt of doing. We set up Shandler Homes & Interiors, combining our skills and have not looked back.

My other real passion is fundraising for Cancer Research UK. Having lost far too many people in my life, and having myself been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I embarked on a journey to raise as much as I can for this self funded charity. I started with Race for Life which I did for several years, I held a tea party for around 100 ladies at St Martha’s School in Hadley Wood, and hosted a successful black tie event. The staff at St Martha’s have been incredibly supportive with all of my ventures and I’m so grateful to them for their continued support.

I have been trying to develop a way of raising a constant flow of funds, rather than organizing large one-off events. My idea was to put together a charity choir to raise much needed funds through weekly subscriptions from its members. Our recent trial session was so well attended that we decided to go full steam ahead with the venture and launched The Big Choir last week. We are looking for new members who’d like to come along. Our repertoire will be modern and fun! It is also a great opportunity to make new connections and friends.

The Big Choir meets on Thursdays at 7.30 to 9.15 at St James’s Church and the weekly subscription is £8. If you would like to join please email


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