Denise Van Outen gives a tour inside the stunning home she shares with boyfriend Eddie as she gushes over their romance

While the prospect of locking down with your partner might have proved daunting for some, Denise Van Outen and her boyfriend Eddie Boxshall have been getting on like a house on fire.

They say the quality time together has only improved their six-year romance. The couple have been isolating at their five-bedroom Chelmsford home with Denise’s 10-year-old daughter Betsy, from her marriage to actor Lee Mead.

During isolation, they’ve been entertaining audiences on Celebrity Gogglebox and when OK! speaks to them on the phone for an exclusive chat, their strong chemistry and witty banter is clear from the get go. “Be honest, was I the star?” Eddie teases.

“He thinks he’s a celebrity now,” Denise jokes. “He came back from the chippy the other day and was so excited because they recognised him and gave us extra chips.”

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The couple started dating in 2014 when they were set up on a blind date and Denise says she knew he was The One after 10 minutes. “Five minutes, more like!” Eddie laughs.

Despite their instant connection, the couple have always taken things slow.

Eddie, 45, didn’t meet Denise’s daughter Betsy until a year into their relationship and the pair only moved in together officially last year.

When it comes to the topic of getting engaged, they both insist there’s no rush. “We’ve always said we’d never rule it out,” Denise, 46, says. Here, the couple open up about their love story, blended families and why they won’t be having children together…

How long have you been in this house?

Eddie: About a year and a half now.

Denise: We’ve spent the first year doing up the inside of the house. We had plans to do the outside, but they’ve been a little delayed by lockdown.

Who calls the shots when it comes to interiors?

Denise: Eddie’s already laughing…

Eddie: She holds fabric and paint swatches up and asks me which one I prefer – but holds one really close to my face.

Denise: My interior designer friend of 20 years also helped us decorate, so he was against two women.

Eddie: I had no chance.

You waited a while before moving in together. Why did you want to take things slow?

Denise: It was sensible for me as a mum. Betsy was only young when I met Eddie and I had lived on my own with her for a while. We wanted to make it a gradual thing.

Eddie: I was with my ex for years and we have two grown-up children together (Jordan, 25, and Leah, 21). Betsy was young and we just wanted to take it slow. I didn’t meet her for a year and we’ve never pushed our relationship, it’s grown gradually.

Denise: We always said if we moved in together, it’d be into a new home we could make our own, rather than one of us moving into a house the other had once shared with an ex. We wanted it to be a fresh start.

And you both have a good relationship with Betsy’s dad Lee?

Denise: Yes, and it was like that from the beginning. Lee and I are both decent people and grown-up enough to realise Betsy is the most important person. I genuinely like Lee as a person. It’s impossible to dislike him.

Eddie: Lee and I get on and it’s just easy to spend time all together. I have a great relationship with my ex, too, we’re still great friends. It’s lovely when a family can do that.

And lockdown has gone well for you?

Eddie: We’ve just had a laugh. You learn new things about someone when you live with them. We’re middle aged now so we could be stuck in our ways but we just work well together.

Denise: What have you learnt about me? That I’m more fabulous than you thought?

Eddie: Well, of course. But also that we get on well and don’t really argue. If we do have an argument, it’s sorted out there and then.

You were set up on a blind date by mutual friends. Denise, apparently you said you knew Eddie was The One after 10 minutes…

Denise: He’s laughing at me now. He’s probably thinking, “Yeah, that’s when the margaritas kicked in!”

Eddie: I was going to say it was more like five minutes! In all seriousness, we just had the same banter and made each other laugh straight away. It was easy.

Eddie, did you realise you were being set up with a celebrity?

No! It was a blind date. Her friend was in a relationship with my friend and he rang me and asked if I was single. I’d been split up from my ex for a few years at that point. He told me he wanted to set me up with Denise but only told me her first name, her age, that she was a mum and worked in the media. He said she was looking to date someone outside her industry. We were meant to go for dinner as a four but they cancelled so we kept it as a date just the two of us. I was late because I was working and when I got to the restaurant, the man on reception mentioned Denise’s surname because of the booking. I think I said, “Are you winding me up?” He went upstairs, came back and said, ‘Miss Van Outen will see you now.” I’m glad I didn’t know before because I’d have been nervous!

Were you a fan of Denise’s beforehand?

Denise: He loved me [laughs]! Actually he insists he’d never seen me on TV. He says he never watched The Big Breakfast!

Eddie: I’ve told her I just found her voice too annoying that early in the morning…

Denise, you’ve dated celebrities in the past. Is it nice to date someone who isn’t in the same industry as you?

Well, Eddie thinks he’s a celebrity now. He came back from the chippy the other day and was so excited because they gave us extra chips after recognising him from Gogglebox.

Eddie: It’s perks of the job, isn’t it?

Now you have your own house, can we expect an engagement?

Denise: I don’t know, we’ll see [laughs]. We’ve always said we’d never rule it out. It’s not something we’ve spoken about much because we’ve taken everything in our relationship at a slower pace. At the moment we’re in our new house and we’re getting it all done up. It would be nice to get married one day but at the moment, I’ve had two friends postpone their wedding due to coronavirus. It doesn’t feel like the right time. We’d want to do it with all our friends and family and not have to socially distance.

Eddie: If it does happen, it would be a huge celebration.

Denise, you’ve bravely spoken out about being perimenopausal (the transitional period before menopause) and tried to raise more awareness about it…

Denise: Talking about it more can only be a good thing. My girlfriends and I are similar ages and we’ve all started noticing differences. Feeling more anxious or emotional. But we feel reassured because we’re all in it together. If I hadn’t spoken out and opened up to my friends, I might have thought I was losing my mind. I now take hormone replacements which have made me feel better.

Eddie: It’s a really important thing for men to understand, too. You have to wonder how many relationships might not have lasted because people weren’t aware of what their partner was going through.

You’ve spoken about Eddie being broody and wanting to have a baby of your own. Is that something you still want?

Denise: Well, that ship has sailed now! About three years ago we had a chat and said, “If it happens, it happens.“ But since then we’ve moved into our house and we both want to enjoy this next chapter of our lives as we are. Betsy’s still young enough that we get to enjoy the fun kid things with her. And we’re excited for the future.

Eddie: I’ve got kids of my own and Betsy feels like my daughter, too.

Denise: That’s why we got our French Bulldog Tilly. She’s our furry baby! And Eddie’s kids are grown-up so, in a few years, we’ll have grandchildren staying over at our house.

Eddie: I’m too young to be a granddad!

Denise: No, you’re not, you’re grey.

Denise, Betsy was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia a few years ago. How is she doing now?

Denise: She’s really massively caught up and is doing really good. She got to that stage through a lot of hard work and help from tutoring and family friends. She’s not the top of the class for things like maths but she’s doing well.

What’s her personality like?

Denise: She’s like me, the class clown. But she’s also a bit more sensitive and I think she gets that from her dad.

Eddie: You are like two peas in a pod.

Denise: She’s like my best friend. It’s a lovely age and we do just get on so well.

You kept everyone in the dark with your appearance on The Masked Singer earlier this year, Denise. How did you manage to keep it a secret from Betsy and Eddie?

Denise: I just knew if I told one person it could unravel from there. My agent knew but that was about it.

Eddie: I was quite worried at how well she could lie to me [laughs]. I didn’t find out until she was unmasked and I said, “How did you manage that?” But honestly, it was lovely to see her on stage looking so happy and confident.

Denise: I’ve been recording a new music album and I got halfway through before lockdown. It’s a shame because I was so raring to go, but everyone is in the same boat. Hopefully I can get back into the studio next month and finish it off.

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The Only Way Is Essex turns 10 this autumn. As the show’s narrator, how do you feel?

Denise: I can’t believe it’s been a decade. I want to celebrate with a cameo. I could be on the door of Sugar Hut or behind the bar? For 10 years I’ve been doing that show and I’ve not been in one scene!

Who would you love to see return?

Denise: It has to be Mark [Wright]. All the originals are great and it would be good to get them back together. I remember this one scene in the first series where Mark and Arg [James Argent] were having a farting competition. I was crying with laughter.

With lockdown easing, what are you most looking forward to?

Eddie: Obviously seeing friends and family and getting back to normality.

Denise: We’ve enjoyed a staycation summer so far. We had to cancel two holidays and one was quite expensive. We luckily got the money back and decided to spend it on a hot tub and enjoy the sunshine at home. We’ve called it Costa Del Chelmsford!

With thanks to Bespoke Interiors Essex and Hot Tub Barn Chelmsford.

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