Laughing happily as she throws her arms around her new boyfriend, Binky Felstead is the picture of happiness. And no wonder: the former Made in Chelsea star revealed in an exclusive interview and photoshoot in HELLO! that she has found love again. "I hoped I'd meet somebody," the former Made In Chelsea star and mum of India, two, told HELLO!, as she proudly introduced us to the new man in her life, London-born businessman Max Fredrik Darnton. "I just didn't know it would be so soon, and I didn't know that this would be how I feel."
Clearly besotted, the couple told HELLO! their romance is moving at such a pace that they were already talking about buying a house together. "Things are going so nicely so we'll be looking – together! – for a big house in London with a garden for India and for Max to get a dog," said Binky, 29, who intends to rent out the flat in Fulham she and India currently call home. And the couple were already thinking about how they would decorate their first home together. "I like the French rustic thing – scratched paint, old-school, beautiful," Binky said. "The houses I’ve grown up in have been very Scandi style," added Max, 30, whose mother is Swedish. "But Binky and I have very similar tastes so we should be okay." Binky and Max's relationship is so solid that, seven months after a chance meeting, the star was very excited to introduce her handsome man to the world.
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He is her first serious love since she split from India's father a year ago. They met while attending separate 30th birthday parties at the exclusive Gloucestershire celebrity haunt Soho Farmhouse, used regularly by the likes of the Duchess of Sussex and David and Victoria Beckham. "I was at the bar ordering cocktails and Max came up to me and said: 'So, how are you? What do you do?'" Binky told us. "The first thing I said was: 'I'm a mum!' I was so nervous about him not knowing that I had a child so I wanted to get it out there before he asked me any more questions, just to see if he was going to run off or not. "But his reply was: 'Okay. And?' That was so nice and put me really at ease right away."
Binky and boyfriend Max spoke exclusively to HELLO!
Max asked for Binky's number within ten minutes of striking up their conversation. "I just thought she was really impressive with everything she's doing work-wise and being a mum – juggling loads of stuff," he says. "I found that really attractive." Was he aware Binky was famous? "I did recognise her," he says. However, Max had good reason for not being totally up-todate with Binky's movements since she first shot to fame with the Bafta-winning Made in Chelsea in 2011 – he's been living in Asia for the past seven years, setting up a company between Hong Kong and Singapore. "That's my excuse for not watching that much TV," he told us, laughing. Max's main business Ropner Fredriks is retained by large US private equity funds to hire investment and legal professionals in Asia & Europe. He is currently in the process of relocating back to the UK after his company expanded to London and New York.
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"Having Binky here, it's definitely nice to come back," he says. While Max confidently declared to his friends that he'd found The One following their first meeting, the path to true love didn't run smoothly, as Binky initially refused to go on a date with him. "I cancelled on him a couple of times," she said. "I just felt really nervous. I didn't know how it was going to work logistically, having a toddler, and I was overthinking everything. I had a freakout. "Everything in my life was so comfortable as it was. But then I went to stay with my mum and she said: 'You can't hold yourself back from meeting someone.' And we had a bottle of wine and did a bit of Instagram stalking and she saw his photos and she said: 'He's gorgeous. Go.' So eventually, four weeks later, I agreed to meet up."
Max took Binky to a swanky restaurant in London's Notting Hill for their first date, meeting first in a nearby Swedish bar. "I was practising the two phrases I know, chatting to the barman, making it look like I was fluent," he told us, laughing. The date was a roaring success. "It turned out we had mutual friends, but not many," said Binky. "When you live in such a small part of London, everyone tends to know people. But I didn't know of Max because he hadn't been in the country. That was quite refreshing, not to have so many people that know the person you're dating and all their history. We got on so well. He was so easy to talk to. What you see is what you get with Max and I was so comfortable. We were laughing constantly – there were no awkward silences. It was easy."
"I was incredibly attracted to him. Then, at the end of the night, he pretended it was my birthday and eight waiters and waitresses came up with a massive cake and candles, singing Happy Birthday to me. I was like: 'Okay, that's quite funny. Well done.' Really embarrassing, but it made me laugh." A string of dates followed, with the couple often choosing lunches to fit around their hectic schedules. "After that first dinner we knew it was going to materialise into something," Max says. “We didn't need to force it." The businessman won over Binky's mum by whipping up a Balinese curry when he went to visit their home in the countryside. But the real test was meeting India.
Binky shares daughter India with her ex-boyfriend, Josh Patterson
"I left it for as long as I could," said Binky. "But I knew from the beginning it would be fine. I was obviously really nervous, but it was so easy. We went to the park and he was playing sticks with her. It was very natural." "It was probably a bigger deal for Binks, the build-up to it," said Max. The businessman is used to being around toddlers as his sister has a daughter the same age as India. In June, Max whisked Binky and India off to Singapore and Bali for their birthdays – Binky turned 29 two days after her daughter turned two.
"I've always wanted to go to Bali so it was a bit of a surprise," Binky said. "Well, I knew that because she told me she'd love to go when we were on our first date," Max added. "I remembered." They have plenty in common, too. "Max is very spiritual, like me," said Binky, who is working on a nutrition and postnatal workout e-book and planning more of her Mummy Tribe health and fitness retreats. "When I first met him, I told him my mum was a bit of a hippy and he said his mum is, too," she continued. "And it turned out that both our mums went to the same medium college. It's a bit like Hogwarts for adults, so we both have pendulums and crystals…"
Max whisked Binky off to Bali her birthday this summer
"We're even getting pet owls," jokes Max. "It's difficult to find a guy who’s interested in that sort of thing so I love that," Binky continued. "And Max is like a proper counsellor to my girlfriends, which is lovely because I was always a bit of an agony aunt for the other cast on Made in Chelsea, too." Their relationship is clearly going from strength to strength. The secret, said Binky, is: "I think we're like two pillars – not leaning on each other, but very strong individually. He helps me with business stuff and ideas, and if I’m having a wobble, he'll sit me down and give me coloured pens and make me do a spider graph to sort out my ideas. He also tells me when I'm wrong, and if I'm being difficult he puts me in my place. He brings the best out in me. I'm incredibly lucky to have met him," she added. "He's such a backbone and it sounds so cringe, but I really respect him. And I don’t think he’s ever had a girl properly stick up to him so it’s good for him, too."
Max told us: "We're both very different but equally as driven and ambitious. We find each other funny – not many other people do – and it's completely natural and chilled. I feel very lucky to have met her. We really connect. And India is amazing. They have an incredible relationship."
So where do they see their future headed? Is marriage on the cards? "I mean, Max won’t stop banging on about it," Binky joked. "I want to have kids, for sure," Max said. "And I've already seen how Binks is as a mum. I've trialled her out and she's passed the test, not to mention an expert in changing nappies…!"
"Not yet though," Binky said, laughing. "I've just got my body back. I’m not even thinking about more kids right now. Who knows what the future may bring, but for now, I feel so fortunate."