Our takeaways: End of series round up

with Amy and Jane

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on the third series of Stories from Site.

We chat through the common themes that emerged and discuss our favourite top tips from our guests.



Amy: Welcome to Stories from Site, the renovation podcast that digs a little deeper. I’m Amy Dohnalek and together with my co-host Jane Middlehurst we peek behind the curtains of those insta-worthy interiors to bring you the real processes people went through to make their dream homes a reality.

So welcome to our bonus episode of Stories from Site where Jane and I are gonna be chatting about the common themes that have emerged, and also talk about our top tips from the series. Jane, I’ve really enjoyed this series. I have to say, I feel like it encapsulates the fullest spectrum of renovating to date, wouldn’t you say?

Jane: Yeah, I’ve loved this series. So many different stories and so many different ways to approach renovation.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve had stories of the kind of room by room long renovation with Hannah and Sharn. We’ve had the minimal intervention with maximum output with Tamzin. We’ve had the kind of classic dream garden infilled development story with Shioban and Joe, and we’ve had the Covid move to the countryside story with Camilla and we also have a self-build story too with Nick.

So I feel like it’s pretty incredible to just see the breadth of renovation experience from our guests this time.

Jane: Yeah, definitely. It’s really interesting because despite the fact that the projects are, totally different and completely different types of projects. They really have some very strong themes that’s running through all of them. And I think the one that stands out for me is just this idea of budgets and budgets being tight and maybe people not being able to afford to do exactly what they want to do.

So people being inventive and coming up with other ways to either add their own sweat equity, you know, or work into their projects to make them affordable for themselves or just being inventive with how they organize their projects so that they can get the maximum value out of them. And I think obviously, although all of these projects have been done over the past few years, I think right now in the current climate where people are struggling with construction costs and the price of projects, I just think this is a perfectly timed

series to, to talk about some of those ideas.

Amy: Absolutely. I think the main common theme that kind of stood out to me was just the commitment as well, just the commitment to the process and putting your effort into the renovation and I think we can, we all recognize it’s a massive privilege to be able to own your own home, and that’s not something that any of our guests take for granted.

But I think also just the overriding theme, like you say, is one, trying to do as much as. As you possibly can with the money, and that means kind of committing your own sweat equity into it. And but even just from the kind of sheer organization that goes into a renovation, I just feel like every story has just been kind of pretty epic on that front.

Jane: Everybody’s completely, I. Owned their place in, in the renovation, haven’t they? They’ve like taken charge of the process and there’s just, there’s been so much learning that’s gone on that people have had to do. We’ve got Sharn, who’s, learning DIY for the first time and having amazing results.

And there’s also, people like Nick who are. Literally going on courses

Amy: Yeah.

Jane: learn how to do aspects of their projects that they otherwise wouldn’t have known how to do. And I think it’s just really, inspiring and empowering hearing how people have, upskilled themselves to do their projects.

I mean, even Camilla, from a project management side of things, learning how, how to manage the process and playing an active part in, in the team? Yeah. Or being the


Amy: I guess feeding into that, there’s also a slight kind of sub theme should we say of how valuable having family members who are builders or having a builder who is on at the end of a WhatsApp so that you can kind of just have that sanity checking and I think yeah, I, I kind of wish I had that, I have to

Jane: Yeah, you can see perhaps that’s where it can give somebody confidence to go ahead and do those things knowing that they’ve got that support. And I guess, It would be nice that there is that support out there for people who don’t have the builder at the end of the line. Some of the social media accounts that have the top tips and, and trainings or, finding a different professional out there to be your support buddy to go through that can give people the confidence to do that even if they don’t have a, contractor who’s in the family.

Amy: So what were your kind of top tips?

Jane: Well, there were so many. I think there were so many good ones. I think from a financial side something that really resonated with me with me was Sharn and having this shared account for the finances, because I think that’s such a, an interesting topic where you’re doing works with a partner and obviously, It’s much more common now for us to have our own incomes and our own desires of what to spend money on, and just the concept that you can make it fair by, both putting into this fund and having that fund as a separate account so that you can both see it and think, okay, where are we now?

It’s like a savings account, but you’re, you’re saving up for, each job as it comes up. And once you’ve got enough money in that pot, then you know you can go ahead and do the thing you wanted to do. And I think psychologically that’s a nice way to approach it rather than feeling like, is it fair if we both put the same in, do we have enough money to do this?

Or is that money for holiday or is that, just for living? So I thought that clarity was really nice.

Amy: And I think also what’s kind of interesting is, I mean, previous guests I would say, share our love of spreadsheets when it comes to budgets, but I thought it was quite interesting this time just to see a different take on it, which is to kind of budget room by room. So for the people who are doing longer renovations over a long period of time, that actually is a really good way to manage your, your budget, to be like, right, we’re gonna do this bathroom.

Let’s, let’s get a sensible kind of ring fence a certain amount. That’s what we’re gonna spend. And I think that’s quite, in this current climate of quite a lot of unknowns and it feels like things are shifting, the picture is always moving. Like that is actually quite a good strategy to kind of just take it room by room.

It feels less risky and you are ring fencing your, your pot of money as you go.

Jane: Yeah. I think within that, there’s a. A mini spreadsheet in there, but you know, so you’re not, you’re not master planning the whole, you’re not saying you haven’t got this big pot of money and you’re saying, okay, so how are we gonna divvy this up? But even for each mini project, that you’re gonna be like, okay, so we have enough money for the bathroom.

Now how are we gonna, what are we gonna buy and what are we gonna do with that part of money? Is it enough? So I, I can’t, I can’t ditch this

Amy: You’re like taking this spreadsheet with me. One of my top tips I think was maybe going for that house that’s the opposite of what you thought you were looking for.

I think both Camilla in the last episode and also Tamzin, they were, they thought they wanted a period property, that’s what they were looking for. But they ended up going for different aged properties. So ones that were newer of, kind of from the 1990s and one that was from the 1960s.

And I think that’s quite interesting because I think both their homes, what drew them to it was the layouts and the proportion of the space. But maybe what was lacking is character. But I think. As you can see from, if you go to our website, you can see the final photos. And I mean, they have injected so much character and so much of themselves into that space.

And I think that’s just worth remembering, like when you’re going to look for properties just to have a look at a wider spread than what you think you want. Even if it’s just to cross it off,

Jane: Old properties have lots of skeletons in the closet and like Sharn was saying, you think, oh, how bad can this be?

It all looks okay, but once you start peeling back the layers, you can find some, some tricky elements. So I think, not to say that doing up period properties is, that you shouldn’t do it. But just to see, taking on a more modern house has its advantages in terms of the renovation process as well.

Amy: Yeah, that’s really true. Another top tip that I thought was really helpful is the different strategies people have used to kind of keep motivated and keep their sanity within the process. So I’m thinking of Hannah, who keeps all of her to-do lists. I felt so validated by that. Cause I want to keep my to-do list, but I don’t because I think, oh gosh, that would be a bit crazy.

But I think I’m going to now. Cause it does just give you that sense of achievement and to look back and just be like, yeah, I’ve done so much. I mean, yeah, I quite like that one.

And I guess, not everybody wants to make an Instagram account for their projects. I mean, it’s just not up everyone’s street, but in a way, documenting it for yourself. If you’re doing a renovation visually and having that before and after, even make a, you could make a private Instagram account for yourself and not share it with anyone.

Jane: Just to have that feeling of seeing how far you’ve come is, a really good process to keep you motivated and keep spirits up when things are possibly a bit tricky.

Amy: And I guess for Sharn it was remembering the kind of fundamental reason they were doing it. So the fact that they could live where they’ve always wanted to live, you could see that that really kept them going and just really rejuvenated, their spirits when they were feeling like right in the middle of just the, the dust and the grit and all the rest.

Jane: When I think about the series as a whole, the thing that I’m gonna remember from it is just, this feeling of taking the renovation into your own control. And I think it was, Hannah, who was saying the process of organizing people to come to your home to do things for you is stressful.

I, it’s a barrier. It stops lots of people from doing things because, It’s hard to get enough quotes from enough people to find the right person to make sure that they come at the right time to schedule that with, your life plans and what’s going on. And I think I am kind of guilty of that, of, not having the confidence to really just grab the project by my own two hands and just think, okay, well let me have a go.

Let me see if I can do this. And I think. Obviously for Hannah it was driven by a, a need to just get on and do it when she couldn’t find people. But I think through all aspects of this, there’s been so many d i y and and self done projects in this series.

And again, if you don’t have the skills, maybe going out there and finding the information of how to do something could be a really amazing experience. Hard obviously. But something that we shouldn’t shy away from. And again, like Nick was saying, with the cost of renovation as it is it’s something lots more people will perhaps be turning to and maybe it’s gonna become more normalized to do a lot more of the work ourselves in the house.

Amy: So Jane, I guess this is quite A kind of poignant moment cause you are about to embark on maybe your own renovation in the near future.

Are you kind of storing up all these gems?

Jane: Absolutely. I mean, that’s why I’m talking about the DIY all the time because

Amy: Are you planning on doing it?

Jane: We’re not going to be doing anything immediately. This is a long term project and so, I don’t think that we’re going to. Do everything all in one go like we did with our current house.

But I think I find that rollercoaster of doing everything at the same time, very overwhelming, and just the, the pace that it goes at and the decisions that need to be made I find, I find that difficult. And so I, I think I’m just really inspired by these, the slow renovations, perhaps having a master plan.

Planning it all out, because obviously I like a spreadsheet and I want, I like to enjoy the process of planning ahead, but then to kind of tackle those projects one by one and to be able to have that, more of a slower experience of doing it part by part. And, genuinely, I, I genuinely would like to try some of the things myself because I think I would just enjoy it.

I think I would take a massive kind of. Satisfaction out of doing some of those things myself.

Like, Tamzin was saying I’m probably a little bit of the start 10 projects at once, kind of vibe and have none of them finished. So I’ll have to watch that. But I am excited and I think this series, yeah, it’s been really inspiring and it’s made me very excited to, to plan our project.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing it. I hope you guys are all as inspired as us. We’d love to hear from you if you want to be on the podcast. Yeah, just to say thank you so much to all of our lovely guests. we’re just so pleased to be able to be putting together such a, it feels like a library of really useful stories and resources and tips for people to take on board into their own renovations. So we hope that you find it helpful. And yeah, if you like this podcast, we would love you to leave a review. Reviews make such a massive difference. Thank you so much to all the people that have reviewed so far. Every time we get a review, we, we message each other and get super excited. It

means, it means, it means a lot, doesn’t it? And also just to say massive thank you to drench our sponsors because also without them this wouldn’t be happening.

So yeah, looking forward to all the people we’re gonna speak to next series and yeah, we’ll be back.

Amy: Take care everybody.

Our closing thoughts:

We have loved chatting and listening to our amazing guests and finding out about their renovation journeys.

If you would like to talk to us about your renovation, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with us here.

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