Our takeaways: End of series round up

with Amy and Jane

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on the fourth 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.

Welcome to our bonus episode where we’re going to be sharing our thoughts on this season, and lessons learned from our wonderful home renovators. Jane, do you want to kick off with what you think is an emerging theme for this series?

Jane: Yeah, something that really jumped out to me was just how strong this end vision in a social kind of way, whether that’s with family or friends, but just having this vision of the renovation being and changing the lifestyle of the people that are doing it.

And thinking back to Barbara and, her seeing that huge garden and having a vision of having family and friends over and being a social place for them. And also I guess with Gemma, just the whole purpose of the project being creating a space for her family to get away from everything and and be together.

And Ade, you know, finally talking about the Christmas, you know, after being in a container for four years, having a Christmas with, the space to have 20 people over and all be there and not be on top of each other. I just felt like that was a really a big theme and obviously it’s whenever anybody’s doing a renovation, space is a huge factor, getting people together, having space for people to stay, it’s such a driving force and I guess we have this vision of what our lifestyle and what our life is going to be like on the other side and that’s what takes you through to the end of the renovation

but then there’s also,maybe a, a worry about that in me,

Amy: what you think that you’re trying to create something that might not manifest.

Jane: Yeah, what if this other version of ourself which has this, the thing that’s holding us back is having a better house or, you know, this new space for us to be in, it means that we’re going to be social and have people over.

And I wonder, If that is real or if that is kind of a dream for, for ourselves to kind of make this, this space for ourselves.

Amy: But I think interestingly, Ade did, that is how they’re using the space and how that was their, their kind of their first thing that they wanted to do. And, and the same actually for Gemma who had just after half term was saying, wow, like we were doing exactly what we had set out to do.

And I thought that was just really amazing that they are doing that. But I guess what you’re saying is how important it is to have an end vision that is a natural development of how you’re already using the space that you are. You know, I think you’re right, that is, it’s dangerous if you suddenly think, the renovation will fix something that isn’t in place currently.

But I also think, just from my own experience of you know, having family life in a flat and, Space would be amazing, like it, you know, that, that sometimes all the activities are happening just like on top of each other, on top of each other, on top of each other. And I think maybe it’s also just our current way that we live in society that there’s so much noise and so much going on but I think our homes when they are like packed just feels like a bit of a pressure cooker and actually when you have a home that has a bit of space that has separation that has doors that close off from each other, you know, like that actually can really enable people to have rest and recharge before going back out into the world.

We’re all having to cope with, you know. Scary things, difficult things, on a macro, micro level, and so I think yeah, our homes, if they can be like a place where we can function well and rest, then I think people can really see the value of renovating.

Jane: Yeah, I think Ade spoke up to that a little bit, didn’t he? About, you know, creating this place that was his

fortress, not only a social aspect, but you know, it being your safe space.


Amy: And that’s also true of Claire and Dan, isn’t it? Because they wanted their concept for their renovation was movement, and stillness and, and that notion of like all having a place to retreat to and come together.

Jane: She knew her family. She knew her kids, she knew how they all operated. And she said, we all need space to be on our own sometimes. But they also want this joint space to come together.

And so it’s working out that duality. And I think. After doing their episode, I really was thinking about, we often think about the renovation, how we’re going to live our lives is the vision for how we currently are living. And we focus on like, what do we need now? But actually we need to really be focusing on what do we need in five years?

Minimum. Because you know, it, you’re thinking about renovating, it will take a year to get going, a year to do it, another six months to finish off. And then by that time, you know, Adi was saying his daughter’s now, you know, she’s off at university, but also just that idea of having teenagers, you know,

your requirements you have for small children definitely isn’t going to be the same as when everybody wants to be off in their bedrooms doing their own thing and being separate from each other. And I think that just really resonated with me, it’s hard to think ahead because you don’t know what it’s going to be like, but hearing people’s stories

makes you realize and start to think about the different requirements you’re gonna have, you know, a bit further down the line and I thought that was nice.

Amy: I think just on that note as well, with Barbara. I mean, the fact that they bought the house that was kind of at the top of their budget and so they know that they’re kind of committed to a longer, slower renovation. But in some ways that’s also quite helpful because you are living in it with your family who are, you know, they’re, as you say, like their needs change and your needs change.

And so in a way that can work

Jane: I think All of the social media and all the influences that we have are definitely building us towards this picture finish project.

And the truth is, is that it is never finished and life just keeps rolling on and we’re going to be adapting and changing our homes as we grow and get old and do different things. So I think it is about just realizing that it isn’t a snapshot and I guess if you’re forced into a slow renovation, it’s naturally going to happen because you’re going to do some spaces first and then as you get to the next spaces you’ll want something slightly different now and, you know, it’s a progression and that’s good to remember.

Amy: it is really helpful to remember and also that there’s less pressure when you’re, you’re having to make decisions on everything.

Like you can just take it slow. And that’s, that’s nice. Right.

Jane: But that’s all about getting that initial layout right, isn’t it? So, you’re looking at your house, you’re looking at, the maximum potential that that house has, because, in the end, it makes sense to make the most out of the spaces that you have.

So in those really, really early brief making stages, like, what do we, what do we need now? What are we going to need in five years? What are we going to need in 10 years? But that’s not about interiors and the look of the place, it’s more just about physical space

I think that’s really true. But it’s interesting. I wanted to ask you what you were saying earlier about the worry of thinking you’re gonna be different later. Or, or act differently in the space or use it differently. In some ways, do not think that you also do need to plan ahead.

Amy: So I’m thinking like, say you want a space more for reading because you want to encourage non screen time, because I think, I think the space can also encourage activities. So it’s like, for example we have this tiny room that would be really useful as a dumping ground, but we changed it into kind of like a little, like the kids can draw in there and it’s, it’s a complete mess, but it’s, it’s, it’s a joy to see them in there making a mess.

And I can also close it after, but I just wonder, like, Like in a way you have to be intentional about the space that you’re creating and the activities that you want to happen there. But do you think that causes problems?

Jane: It’s about Claire and Dan again, isn’t it? It’s about really tapping in to what you all do, how you all are, what you all need and You know, you can see that your kids, if they had the opportunity to have a little space, a special space for them to do something, then they will probably use it.

But I think that’s in a way, that’s why the podcast is helpful, because if you can hear people talking about their requirements, then it kind of helps you see what might be down the road. And I guess. I mean, we all, I have family who have teenagers. I could just ask them, like, what is it about their house that they really love, like right now when they have teenagers and what, what do they find difficult?

And the same, if you were thinking about yourself and your kids have grown up and left home or they’re about to, like, if you’re looking at a different stage in your life, go and chat to somebody who’s already at that stage and see what do they really love? What, what don’t they love? And that sounds like such a.

kind of an over the top thing to go out there and make a point of talking to people about their situations, but I don’t think it is actually. Thinking about it now, you just want to gain as much information to make informed decisions about what you’re doing so that your house and your home is going to work for you.

At every, you know, every stage.

Amy: I think, I think we should have just like one moment just to big up Ade and everything he did. I don’t, I don’t know if you, you might not have seen this, but on Instagram someone else just said, Oh, I’ve just had to sit down and have a little cry because I’ve just listened to the episode and I just thought, I’m so glad that that came across because we were both so moved.

I feel like it was such a moving story of just perseverance and sheer… Kind of just belief that it would be okay and in the face of big, financial risks, personal risks, you know, he really was under a lot of pressure from all sides and I just think even the way they, they found the land, like, it was a real testament of hard work and just, you Yeah, persevering and not giving up, and it made me feel like, I don’t know, just, yeah, like, anything is possible,

It was funny, the combination of feeling energized, like, right, need to set the bar a bit higher. Like, you know, I mean, this is crazy, but in my, in my scope of things, it’s like, I can insulate the floor. Like, you know, that seems like kind of crazy, but in my mind, I’m like, Oh, it’s a really big job and can we do it?

Jane: And there’ll be a lot of mess. And, you know, and then it’s just like, no, you can, you know, you can just get on and try something and do it and it will be difficult, but, you know, you can set your mind to it and achieve it, but then also just. I guess the exhaustion of it, just really understanding, I guess that’s where the tears come from, isn’t it?

It’s, it’s just hearing such an exhausting journey and just the relief that it, it finally, it came through and everything was okay. And I think especially if you’re in a renovation, in the middle of it, like Lauren is, you know, that exhaustion and the uncertainness and, it’s all very well in hindsight to be like, Oh.

It’s going to be okay. Don’t, you know, my message to myself was it’s don’t worry, it’s all going to work out. You don’t know that and when you’re in the middle of it, it does feel exhausting


There’s lots of things to worry about and I guess maybe that was where the tears are like just.

the relief and the exhaustion of getting to the end of that process because we know how tiring it is and it can be hard to keep yourself going through all that.

Amy: But I think that was, that, that was what was useful about Bo’s episode as well, because she’s a trained interior designer, she’s, you know, this is what she does for her job, but on your own project, like there is just such a, a different kind of emotional attachment to the project. And I thought it was just interesting that she, she talked about having to grieve.

The project that she wanted and thought that they were going to do and actually just take a while to readjust and mourn that kind of lost, lost dream and then recreate a new dream. And I mean it’s amazing what she’s done so you know and she loves it but I just think like it was quite an emotional series all in all I think.

Jane: Yeah, well I guess Lauren went through that as well, didn’t she? Because they had an idea about what they wanted to do with the house, and went as far as getting planning permission for it. You know, they were quite far into the vision of what the house was going to be like and then, it’s not through anybody’s Fault, you know, prices have skyrocketed and lots of people will be going through this where, you have this end vision and like we said at the beginning, it’s about, you don’t just see the bricks and the mortar, it’s like, what’s going to happen in those spaces, you’re imagining how you’re going to live, what your life is going to be like, and stepping back from that and having to reevaluate and downsize and kind of reduce that dream a bit.

It is a tricky process and, you know, You know, you can build up another vision and another version of it, but it does just take time, doesn’t it? To, to get that, to get excited about it again, because you really need that excitement and that vision to get you through the project. And if that’s been cut in half, it is a little bit, it’s a bit harder to start and go through all the work when you’re thinking, is this as good as what I hoped it would be?

But I think taking a bit of time to just regroup and, and make a new version of what you want to create is,required before you get stuck in.

Amy: Yeah, and also just, to be kind to yourself if that is hard. I guess the other thing that just really hit me was just Renovating is hard for everybody. You know, we talked to six different people and they’ve all had difficult, tricky things and I think sometimes you can feel a little bit like you know, when you’re scrolling or whatever, just like, oh, that doesn’t seem so difficult


Jane: Yeah, or they, they’ve done it. That looks nice. I bet they didn’t have a problem. You don’t get to see all of that stuff, do you?

Amy: And I think that was what was so lovely about talking to Lauren because, because she is in it at the moment. And I think sometimes when you’re out of it, you’re like, yeah, yeah, it was really hard, but like now it’s great,

you know?

And I think it was just a really helpful episode to just show that if you are in the trenches and you are going through it right now, like it is tricky and you’re not doing anything wrong, you know,

Jane: all that worry and all that kind of… Angst and everything, it does get you somewhere. You know, I think we look back on those things like, Oh, I mean her for it. But it’s that anxiety and worry that makes you take action and makes you sort things out. And you know, you can look back and say, Well, that wasn’t, it wasn’t required.

And I wish I had been a bit more chill or whatever. But it’s, it’s down to our personalities, isn’t it? And how we get through things like that. And it’s different for everybody.

Amy: I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as we have.

Jane: thank you for all of our renovators who took the time and were really honest with their stories and

And speaking to the people that listen to the podcast, we know it really resonates with people And

take it it helps their process to just hear other people’s stories. So just a big thank you to, to all of them for taking part really.

Amy: Absolutely. And we do have a small favour, which is if you are enjoying Stories from Site, please leave us a review because it makes such a massive difference to our reach. And yeah, if there’s one thing you can do it would be that.

Jane: Yeah. And we’re looking forward to doing series five.

Amy: share it with you. Thanks so much, 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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