Our takeaways: End of series round up

with Amy and Jane

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on the fifth 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 roundup of series five. I can’t believe we’re already here, Jane.

Jane: I know, it’s amazing.

Amy: It is. And another set of amazing homes. what would you say has been your highlight?

Jane: What’s been my highlight? for me, I’m just perpetually amazed every episode we do that I always get something from it. every person we speak to brings something new to the table, a different angle that I’ve not considered. after being in renovations for over 10 years,

I think that’s amazing that, you know, just speaking to people is such rich ground for getting ideas and perspectives on how they did it and what you can learn from it.

Amy: yeah, absolutely. And I think what also is amazing is just, I think we often say there isn’t a right way to renovate, and I think that just is enforced every time we do an episode. It’s like, yeah, it’s another way to do it. That’s based on someone’s unique circumstances, their constraints, their kind of life goals that they’re trying to achieve.

And so, yeah, Kind of reinforces our main message, I would say, very nicely.

Jane: What’s nice is that you can take little bits from each episode depending on whether it aligns with you or not and kind of understand their situation and think, well I would do that or maybe they’ve said that’s not a good idea.

And I think you just start to form this, fuller picture, which is what we always set out to do is just try and communicate all these different variables that you have to face when you’re doing a renovation, which makes it really hard to explain to people up front, the journey that they’re about to go on and what might happen, but just hearing it from the horse’s mouth, I think is just so helpful.


Amy: I think also, just going back to your point, if people are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of renovating, it kind of makes sense why they’re feeling like that, because it is a bit of a minefield. There are all these options and sometimes it is hard to know what’s best for you and your situation.

Jane: So I think, for anyone who’s listening and feeling that overwhelm, you’re not alone and it’s totally understandable. Well, that’s why we started doing home notes, isn’t it? we always had people coming to us at our architecture, practice, being confused about, we kind of want to do this. This is kind of our budget. We don’t know who to hire. We don’t know who’s the right person.

It’s. Actually coming back to yourself first, before launching into finding your other people, and the person who’s going to help you, you actually need to reflect really hard on your own situation, what you’re capable of, how much time you have, what are your priorities for your projects, like, it seems like an unnecessary step, especially when you just want to get on with it, to take a step back and actually analyze all that, not just for yourself, but for anyone that you’re doing the project with too.

And that alignment and understanding of where you’re at, it’s such an important step.

Amy: yeah, absolutely. so you said at the beginning that, you’ve been amazed at every episode. is there any kind of takeaways moments that spring to mind?

Jane: Yeah, I think, Jamila’s just say what you want just massively resonated with me in such a huge way. I think that it’s a superpower, to not be scared to actually communicate with the people that you’ve hired about what you want and don’t want and lay that all out on the table.

And I guess that’s project alignment again is If they decide that you saying that is not for them, then find somebody different. And I thought that was such a great message from her and just, you know, I, I’ve been in that situation where something’s happened and I’m too scared to say it’s not right, you know, and it’s not even that I’ve changed my mind or, you know, I’ve just mainly on my own projects.

When I’m working for somebody else. It’s my job to pull it up and I can do it really well, but for me, personally, making somebody go out of their way or having that awkward conversation, I find that really hard. And so I just really loved her message and her attitude towards that and I,that will stick with me.

I’m going to remember that.

Amy: I think what’s important to remember is that you aren’t inconveniencing them. Actually, if you don’t say anything and then you bring it up like two months later, that’s far worse than just saying it in real time or even better, like saying it before and talking through that vision.

And I think sometimes when you’re on site and you’re working with builders and there is kind of a pressure to get. You know, the momentum going and you don’t want to stand in their way. You want to get them kind of going and actually taking a moment to really talk through your vision with them. Getting the mood board out or whatever way you want to do it or the drawings.

It’s just, it’s often a step that gets missed, I think.

Jane: it’s quite, embarrassing, isn’t it? Because I

think anybody who’s coming into a job, mostly it’s just like, just leave me to it and let me crack on. if you’re picking up on the vibes, it’s generally, I don’t really want to sit down and look at your mood board. But if that is crucial to your project, then you would be remiss not to tell them because how are they supposed to know that there’s this vision in your head how can you have that? conversation and get the project you want if you don’t actually bring it up.

And I think that does take a bit of guts at the beginning just to, and also trades people are hard to come by. You don’t want to scare anybody off. but just saying like, can we just have this brief conversation to make sure we’re both aligned in what we think is going to happen.

Be really beneficial for you both. And I think like Jamila said, like make a cup of tea, get the biscuits out, make it nice. It’s not like an inquisition. You’re, you’re just trying to get on the same page. but it’s really important to do that at the beginning rather than halfway through when you’re like pull out all your mood boards and say, well, this is what I was imagining when it’s a little bit too late.

Amy: I thought what’s interesting also about the vision is that, we kind of saw two approaches. the one which is you have your vision right up front, you know what you want. I think Jamila is a great example of that. I think Jen is a great example of that and Ella as well.

They all had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve. And. They worked towards that end vision. The other kind of approach is to get your bare bones right. So Lee, for example, and Lou, I would say, both do this. then they kind of went through a process of listening and responding to the house.

They wanted to take their cues from the spaces. If I had to do a top moment, I actually would say it’s Lou’s and the way that she was like, Do you know what? I’m going to do this. And not with a kind of knowing where she was going to end up, but just like really, yeah, this is the right step for now.

And then I’m going to respond to that. And then I’m going to go on to the next thing. And, and just that totally blew my mind. I was like, wow, you can just like, you know, I just think that it’s freeing because I think so often we’re so afraid to make any mistake and I know that’s because we don’t want to spend.

Money in a, you know, like it’s usually a cost aspect, but I think, she knew that she wanted to paint her toilet red. But she hadn’t thought, Oh, what’s the ceiling going to be in? when we left her, she was like, yeah, I’m going to go off and work that out now. And I just, I really found it such a refreshing way to approach it.

and I think Lee was the same, really. He was just saying, look, get your bare bones sorted. then take your time, play a bit and just layer it up. And I found that as well, quite, freeing just thinking. If you get that structure right at the beginning, actually, you do have a bit of freedom to be like, that wall is going to be yellow, or whatever it is.

so that was my top moments, I think.

Jane: I think that’s really, helpful who was it who said they got their electrician in at the end?

Amy: Lou,

Jane: It was Lou. So I think sometimes when you’re trying to start, an interiors project,

You kind of like, well, I think I want this color. I think I want this, but I’m not sure where my lights are going to be, and I can’t work it out. So I won’t start. Whereas she just accepted that it doesn’t make logical sense to get the electrician in after you’ve finished everything.

But that was the only time that she knew. Where

everything, should go. So

if that’s the way it has to happen and that’s the way that you can start a project and actually get somewhere, then so be it.

Not starting at all is so easy because you’re overwhelmed with all the decisions. But just talking about the preemptiveness of it, it reminds me of Ella and that situation was very different in the way that she had a space that she was creating, but hadn’t had the opportunity to work out that interior layout.

and I guess when you’re making a new space, it is quite difficult to play it by ear. because one, when you’re working with contractors, you can’t, you can change things around, but it’s, it’s costly. so, you know, I guess this series has been a series of contradictions, but for her having Having some plan and having some interior drawings would have really helped her make sure the interiors fitted and were correct so she didn’t have to kind of play it by ear or just walk around the room while the contractors were there andcheck that everything fitted.

And I think that’s what’s so interesting about the series is that it is different solutions for different situations.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely.

if you think about, speed, the speed at which all the renovations happened, I think that’s quite interesting because some people were, you know, Ella was going super fast because the baby was coming and would it be done before the baby came?

I think Isabelle’s interesting because speed really was at the essence of it because she wanted to put down roots and she wanted a home finally. She’d been trying to find somewhere and she was just like, I’m ready. You know, I want to like be there already. And so I think they really prioritized, speed in a way.

Jane: And then for others, it was taking it slow. some of the people we’ve talked to are still renovating. They’re going to be in, you know. Six months, maybe a year’s time. And, just even looking at renovating on a timescale, it’s incredible to think how much it varies, And the different ways it varies,I guess, Jamila, Lou and Jen were room by room. So it’s like, focus on a room, get it done. And then, when the budget allows, or when the time allows, do the next room and work through it that way. and that makes sense when you’re doing the work yourself, when you’re managing that process, because it’s just too much to take on, to take apart your whole house in one go.

What’s interesting about Lee is his was a slow renovation too, but in a different way. So he did the whole bones of the whole house without any of the finishing touches

Amy: Yeah. Even door


Jane: Yeah, he’s gonna take that process on himself and that’s the difference in having contractors, like a main contractor in because, obviously It makes sense to do as much as you can while they’re there, it’s a different way of phasing and I like the distinction between the different ways that you can tackle that depending on who you’re hiring or if you’re doing it yourself.

Amy: Absolutely.

So to finish up, Jane, if people are feeling, they’ve listened to the series, they’ve loved it, they want to do their own renovation, they’re kind of excited, they’re kind of overwhelmed,

What would you say they should do as a first step?

Jane: I think just going back to what I said earlier about really interrogating yourself, your project, what you want to achieve is that first step to make sure that your project is aligned with what you want to achieve. and that’s about, you know, On a more kind of holistic way, that’s about what kind of project you want to make, how much time you have to put into the project, how much money you have, are you phasing, how can you phase, all of those questions and really dig into what you want to achieve out of your project.

It takes time and we tend to do it all in our heads but if you actually take time to do the process properly, write a proper brief for yourself and work out a real budget, which is not just the figure that you have in your head of what you’d like to spend, but start aligning what you want to achieve with how much money you have, making a structured budget, getting quotes and doing, you know, cost analysis for yourself, And then like really just understanding all the different people that could help you, there’s such a lot of resources out there and how you piece them together is going to be individual for you.

Amy: you might have just described our getting started course, so perfect, You’ve encapsulated it.

Jane: Well there’s a reason, there’s clearly a reason because, I mean, it just sounds cliche doesn’t it, but I think that’s the whole reason we set up Home Notes. It’s confusing and there’s a lot of work to do and so if you’re in that position then our Getting Started course, we genuinely made it to solve all these questions and to get people in the right place.

we haven’t done it just For the sake of doing it, we did it because that’s what our clients needed to just take a step back, before they start calling people and before they jump in with two feet.

Amy: Well, that’s the thing, you end up doing it as you’re in the process. AndI think what people maybe don’t realize is once you’ve hired people, you’re kind of on a set route. that’s leading you to a particular outcome and I think you just, you need to make sure that that is actually where you want to be going.


Jane: So yeah, do come and do our getting started course,

Amy: yeah, that was a perfect segue. I love it. everybody, we will be coming back with another series. We’re not quite sure when but it will be soon

Thank you so much for listening.

and we have one small favor, which is if you are enjoying the series and you do love stories from site, we would appreciate so much if you could spare a couple of minutes and either review us on Apple podcasts, or if you’re listening in Spotify to just, rate it. That makes such a massive difference to us and our reach.

And yeah, we would be really thankful.

Jane: Yeah. That makes all the difference.

Amy: So that’s a wrap everybody See you in series six.


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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