Our takeaways: End of series round up

with Amy and Jane

In this bonus episode Amy and Jane take a moment to look back on the first-ever series of Stories from Site.

We chat through the common themes that emerged and discuss what our personal stand out moments were.



Stories from Site – Bonus episode

Amy: Hi everyone, welcome to our little bonus episode where Jane and I are going to be rounding up our takeaways from our first ever series of stories from Site. Firstly, thanks to everyone who’s made this podcast possible, to our lovely sponsors, drench, to our wonderful guests, and to all of you who have listened and left reviews and messaged us saying how much you love it, we’ve been blown away by the response. So thank you so much.

So to start us off, it has been just a really interesting process to talk in depth with people about their experiences and about their renovations.

We’ve had a real, spread of different methods of renovating. So we’ve had the self finishing your home and turning to DIY to control costs with Lydia and Jess. And I feel like that’s become more and more common, as people need to add in their own sweat equity into the process.

And we’ve also had guests who, for a variety of reasons have had to project manage the process themselves. So, Sandra, whose architect looked after the shell and she coordinated all of the interiors, or like Kirsty who was bang in the middle of covid and homeschooling and whose architect also was doing the same and couldn’t help her run it physically.

And then I guess we’ve also had what I’d like to term the pick and mix approach. So where Elesa and Steve, they chose individual professionals that they needed and kind of stitched together their team and the project that way. And Nick and Dawn, took it one step further and they became the, the main contractor who then organised all of the individual, individual subbies.

Amy: So it’s quite, it’s quite a spread of different approaches and experiences. And I wonder Jane, what do you think of the common themes that come across through those different approaches?

Jane: Yeah, I mean, firstly just to say like how much we’ve enjoyed talking to everybody. Like we’ve, we’ve literally, every single episode we’ve come off on a high, just absolutely loved hearing the stories and the processes that people have gone through. And I think it’s been extra special for us as architects because I don’t think that we really get to do that with our clients. At the end of a project, obviously it’s really great to get feedback, but you don’t really get that full download, and the full experience in the same way. So for us it’s just been really joyous to, to hear that straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

I really feel like, what’s brought all those approaches together is about people getting involved in their projects and adding their own skills and effort. And at Home Notes we often talk about people being the CEO of their projects, which is this role of taking the lead on your project and holding the vision and the budget, and coordinating a team to deliver the project for you.

Jane: And then obviously in all of the cases we’ve spoken about, that actually taking on some of those jobs themselves as well. But I really felt that from the people in the series that they had taken that role on with such gusto and, you can see it really paid off on their projects for them to have the confidence to lead, their projects in that way.

Amy: I think for me, the common theme that, that brings them all together was how it’s worth the effort. So that even though it’s long and it’s painful and it’s expensive, that actually having the home you made for yourselves for your family and kind of making that space or the backdrop to your life, it’s, it really is so worth putting in all that work.

Amy: Um, that really struck me.

Jane: Yeah, everyone we spoke to was a mixture of kind of pain and euphoria

Amy: Yeah,

I guess another common theme was dust and how difficult it is to live with. And also spreadsheets, as a way of keeping track on costs and not just doing that at the outset, but how important it is to do that all the way through. I thought that was quite striking.

You can see how managing spreadsheets and documenting things, it really gives people a sense of control not only is it practically helpful, but also just mentally, I think. It’s just nice, um, that people feel like they understand what’s happening on their projects.

Jane: Because otherwise without that, the process is just too, seemingly erratic and stressful. So you can see how those documents really help people get through that process.

And also I think, taking the time to find the right people who get what you’re trying to do and, it’s kind of a, matchmaking process. You kind of need to feel like there’s a synergy, with the people that you’re working with.

Jane: Yeah, it came across in a couple, didn’t it? That the, um, the connection between them and their contractors was actually a lot down to the gut feeling that they got about the connection that they had and that that played out like one way or another, like for a couple. They were, you know, they had great gut feelings and I just really went with that and it played out well.

And you know, obviously maybe for Kirsty, she wasn’t so sure and, and, and maybe that played too. You know, obviously not to say that we should always just hire people on gut feelings because that’s a little bit dangerous and, you know, everybody’s doing their due diligence and, you know, having the contracts and everything to back that up.

But just that, that feeling of perhaps that somebody is taking the time to get their head into your project, gives you a sense of security that, you’re gonna have good communication. And I think that did work, um, for the people that we spoke to.

So what were your stand out moments or takeaways?

There was just a small one, which is, tiling. That tiling is actually very difficult. And that really good tilers are hard to come by. I think it came up in three of the episodes. But essentially that it’s a really specialist job and that you might actually have to wait quite a long time for a good tiler and when they come they are, you know, worth it. So kudos tour the great tilers out there.

Amy: I think for me it would be just the concept that renovating is a long game. So I think in, in our latest episode, Sandra talks about 60% planning and 40% execution. And I, I think that’s about right. I mean, it, it sounds crazy, but there are just so many moving parts that it just takes time to work through all of that.

Amy: And it just made me think that, you know, if you are in the middle of renovating, it can just feel like, oh I should be further on, I should be already building it or getting it done. But actually you, you are doing it. You’re just doing that 60%. Do you know what I mean? And I think that’s quite reassuring really.

Jane: Yeah, there’s, there’s massive decision fatigue, isn’t there? I mean, lots of people spoke about the amount of decisions there are to make on a project, and that process can be really tiring. And I guess there’s a temptation when you are in that really tiring decision process that you’re just like, oh, just forget it.

Let’s just get on site and it will all sort itself out. But actually those decisions they have to be made, you know, that process has to be gone through whichever way round you do it. And actually, if you do the, decision making ahead of site, although it can feel like a real chore, um, and perhaps you don’t have the adrenaline to kind of push you through it.

You are able to make decisions in a stress-free environment, which might mean you know that you get more choice and more options, or you’re making better decisions rather than just waiting for being on the rollercoaster and having to like rush through things, which, which you might regret.

Amy: Absolutely, The other thing I wanted to say actually was, obviously it was the first series, so we kind of reached out to our community and people that we knew already who had finished their renovations to see if they wanted to be a guest.

So a few people had done our Getting Started course and I thought what was interesting about that was it wasn’t as if they didn’t have anything go wrong in their projects or their renovations or that it wasn’t difficult, but the overriding feedback is that they enjoyed it.

And I think, I think that comes from that preparation work and understanding the process and understanding what your options are. I was thinking about the example that you sometimes use about being stuck on a train that’s delayed and actually being told, what’s happening, is annoying, but it’s a lot less stressful than being stuck and not knowing what’s going on, not knowing how delayed you’re gonna be or what the problem is.

And I just think, so much of the stress in renovating comes from that, from unknowns and not being prepared. So I thought that that really came, came through.

Jane: Yeah. Because you are diving into a whole new world and a whole new process that you don’t know how it functions. Um, and actually when we know how something works, it’s easier to cope with when it, goes wrong. If you can put it in context, then it feels like you can understand it and why it’s happened. And I think that that is helpful.

Something that stuck out to me was the relationships between the main contractor and the subcontractors on site. I think that that came up in Nick and Dawns and also Elesa and Steve’s, which was the friction of selecting a specialist contractor that you’ve chosen and having them come to site and having to interact and work with the main contractor.

And just that, that can create real friction on a project and. It’s not nice. It’s not a nice feeling when it feels like people can’t work together. And as a client, you feel stuck in the middle of that. And I know that we’ve experienced that in our projects so it kind of jumped out with me when I, when I was hearing that other people had the same. And actually just flipping that in Sandra’s, process where she had the same situation, but her contractor took on all the communication for the specialist subcontractors.

Jane: So he arranged meeting with them and was there on site to kind of arrange things. And I think that maybe when main contractors can do that and take on board the subcontractors and take responsibility for them, maybe it just takes that friction out of it a little bit that they have invested already enough to make the call and talk to them, and therefore they can’t be at odds with each other because they’re arranging to do something together.

Whereas if they’re just on site and somebody just rocks up, it’s a little bit of a, um, a shock and a surprise and maybe. It makes that tension, that people have spoken about. So I thought that was an interesting difference in those, those two different projects.

Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I think another standout moment for me personally was talking to Jess. I felt so empowered to start doing those DIY projects I think I just realized how much I was just waiting around, for someone else, uh, to do it , you know, Like, I don’t have to wait. I can fix the skirting boards that we’ve never got round to fixing in our kitchen.

Jane: I, have skirting board in my kitchen that I look at every day and I, yeah. It never even occurred to me to just go and fix it. 

Amy:  And we can do that. So, I’m gonna plan. a weekend where I actually do those DIY projects. Cause they’re not actually massive, but they really are annoying every day. I think I have a similar feeling actually about everybody that we spoke to. As people, obviously that have been through a lot of renovations and helped people through a lot of renovations, I feel sometimes through that process, there’s a slight wearing down. For me, the main objective of a renovation is to get to the end with the least stress, um, in the most efficient way.

Jane: You know, and that’s like my main priority is just, if it’s gonna be tricky, don’t do it. You know? And it was really refreshing to just hear, people’s visions and ambitions for their projects and just creating those special moments and the things that that, like the designed things that they want to achieve with the space and actually how much those things, give to the project at the end and how enjoyable they are to have a home where you’ve invested that extra time and effort to make something happen. And I think that comes from, being fresh to a project. And for me, I, I just wanna kind of grab that energy and savour it really, and try and remember that for myself that those extra things are worth it in the end.

Amy: It sounds like there’s gonna be some renovating in your near future too.

Jane: Well, that’s the other thing that we’ve had lots of people on the reviews saying, you know, the podcast has really excited them to, to start on a renovation project. And I, I actually thought perhaps it might have the opposite effect that people would listen to it and think, oh my goodness, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna embark on that.

Especially, you know, people talking about the time scales and, you know, the real, the real experience of it happening. But actually it does because it’s a mix of kind of difficulty and this like euphoria of, you know, achieving. I think that is, it does make you want to get started and it has, you know, it has had that same effect on me too.

Amy: So thanks everybody for being with us for this bonus episode. And just to say don’t panic, series two is gonna be coming out in March, so yeah, keep your eyes peeled and your ears.

Jane: Yep. Can’t wait to speak to our new guests. And obviously if you are out there thinking I’d love to talk about my renovation, then do contact us.

We’d love to hear from you

Amy : Absolutely. Thanks for taking the time to listen to this episode. Renovating can be a rollercoaster and if you are at the beginning of your renovation journey, come and find out about our Getting Started Course at homenotes.co to make sure you get the best value from your project. Finally, if you’ve enjoyed this episode, then please do follow or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, as it will help us reach as many people as possible and all learn from these amazing experiences.

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.

View more episodes


40. Building Dreams Together: Lessons from a family-run builder

We chat with builders Sian and James who share their inspiring journey from purchasing their first 1930s terrace home.

Read More →

39. The art of attraction: Creating a home that sells

We chat with Lorna who shares her reflections on how her experience running an estate agency has influenced their renovation approach.

Read More →

38. Design is key: An interior designer’s clever budget choices

Gemma shares her practical insights, tips, and plenty of inspiration about how to craft your ideal home, even on a modest budget.

Read More →

37. Out of the box: Bespoke design vs off the shelf architecture 

Motivated by her daughter’s health needs, Tishna embarked on an in-depth exploration of natural materials for her loft extension.

Read More →

36. The uphill struggle of getting that ‘architect look’

We talk to Kat who shares the challenges of working with her contractor to achieve the considered look she was after.

Read More →

35. Our takeaways: End of series round up

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on our fifth series and discuss favourite top takeaways from our lovely guests.

Read More →

34. Blank slate to dream home: Avoiding interiors overwhelm

Isabelle shares her experience working with an interior designer to renovate her London flat and how they helped bring it all together.

Read More →

33. Getting the best deal: Just say what you want

We talk with Jamila who shares her experience of renovating her home in Yorkshire room by room and her negotiation strategies with suppliers!

Read More →

32. Listening to the walls: Restoring an Edwardian terrace

This week we talk to Lou, who is restoring her tired Edwardian house herself, learning as she goes and bringing original features back to their former glory.

Read More →

31. Race to the finish line: A design and build loft conversion

This week we talk to Ella who chose to work with a design and build company to create a loft extension for her home.

Read More →

30. Slow renovating: Creating interiors that last

This week we chat to Lee, founder of Burt and May tiles about his latest home renovation and his approach to creating ‘timeless’ interiors, rich in layers and materiality.

Read More →

29. The renovation game: Climbing the property ladder

This week we chat to Jen, as she shares her journey of climbing the housing ladder, one renovation project at a time.

Read More →

28. Our takeaways: End of series round up

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on our third series and discuss favourite top takeaways from our lovely guests.

Read More →

27. Halfway there: Reflecting on the journey so far 

This week we chat with Lauren, a first-time renovator, whose partner’s electrician skills are coming in handy as they tackle the ambitious task of updating their 1970’s home.

Read More →

26. When perseverance pays off: A rural barn conversion 

We listen to the self-build journey of Ade who transformed a dilapidated barn into a dream home for his family in the picturesque Kent countryside.

Read More →

25. Navigating budgets creatively: An Interior designer’s story

We sit down with Bo, an experienced interior designer who had to make some tough decisions when faced with skyrocketing renovation costs.

Read More →

24. Renovating remotely: Transforming an old school on Anglesey

We talk to Gemma about managing a remote renovation and the differences in renovating a holiday home as a business.

Read More →
Stories-From-Site-Barbara - Front cover

23. The doer-upper: A journey of renovating, diy and maternity leave

We talk to Barbara about falling in love with a fixer-upper home and the joys of undertaking DIY projects during maternity leave.

Read More →

22. Prioritising positivity: Converting a bungalow with separate trades

With construction costs rising, Claire and Dan managed the different trades they needed on day rates to renovate their 1950s bungalow.

Read More →

21. Our takeaways: End of series round up

In this bonus episode we take a moment to look back on our third series and discuss favourite top takeaways from our lovely guests.

Read More →

Coming soon . . .

Our membership is launching at the start of June.  Sign up to get notified when it goes live! 

Sign up for

HomeNotes news

Get monthly renovation articles, advice, news and offers to your inbox!