Slow renovating: Creating interiors that last

with Lee

This week we talk to Lee, founder of Burt and May tiles about his latest home renovation.

We discuss his approach to creating ‘timeless’ interiors, the art of slow renovating to create a space rich in layers and materiality.

Plus the environmental need to consider our purchases and avoid renovation waste. 




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.

Amy: This week we talked to Lee, the founder of Bert and May Tiles, about his latest home renovation.

Amy: We discuss this approach to creating timeless interiors, the art of slow renovating to create a space rich in layers and materiality, plus the environmental need to consider our purchases and avoid renovation waste.

Amy: Lee shares his insights making deliberate interior choices that stand the test of time, reducing waste, embracing a more thoughtful approach to interiors and savoring the joy that comes with the use of beautiful materials.

Amy: to prep and then it’s like, oh, let’s just. Hi Lee, welcome to Stories from Site. We’re particularly excited to talk to you today as both me and Jane are a little bit obsessed with tiles. And so we have been big Bert and May fans actually from the start. You guys, I think, launched at a similar time to when we set up our architecture practice, and I think your first showroom was in East London, that’s right, on Viner Street.

Lee: That’s right. Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. Our first showroom was on Viner in short in Bethnal green. Yes

Amy: Yeah a very happy, happy place for architects to go to and wander around in their lunch break. I would really love to know a bit about where you’re sitting right now, could you describe your home?

Lee: So, we live in a little village just outside of York called Poppleton. It’s around two miles from York and my two girls go to school in central York. So, we wanted something that was close enough to town that it’s kind of convenient and school runs are not too painful, but we wanted a bit of space. So, we, we, we kind of took the option of.

Lee: Having a lovely garden, having that kind of entertaining space at home, but sacrificing that kind of real proximity into the city. So it’s a little, very pretty little village with a maypole, couple of pubs village shop, all the

Amy: You need a maypole. I mean, I mean,

Lee: Need the pub a bit more than the maple. I have to say, I’ve used the pub more than the maple.

Amy: I think that’s a shame. Sorry, I’ve just got sidetracked by the maypole. Do you want to go Jane?

Jane: so I guess, Do you want to talk a little bit about your story of how you got to this house and, and your kind of renovation history in a guess, because this isn’t your first property, is it?

Lee: No, it’s not. So, my journey, my kind of property journey, if you will, started in Spain, actually. So, I owned rented houses until then and moved out to southern Spain. I was a lawyer in London. And knew that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. So I thought that I would go out and learn Spanish, do something entirely different.

Lee: Found this amazing part of Spain called Vejer, which is on the Costa de la Luz of Spain. And that’s where my, kind of, passion for interiors and Property really came about and I discovered I think in that journey of building What is now a little boutique hotel. Just how important the raw materials are and how if you get that, right if you get the kind of architectural materials The correct palette, everything else is very simple and they can all be styled very easily and very differently.

Lee: So, my where I actually now live is in this lovely kind of, it’s a beautiful kind of cottage in this village of Poppleton. Two workers cottages knocked together into one family home. And we bought that about a year and a half ago and gutted it. And I can talk you through, if you like, how we did it.

Lee: But fundamentally for me, I’ve learned about materials and blending the right materials together and just how important that texture is. To give that longevity and I know it’s a bit of a kind of buzzword to use timeless because everybody wants to be timeless But I think a great sign of all our success is if you actually create an interior that can be dressed and styled Differently without the need to rip things out So for me, it’s going in there and it feeling like it could be there forever.

Lee: So I know my Flooring could be there forever and I don’t just do it as a plug for tiles. I have beautiful reclaimed wooden floors Which I would never want to change Even if my style changes and I want to go with pinks and greens and just you know Wallpapers all of it will work if you get the core materials, right?

Amy: That’s really interesting. And did you extend like you, You knocked through these cottages, but did you do an extension as part of it?

Lee: No, so we were lucky enough that the two cottages were kind of, they had, it had two kitchens, two staircases, but it was actually one house, but it very much was a house of two halves. So the kind of rear of the property already had this kind of quite impressive glass elevation on it. And it was actually an architect that owned it before us.

Lee: So, he looked like he’d almost done half a house, so he kind of done this quite impressive thing on the back, but left his cottages on the front, and I think he and his wife almost just lived in the new bit, and forgot about the old bit. So, our kind of job was to unite the, unite the two halves, and the only way I could do that was really stripping back everything on the cottages side to its bones in the hope that we’d find things.

Lee: So like it’s a process of discovery with old properties and sometimes to, to it can be a little kind of alarming from a budget perspective, what happens on an old property, but it had been stripped of its character. It had false ceilings and had plaster work over exposed brick chimney breasts. So I just wanted to kind of get a chisel out and rip it all out and see what we had.

Lee: And then build it back together.

Amy: And what did you find? Did you find good bones or did you have to kind of

Amy: do some repair

Amy: work?

Lee: Yeah,

Lee: there was a bit, Well there was a bit of both, but what I did find is, I found beautiful old beams upstairs that had actually, there’d been a fire in the house in many moons gone by, so they were all tarnished and gnarly and really gorgeous. I Found two chimney breasts that had just been totally hidden which again, and one of them’s in the hallway, and just with a little bit of an eBay fireplace on that gorgeous exposed brick wall, suddenly it feels like an incredible space.

Lee: space. We found windows actual at some point in its past, and it can’t have been that many years ago, but the previous owners had actually had windows in the, in the roof. So when we did expose the ceilings upstairs, I suddenly thought, Oh my God, well, we’ve exposed the beams, but there’s also some beautiful natural light coming in.

Lee: So it was just really exciting. Original stone Yorkshire stone floor in the office. Hidden underneath some kind of pretty Joe Average porcelain tiles. It’s a really, really fun, really cool process.

Jane: So when you’re in that initial kind of you know, you’re stripping back, do you already have, obviously you’re discovering things as you go along, but did you already have a fairly clear picture of what you were going to create at that very early stage? Did you have your final finishes chosen, or did that happen organically as the project went along?

Lee: So, I knew that I, the spaces I wanted to create, you know, I was kind of, I’m not such a maverick that I would just kind of get the hammer and chisel and just like see, find the rooms, but I would, I did, so I knew that I wanted four bedrooms, I knew that I wanted four bathrooms, I knew that I wanted the sitting room and an office.

Lee: But actually the distribution of that was very much dictated by the beams, for example, because I didn’t want to lose a beam underneath a partition wall. So I, I knew that overall the space orientate, the space kind of master planning, so to speak, that we wanted, but I didn’t know exactly where they’d be.

Lee: And certainly things like thresholds and door heights, again, very dependent on what we found. In terms of finishes, it’s probably something that I’ve really learned, I think, over the last, God knows how many years now. People used to say, oh, you’re so young for what you do. I never get accused of that anymore.

Lee: So over the last 20 odd years of doing interesting properties. The, the biggest tip I can give people is don’t pick your finishes until the very end, unless you have to. So live with it as bare plaster walls, like don’t worry about colors. So many of us, when we’re doing a property kind of think, well, they get the mood boards out and obviously running a Bert and May, I see it all the time.

Lee: Clients come with their Pinterest boards and Instagram images. And they’ll almost like envisage the color of the towels with the, the, the, the wall color. And I just think it’s a mistake. I think we need to take more considered decisions. And if you don’t have to pick those things until you live in it for a while, then do delay it because you will change your mind.

Lee: And it’s actually, I don’t know, it’s just, you should enjoy that process. You know, do you want it dark and moody? Do you want it classic? Do you want bare plaster walls? I mean, it’s very hard, even if you’re a very skilled interior designer and architect, to kind of really be sure. I think at the outset of a project.


Lee: Yeah, I definitely need help. It’s none of the people that you referred to on that team. But my partner and I kind of do it by ourselves. We have a trusted team of builders that we’ve used before. I use skilled people for things like the drawings and the draftsmanship of everything. So I do I think it’s really important to get that kind of, once you know your layout, do get an architect to come in and do the proper drawing so your builder is working to plan.

Lee: Do have an electrical plan and a plumbing plan because It, it can be disastrous for a budget for you to be moving heated towel rails around at the last minute. So, I, I think the base, that’s what I tend to do. I, I do the things I can’t do or at least I can’t do well with people that are experts in it.

Lee: But the rest of it, I, I do it myself.

Amy: And are you physically doing stuff as well? Like how much of a DIYer you?

Lee: So my partner, Phil, is a huge DIYer. He, but he’s also Yorkshireman, so he’s super tight. So he would always, he’d always want to have a crack at anything himself. I do think we would still be living in the one bit of, the one room of the one cottage with one kitchen, you know, between, with, as a bathroom as well.

Lee: But he he, he has a go at everything. I have to say I’m a bit of a kind of I like the idea of it. I’ll give everything a go, but I move on to the next thing probably a bit too quickly.

Amy: Yeah, you do have to have such patience, like with DIY. I think it’s the prep work that gets me. I just want the, the finished look.

Lee: Yeah, same. I’ll often go in and I’ll be like, Oh, this would be amazing as a lime wash paint, and I’ll be there and I’ll do that like one patch, and I’ll be like stroking it saying, look how amazing it is. Then I’ll be like, Oh dear. It’s like a week’s work of this now

Jane: So you’re, you’re kind of, you’ve got, you said you’ve got this house of two halves that one half was kind of already done. Was that half, like whilst you were doing the works, did you just seal off that part and you didn’t touch it? Or like how did you manage the two, the two parts?

Lee: No, so I’ve probably not been entirely clear though it, whilst it was done in the sense of built, it definitely wasn’t done in the sense of the interior. So the downstairs part, as you’ll see on the images it was of the extension, is now our family room kitchen. And that just had like a white plastic shiny ikea kitchen with gray tiles and it was super Average if i’m being honest with you no architectural features at all, but it did have these amazing windows onto the garden and then upstairs in that extension as I said the previous owners literally lived in only this bit was their bedroom and their the sitting room, so what is our now big bedroom master suite I shouldn’t call it apparently a master suite anymore, principal suite you, you is our, is that’s our, that was the living room, that’s now our bedroom and it’s fantastic, it’s just an amazing space, we’ve just wooden cladded our bedroom in this white wash, white timber, which is really kind of brings it in slightly because it’s quite high ceilings.

Lee: And we didn’t want to get rid of that, but it’s not exactly cozy feeling, it was kind of slightly cavernous. So putting this cladding has really softened it and created a really lovely textured space. And downstairs we took out the kitchen. We tiled the floor with a beautiful kind of soft it’s like a, we call it a raw zeleige tile.

Lee: So it’s like a raw benchmark tile. And we, so Moroccan handmade tile, and then we installed a DeVol kitchen, the Haber Dash’s kitchen in there. And with the space not having anything architecturally of interest, I wanted the kitchen to be a bit interesting. So the Devaul, that particular kitchen from Devol has quite a lot of detail.

Lee: It’s,

Lee: it has lots of glass in it and it’s got this beautiful prep table with marble on the top. So it, it, it works.

Amy: Yeah. It’s, it’s such an incredible, I’m just looking at the photos and I think the textures and kind of the materiality of the spaces just shines through and I love how you’ve, you’ve kind of exposed things. I don’t know there’s just like a lot of layers to it. And I guess do you, what’s the process of doing that like, because it’s quite I mean You’ve got timber cladding that then runs onto the ceiling there’s like, yeah.

Amy: You know, your kind of fireplace with the tiles there and you know, there’s a lot going on in some ways, but there’s, it, it kind of all works together. What’s the process of doing that? And do you, do you feel like that comes naturally? Like I don’t

Amy: know what I’m

Lee: I, no, I get it. And I, I, I think when you love something, go for it. Don’t like half bake it. So people often, when they, if, if you love wood cladding, like I just love wood cladding. I think it changes a room. It’s cozy. It feels just like you want to have a glass of wine in there, you want to read in there.

Lee: It’s just brilliant. So why not make it a cabin? Like don’t worry about it. Put it on the ceiling, put it on the wall, do it properly, but don’t, don’t kind of do it half arsed really. The same with the flooring, like I love the plain tiles, the zeliege tiles, So, you know, lots of people say, well, maybe you should have a rug of it here, or maybe you should just do it just to have it everywhere.

Lee: And I think it just, it’s calming actually going into it. It’s very calming to feel confident. And I think when you’re confident about your own space. And people, when they walk into it, feel, there is a sense of confidence about the interior. It kind of, it’s in itself quite proud of itself, and I like that.

Amy: But it’s, it’s interesting because none of it is shouting, but it’s like, it’s all kind of. It works so beautifully.

Lee: don’t think, I think, when you, if, like my real passion is materials, like, as we talked about earlier. Invest in, in materials, and clearly, I’m gonna want you to invest in tiles. But I understand there are other materials, so, beautiful stone, beautiful timbers. If you do that, I don’t think they clash at all.

Lee: It’s like our kitchen has beautiful marble. It’s then got a a, a, a copper top to it, and then we’ve got a stainless steel range next to it. I mean, on the face of it, you would say, oh, dear, don’t mix stainless steel with copper and marble. The fact that they’re all beautiful materials in themselves, it, they work.

Lee: They’re not, they’re not kind of pretending to be anything other than themselves. And I just think that’s the key.

Lee: Pick things you love and roll with it.

Jane: Has your confidence grown? Like, can you feel yourself project, because you’ve done several projects. As each project happens, do you feel confidence confidence growing, or do you think this this kind of, just do it, kind of attitude was there from the beginning?

Lee: No, it wasn’t there from the beginning. It’s definitely learned behavior. But it does and it comes, You know, frankly, we all like we all need to see the fruits of our labor and you kind of You get friends and family commenting and saying oh that really is lovely But i’m absolutely clear now in my head with clients as well and i’m sure you guys and your profession have seen it before I try my best and tell a client to tell me about them.

Lee: What do they want from the space? Like, I, I have many more skilled people than me in the business that do designs for people. And they’ll often start with drawings and I go in the meeting room and they’re all about, well, is it here? Is it there? Are the tiles to the top? Or are we doing this? And I ask questions like, How do you want to feel when you walk in your house?

Lee: What are you like? Do you want to, do you want to feel sexy when you go in your bathroom in the morning? Do you, you know, is it bright? Are you, you know, tell me those things because I think that’s easier to help people if they’re clear on that. And I wanted a space that felt calm. I wanted it actually to feel quite Mediterranean, that kitchen space in some ways.

Lee: I wanted lots of plants, I wanted it to feel quite healthy. You know, kids always on devices, telly’s always on. I was wanting to create a space that didn’t shout that. It was more about cooking, it was more about reading, it was more about having the doors open. And I think that’s quite, for me, an important way to design.

Lee: It’s thinking about you as a family, who are you, what do you like, and how are you going to live in it?

Amy: I like that. That you’ve, you’ve basically designed a no, no screen zone. ’cause it, it, you’re right, like you wanna be in that cabin bit and just get cozy

Lee: I have to say, I have to say though, Amy, I, I, I would, it’s definitely not a no screen zone with a 14 year old and 11 year old. But the it’s designed in a way to minimize it, yeah.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. They can be hiding around the corner. , you

Lee: and, and and they do, you know, every time I, they’re, but it’s a challenge for a modern family. And I think One of the things I loved this weekend, and it sounds cliche, and I promise you it’s true. I’m not just saying it for the, for the for our interview now. It was one of the best moments I had this weekend with the kids because I was in that kitchen.

Lee: I’m not a great cook. I can make a good spag bol and a good curry and that tends to be everything that’s in the fridge. But this weekend the kids said Iris said to me, Dad, I want to make mince pies. Phil said, Lila said, Okay, I’ll make a cake with Phil and we’ll do a bit of a competition. Who’s, who’s got the best bake off going?

Lee: And we were all in that kitchen space around that big prep table, hanging out, cooking, laughing, joking, arguing. competing, you know, all those kind of things that families do. And I thought, this is actually what you want. You’ve created a space that is a genuine living space for a family to enjoy each other’s company.

Amy: Yeah. That’s amazing.

Jane: Yeah.

Amy: Oh, I love that.

Jane: I’m going to be really Practical now, because this, sorry, this is always where my head goes to. I’m just really interested in this concept about living in the space and experiencing it, and then kind of growing into those interiors and adding things as you go along, because I guess that’s, in a way, that’s kind of the opposite to what we often tell people, because the renovation process happens so fast and people need to make decisions on the fly, and then it kind of doesn’t really work out that well.

Jane: Just in a, in a practical sense, you had like, you had, you know, I’m assuming you weren’t living in the property when it was being ripped out, you know, back to brick and, and all of this. Can you describe the kind of time journey from that really heavy work to these extra kind of things that you’ve done?

Jane: Obviously, maybe have you done things since you moved in and experienced that space and then added stuff to that? I was just wondering about if you could talk to that a little bit

Lee: yeah. So I think the main thing for me is the kind of choice of when you come to the finishes of a property or what we all see that they’re the things that I think are super, super important. So as well as the materials you’ve then got, well, The materials, when I refer to them, I’m not referring to obviously plaster and the actual block work, I’m referring to the core finishes, really.

Lee: So there’s two layers of finishing. That core finishing, that core that you pick at the right, the outset of your project, or that you go hunting for within your existing property. Fundamental, get it right, and nail that down. The secondary layer of finishing I think, Can be left and should be left for as long as you possibly can.

Lee: So in our case, I always leave the walls by plaster. I’d never do any painting. I try. And even sometimes, you know, when it comes to things like the architectural hardware, I don’t really think it’s necessary to be picking that. You can use what you’ve already had in our case, we just had the old plastic one, so I, we just put those back on.

Lee: And fabrics and colors and paint are, they transform a space. And I, and I know that some people will look at this and say, yeah, but I just want to live in it, I just want to get it ready and I, it’s got to be there, I’ve got to pick that exact curtain and that, those, that carpet runner and all of those things.

Lee: I never had any carpet runners. There was no, there was no fabrics and the curtains up. There was nothing really. I think figure it out with the bones and layer as you go is, is a really successful way of doing it. And I’d say it for two reasons. One is you get it right and you actually, if money’s an issue, why are you wasting it?

Lee: Why are you getting people in or doing it yourself and wasting cash? But also, And this is something I’m passionate about, as I think a lot of us should be really aware of, is like, let’s be a bit more responsible when we’re purchasing than just trying to get things done quickly and not be, even buying, anything that we buy from a shop has been produced by somebody and it’s been produced by our planet.

Lee: And do we really just want to be making these flippant decisions because you can, or do, can you wait and just think and enjoy the process? This is somewhere that should reflect us as people, it’s our personalities, in a room or in a home. Take your time, like, most, some people will get it, they’ll know it from day one.

Lee: And who am I to say don’t do it from day one? Do it if you know it. But most, but I think a lot of us don’t. And I think it should be something we encourage, like, Enjoy it with your kids. Talk about it. How are we going to do this? What do you reckon? Should we go, should we make it all moody and like an evening room?

Lee: And how are you seeing it? You know, get your kids engaged with design. That has to be a good thing too.

Amy: Mm.

Jane: I love that.

Amy: how do, how would you, I guess, go on Jane. No,

Amy: no,

Amy: you

Amy: go.

Amy: I Was just going to say it’s interesting because we have just talked to another home renovator who maybe has gone for, has had to do a long renovation and slow. And I think she’s right in the middle where it just feels.

Lee: A

Amy: going and

Amy: yeah,

Amy: and I guess I love what you’re saying, but I think sometimes the reality of that isn’t felt by the people in the process.

Amy: Can you, can you give them any advice on how to find the joy in, in, in, because I think there is obviously there’s like decision fatigue in renovating and. You know, having to make all of those decisions. And often there is a builder who’s saying, look, I need this by this. Otherwise there’s going to be a delay on site or, you know, there’s, I think people feel very pressured to make those decisions.

Amy: And what would you say to that?

Lee: that’s a really big question. I feel

Lee: like, uh,

Amy: sorry. That’s

Lee: It’s a

Lee: it’s a question. It’s a really good question, but it’s one that we’ve all kind of empathized with, don’t we? We’ve all, we’ve all been there in that.

Amy: Yeah.

Lee: person’s shoes really. A few bits of advices. Firstly, this is the, doing your house is the biggest investment you’ll ever make and it’s something you need to really plan carefully and get the right experts helping you.

Lee: If, if you Financially alone, doing it right, getting the right team on board makes absolute sense. So I, just because I work in this industry and I happen to do more myself, I am not advocating people should project manage themselves. I’m not advocating that they don’t need an architect or an interior designer.

Lee: It’s actually the opposite. If you get the right team, your project will be more cost efficient and you’ll get what you want at the end of it. What I, I think, if you’ve got that kind of in place, I do think it’s right to plan it in a way that you’re not rushing the end bits, the end finishes. And I think it’s that part that I disagree with anybody that Says, but I just need to know now what colors it is, what furniture it is, what curtains it is.

Lee: And I think that is the home. That is what when we walk in people say, I’ve been in Jane’s house, and I love it because of X, Y, Z. They don’t come in really and feel the distribution so much that, you know, it’s, it’s just sometimes, but on the whole, it’s the finishes. So I think it’s the Amazon Prime probably can’t mention other brands, but it’s this Amazon Prime world that we’ve now come into that we feel this pressure to complete, to get it quicker.

Lee: I, I do it myself. You go online and you’re like, I want to buy. Oh my God. It’s not going to be here for two days. It’s ridiculous. And it’s, that affects, that is impacting our behavior across all areas. And I think in some areas it’s probably positive. You know, we’re more efficient. We’re saying let’s get on with it.

Lee: Let’s, what, what, you know, let’s not go backwards if we can get things in a more efficient way. But I don’t believe in the case of design, that is, that is the right move. I think it should be a process and I think layering, as one of you mentioned, is that that’s the key, one of the key kind of design words, really, to create a successful interior.

Lee: It should take time. It should be a jigsaw. It should be all different things that you’ve found or whatever, but it’s layers, definitely.

Amy: Oh, it’s so inspiring.

Jane: I feel like it is quite, a positive take on phasing because, you know, with the price of construction costs right now, everybody is having to phase their works in some kind of way and to kind of think of that as a positive and think of, you know, the benefits that you’ll get from that slow thought process and growing to your house.

Jane: I think that’s a really nice, nice takeaway.

Lee: You know, one of my rooms at the moment, that big kitchen space, I’m desperate, I hope the window company are listening. But I’m desperate to put in this crittle window, you know, kind of divider between the two spaces. And I could have gone with a cheaper option. I could have had something made for a fraction of the price, but I know what I want.

Lee: I know that finish is what I want. So even though it would be better now with a wooden set of glass doors and they’re affordable. I don’t want to make that decision. I want to wait until you’ve got what you want because, again, that eco message of not putting things in to rip them out is something that I think we should be taxed on, you know, we should be penalized for it.

Lee: It’s, it’s irresponsible and I don’t think it’s good for us. It’s not good for our souls to see

Amy: Hmm.

Lee: filled for landfill.

Amy: Oh, yes. I was actually going to ask that side of things. Because we, I think that the other thing that kind of came to mind as you were talking is, Like just taking a bit longer to, on site with your builder and not having them kind of rushing through the post, you know, cause they’re under so much pressure as you know, they, they have deadlines, they’ve got to get through to the next thing, you know, it’s all the margins are so tight.

Amy: But everybody in the industry, and I think it’s interesting because then, like you say, there’s a skip outside that’s full of stuff that then, you know, like, just gets put out of your sight and it’s like, Oh, outside out of mind. And it’s interesting, because did you, were you mindful of the kind of the skips and the waste as you were renovating?

Amy: Like, how did you approach that side of things?

Lee: Yeah, I, I’ve seen it and I’ve learned that lesson and I think it’s again, advice to people. You are the client, you are the ones in charge, like don’t be pressured by someone else’s margin requirement. If they haven’t priced it correctly, then that’s their issue. And that’s why you need an experienced team, but you looking after your own property and that what’s going in the skip is yours.

Lee: Like, before someone else makes that decision, have a think about it. Just think about whether you can do something good from it, whether it actually enhances your interior. Can it be sold or can it be gifted? So much of, so many options are now available to us. So I think it’s really important to be When you first start the property, just think about those bones that may come out of it.

Lee: Think about those materials that someone else may want, that you could gift if necessary. But don’t let the builder just put you under that intense pressure to say, well, just this is the way we do it. Well, we’ve, I think we have done it that way for a long time. And that’s why. as a nation, we have an issue now.

Lee: We do dispose of far too much. We are putting far too much in landfills. So we can’t just say that’s the way we’ve always done it. So carry on doing it. We have to change.

Amy: Yeah.

Jane: Yeah,

Amy: Oh, this is like a real rallying episode, I think it’s amazing. Jane, is there anything else you want to ask as we

Jane: Wrap up. Just, I was thinking, you know, obviously you are a part, It feels like you’re saying that you’re, this is still a work in progress. Like If you were to look at the house, does it ever have a completion or how far through do you think you are?

Lee: No, I think a house is a living part of our, kind of, it’s a piece of art, isn’t it? It’s a kind of, it’s a, it’s something that reflects us and we change, you know, what you wear now will be different in 10 years time. And I think a house is similar. So it will be wearing different finishes probably in some time, or at least will have different elements to it.

Lee: So in my case. It’s actually quite bare still at the moment, there’s lots of gaps, but that is the fun part of it, you know, layering it up with artwork, picking out new pieces of furniture that can really enhance the space. So I think it will feel very different in ten years time. But I very much doubt that there’ll be, that core will be different.

Lee: I do think that the core is, you know, if I was an architect setting up a practice, now I’d be saying to my clients, first of all, we talk about the core. This is something that we as a practice will be really upset if you ever want to change. And then we talk about everything else. Because that’s how I find it easier in my head to kind of think about a project.

Jane: I think that’s really a a really helpful distinction. And I think with budgeting that really helps as well because often clients. I was wondering where to spend the money and there’s this, you know, high low concept of, you know, understanding where you should invest for longevity and then using your money kind of later to, to add stuff.

Jane: When you’re budgeting for a project, do you, do you make a formal budget? Is it split into that core and do you save money for after or How do you view the financial aspect of it all?

Lee: Yeah, I do. I do exactly that. So for me, I kind of very much say. What are the things that I never want to change or we have to spend the money that I will never I don’t ever want to spend a pound to take out the pound. So where are those fixed pounds now and how much do I need? And if I can afford the project based on that, the things that I’ll never change, then we can do the project.

Lee: If you’re in a situation where you have to spend badly to do the project, which you then know two years later you’re undoing that investment, it has to be, it has to be very, it would have to be a very exceptional scenario that that makes any sense. I think, I would even go as far as something like a kitchen, you could get, I, I, I would feel comfortable with designing a space for a kitchen, putting the plumbing in and the electrics in, and having wooden shelves there for a couple of years, and a Belfast sink, and a, and a decent, you know, your fridge, that for me is not bad planning, but it would be terrible planning if, You were going to put in a 15 grand kitchen knowing that two years later you’re gonna put a 40 K kitchen in, even if you’ve got money.

Lee: I, I would suggest that’s just a stupid decision,

Jane: Yeah,

Lee: Sorry. That’s very opinionated.

Amy: No, it’s

Jane: I, I feel like this is something you might have actually, a passion might be something that you’ve experienced.

Lee: Well, it’s just,

Lee: It’s just, it’s, it’s great though, isn’t it? To just feel clear and I think, I really enjoy talking to clients about it too. Because I can see in their eyes when they’re listening and you’re talking about their interior, they’re just, they take confidence because you’re telling them it’s okay.

Lee: Like, just think about this a little bit more. Think about what you really love and get it right. Think about what you really love and get it right. You are not under pressure, really. Often we have in this business, people coming in saying, I’m doing my orangery, or I’m doing my kid’s bathroom, or I’m doing my, and they’ve already got a bathroom. It’s a renovation.

Lee: Like there is. Just take our time, get it right.

Amy: Jane, I feel like this is perfect timing for you, I And I feel like that core approach is really helpful

Jane: yes,

Jane: just about to start

Jane: a renovation.

Lee: Oh dear, Jane, has this been like counselling?

Amy: I feel like you’re talking straight. Into the heart of the But you were worried, weren’t you? Because you? About the About the decisions. And I feel like that core approach is really helpful because it’s like,

Amy: that If it stings, yeah.

Amy: Like, if that’s working, everything else, like you say, works. Like, you know, anything you add to it,

Lee: And I think it’s really, I’d love to do some work at some point. I don’t know how best to show people, but when you get it right with the core, just how different, like let’s say that you took a room and it was all, you’d done whatever core you had, how to style, how it could be five or three entirely different looks, but amazing.

Lee: That’s what I think we need to show people. Because I think people, when they pick a material choice or a palette, they somehow think, Oh, I don’t know whether I’m going to be like this kind of person all my life. Or I don’t know whether that’s going to last me. You know, that’s not really me. Or maybe when I’m a bit old and You know, kind of more mature, it’s not going to suit me.

Lee: But I think if you, we need to show them that those things are, they are timeless. They’re just, they can be dressed and styled so differently that you could actually walk in and be like, oh my god, I can’t believe it’s the same room. I think that’s really powerful for people if they get the core bit right.

Jane: I think it’s really interesting because. Yeah, there you go.

Jane: yeah, I feel so I guess, That’s amazing advice. And also Um, Yeah, I think I, I have seen your projects and I have seen your past projects and I think in a way this, this renovation that we’re about to do is our long term home. And I think for me, I was kind of thinking, Oh, I want to make it special. And I want to make it kind of put more effort into how it feels in the space.

Jane: And I think looking at your projects, I was really inspired, but actually I took away the complete opposite message. I was like, I need to be bolder, I need to be, kind of, move out of my comfort zone. And what I’m taking from what you’re saying really is reassuring, because I think I can definitely do that first step, and get the house to its, kind of, core components. And, and think about it in that way.

Jane: And then, you know, if this is our forever home, Then yeah, let, let the joy continue. Let, you know, experiment and continue and build that space over the coming years. Which is what we’re going to have to do financially anyway. So, for me, that’s music to my ears. Like, I, I can really get on board with that.

Jane: And it actually makes the whole thing feel, feel less risky in a way. I’m, I’m scared about making a, I want to make a, like, an inviting kind of home that has personality. But I’m scared about making mistakes. And so, taking it in that little Step by step feels very more achievable.

Lee: Well good, I’m glad I’ve helped.

Jane: Yeah, there you go. This has just been my own personal interior

Amy: in house counseling.

Amy: Lee, I’m conscious that you have another meeting in 10 minutes. So Thank you so much for being with us. You’ve shared so much helpful. It’s, it’s been so inspiring and just really practical. So thank you for sharing your experience.

Lee: you were expecting, so I hope it has ticked.

Amy: perfect.

Amy: Yeah, like, uh,

Jane: Just need to check

Amy: a bit of the

Jane: everybody’s

Amy: I’m so sorry, I don’t know why I got like,

Lee: that’s all right. That’s all right. It

Amy: It brought back so many memories.

Lee: Yeah,

Amy: Oh dear. Have a lovely day

Amy: and, oh, let me just stop the recording, we just need to

Jane: And if you would like to see photos of Lee’s home, then head to our [email protected] forward slash stories from site.

Our closing thoughts:

Taking your time to make interior choices that stand the test of time is a great takeaway from Lee in this week’s episode.

Not only does it reduce waste, but embracing a more thoughtful approach to interiors will mean we can enjoy and savour the process.


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