Hi all! Welcome back to In the Spotlight. It’s been a great summer with lots of family time, two trips away to Wales and Spain, plus plenty of juggling work and childcare. However it’s now September, the kids are back in school and I’m getting myself back into the routine again…which I personally love. To kick off my first working day back I’m delighted to share Anna’s at The Grey House Stories renovation journey and her beautiful home that she has lovingly renovated trying to marry old and new together whilst staying true to the original Victorian property and creating a modern space in the new kitchen extension and loft conversion that they have added to their home.
I loved reading Anna’s replies to my questions and to hear more about the design of her home particularly the ‘why’ and ‘how’ they designed their home. It certainly sounds like no stone went unturned and everything was carefully thought about.
Anna’s top tips towards the end of the article are valuable for anyone planning a project or in the middle of a project. What jumped out at me was to have fun, which is so true. I know it can feel a slog at times, but having fun whilst your renovating will make it stressful and make it feel all the more worthwhile.
I’d love for you to have a read of Anna’s story and also to give her a follow on Instagram too @thegreyhousestories
Tell us about your home and your renovation project. What did you do?
Hello, may I first say how lovely it is to be here, thank you for having me Claire!
Our story started over ten years ago when we found a true gem of a Victorian house, a bit of an ugly duckling, good enough to live in but neglected enough to feed our appetite for a renovation project. From day one I dreamt about my perfect kitchen, but things were constantly wedging in between me and my dream – broken boiler, ancient radiators, damp in one of the rooms, questionable electrics needing full rewire, knocking walls down, plastering, not to mention the leaky roof which turned into a full blown loft conversion. Every time when we thought that we have the renovation under control, something new was sprouting from the Victorian nooks and crannies. We did it all, top to bottom. Throughout the renovation projects we respected the age and character of the property, acknowledging generations of people who lived here before us. That’s our ‘renosophy’ renovation philosophy. This house is truly our story – it’s seen our family expanding and our roots growing into our vibrant East London community. But finally, the time for our dream kitchen extension and garden came. This was our latest project.
How would you describe your Interior Design style?
What a great question. I think I personally am swaying towards more masculine aesthetics, dark and minimal. And practical too. I like to think I am quite original in my designs and try not to fall for seasonal trends too much. I still love our downstairs toilet which is all black, with stardust tiles, a lenticular photograph of David Bowie as the focal point and a speaker playing David Bowie’s albums. The smallest room in the house became a big talking point of every party. But our home tells a story of four amazing people and I think it’s decor really reflects that – it’s not a dictatorship but interior style democracy, and it is evolving.
What did you enjoy the most about your house renovation?
Building a side return extension with new kitchen and garden. It transformed how we live in our house. I enjoyed it because I understood the building and how we live in it. Looking back, with every meal, every dinner party, every Christmas we were gaining a better idea of what we like, what we need and what we want from this space. The outdoor kitchen that we built was amongst our best ideas. And that is exactly what makes it so special. This space has been designed because of how we live and how we wanted to spend time as a family.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to rhyme our modern lifestyle with the period character of the house. We loved the Victorian features but wanted a modern kitchen and garden. So we decided to unite the old part of the house with the new using the language of colour. And it worked joining the whole house together beautifully. The Grey House (as our twins always call it) is now all grey inside and out. Yes, now I mentioned our twins – renovating with small children takes the renovation to the next level of challenging.
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
II still believe there was a way I could have put a swimming pool in our small (decent for London) garden. On a serious note though, I don’t like to think about the past and dwell on it too much. I am always looking forward. But if I will think of something I promise I will let you know.
Share (max) three top tips to help inspire and help future home renovators?
Three? Time, people and fun.
Time – Take time to do a lot of research and planning – try to understand every step, cost and every material which will be used, so you know exactly what is happening in every stage. Believe me, it’s a time well spent – you won’t regret it. But more importantly don’t rush into projects. Take your time to understand the space you are just about to transform. Have a vision. Don’t let the design dictate how you will live in your home, kitchen or garden – make sure that it’s your life which shapes the design.
People – surround yourself with good and trusted people – from architects, project managers through builders to plumbers, but also take care of your personal relationships, people you can lean on when things are getting tough. You will need them.
And of course, have fun with it! Otherwise, it is not worth doing.
What was your best purchase?
The house! It’s a real gem. If we would have waited another month or two we would be dramatically outpriced from the neighbourhood. Who knows where the property market would take us then. Although it is our home for life, we are exactly where we want to be and we are not planning on moving, it turned out to be a great investment. This definitely gives us sense of peace and assurance if we ever change our mind.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely Claire! But not in a heartbeat. I like to have little breaks between big projects – to recharge the batteries, catch a breath before I move on to the next big reno. People to prepare for the financial costs of our projects. There are so many tools and advice to do this. But I think we tend to underestimate the cost of renovations can have on our mental health. It’s an incredibly stressful time and we need to start acknowledging it more openly.
What’s next? Any future renovation plans?
As for big renovation projects, there is one which we want to pursuit, but it is still in planning stages so I don’t want to give away too much. At the moment I’m enjoying small DIY projects around the house and we want to transform the front garden next.
What an amazing read that I hope resonates with you as much as it does with me. Thank you so much Anna for joining me to share your renovation and design story with us.
Do go and see more of Anna’s home on Instagram @thegreyhousestories to follow some of the smaller projects that she’s doing and hopefully her front garden transformation next.
I’m always on the lookout for homes and renovation projects to feature, so please do drop me an email email@example.com if you are interested in finding out more.