Hello, Welcome and time for this week’s home renovation project! I’m delighted to welcome Jennie, the face behind @ahousetodreamin, a Solihull based interiors junkie and fellow house renovator. Jennie is also the founder of#addictedtointeriors events. Thanks for sharing your renovation journey with us Jennie!
1. Tell us about you (the people behind the project)
Hi, I’m Jennie and I live in Solihull, West Midlands with my hubbie, and two gorgeous kiddies – a boy and a girl, aged 7 and 2 respectively. We had an epic house search back in 2013 to find our next home as the area we live in is very good for families but the architecture is a little limited. We moved from a period cottage and ideally wanted something with period features. Unfortunately we couldn’t find that but this house came up and has an awesome garden surrounded by fields (now planted up with Christmas Trees) so we had the best of both worlds – a proper semi-rural plot but close to all the amenities we’re used to!
2. What’s your project and what’s your vision for your finished project?
The house itself is a detached 4 bed which had been owned previously by a guy who fancied doing a bit of renovating. He made some weird layout changes and had a thing for oak! Now I like a bit of oak like any interiors enthusiast and our staircase is pretty epic but there is oak woodwork everywhere! Oak skirting, oak doorframes, doors, floor – you get the picture. Anyway, we liked the house enough ignoring that so we bought it!
So, did I mention the weird layout changes?! Basically our house is a traditional 1930s semi-detached type layout – hall should lead through to living room (check), rear reception (check) and kitchen (um!). Our friendly renovator blocked up the access to the kitchen to make a small internal room (no windows) and you accessed the kitchen through the rear reception room. I’m sure there was some logic but it wasn’t going to work for us. The house had also been extended several times over the years including a detached garage and a bedroom over the top, which was accessed via a walkway so our project has involved building an L-shaped extension that wrapped around the back of the property and took in all the previously builds. We’ve also slightly extended the bedroom over the garage to better integrate into the house and it now includes an ensuite and dressing room or a fifth bedroom (if we need it).
It was quite a big build and the builders quotes were higher than we would have liked so we decided to live in the house while it was being done to save on rent. The building work started last February and the main builders left site last September, with a couple of trades around until just before Christmas. We’ve never done anything of this size before – it’s been a steep learning curve!!
The vision for the house is to create a family home which is light and has character and enough flexible space for us to adapt as the kids get older. I think we’re getting there!
Don’t you just love the way the blossom is poking out of the roof-less extension!
3. When do you hope your project will be finished?
The building part of the project is complete and we’re left with some snagging and the decorating and furnishing the rooms. I have to say the last bit has taken us far longer than we would have liked but I think we needed some breathing space after the builders moved out and our kids were a bit fed up of DIY so they’ve taken priority so far this year! They were very patient! I have a feeling my daughter might be a builder – talk about formative years…when they arrived, she couldn’t walk and by the time she left, she was playing football with them in the garden and could say the builders names!
4. Has it gone to plan to date or have their been unexpected hiccups?
The build largely went to plan although the builders team did remove more of the flat roof than we expected (luckily at their expense) and we found rotten floorboards in the dining room so we replaced the floor. Otherwise it was pretty straight forward (I can say that now, I’ve had a year to recover!)
5. Where do you go for build / interior inspiration?
I’m a big hoarder of interiors magazines – I love them! There are a lot of folded corners. Real Homes was a great source of inspiration and quite practical. I found looking at the floor plans really helpful when we were making sure the architect’s plans would work!
I also spent a lot of time on Pinterest and instagram getting ideas. Also, I think if you can get to one of the build shows – grand designs or the home building and renovation show they can be really helpful for specific elements like windows and doors etc. And the talks can be really helpful too, especially from seasoned renovators (not like us at the time!)
6. Where are your favourite places / brands for interior homewares?
I like rummaging around Homesense to find things and I also enjoy looking around vintage shops (Bonds and Henley vintage, Beatrice & Clementine) so there’s more vintage stuff making it’s way into the house. There’s also some great independent interiors shops around here which I like buying from – Liv’s in Solihull is amazing and we’ve got Hudson Home round the corner too! We’re quite spoilt! Instagram is also a bit of shopping enabler (much to my husband’s horror!)
7. If money were no object, what would be one thing you’d do to the property / piece of furniture you’d buy for it?
I think the next bit to save for is the garden. We’ve got massive doors at the back of the house leading into the garden and it’s a great view but the garden is a bit dated and just a lot of lawn. If we could afford it, I’d hire a garden designer to help us with the patio and garden layout so that our view is even better and more in keeping with the house we’ve created.
8. What’s your favourite thing about your property? i.e. is there a particular room you love, or an original feature you really love and want to restore?
Favourite thing would be the open plan kitchen, dining, living space. We spend all our time in here and during the summer the kids have just run in and out of the garden so the space has worked as we hoped. And it’s pink (not sure how I got away with it!)
9. Whats the one thing you wish you knew before you started this project / or what’s the one bit of advice you’d give to someone about to undertake a home renovation project?
The main thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t be over planned – it would have been great to have finished room schemes for every room before we started (I mean the full details – wallpaper, paint colours, furniture dimensions etc). The plan was to do them as we went along but once the builder started we were busy with surviving on a building site and making all the millions of decisions that inevitably arise! My advice would be to plan to the nth degree when you have the time and space to do it! You can always tweak things as you go along but at least you know exactly where you’re headed.
I really enjoyed reading Jennie’s experience of her project and think her choice of kitchen is just stunning! Also some great brand websites I’ve not heard of (so a chance for me to check them out this weekend – watch out wallet!!).
Thanks to Jennie for featuring, do pop over to @housetodreamin and give her a follow or ask her questions about your renovation project. Don’t forget if you’d like your home renovation project to feature on the blog series then do get in touch.