Home Renovation - How To Get Started

Catching up with The Walmington Project


We all love to browse Pinterest or even Rightmove for home inspiration and since the pandemic began, renovation shows like ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo and ‘Dream Home Makeover’ have taken Netflix by storm. However, if you do decide to pursue the renovation of your dreams, it can be hard to get started. Questions like, how much does home renovation cost? How to budget for home renovation? Who are the good home renovators in my area? These questions can overwhelm and take the fun out of the process.

To tackle this, we caught up with Katie, founder of The Walmington Project. Having managed the year-long renovation of her 1930's London home, Katie fell in love with the complex but exciting world of renovation and interior design. She started The Walmington Project to help clients with a part of the process she particularly excelled at - design research, focusing on the smallest details through to the biggest features of a home.

Only have 5 minutes? Skip to the top 5 tips

Kitchen
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What inspired you to set up The Walmington project?

A few things really: first and foremost, I absolutely loved our own home renovation and learned so much from that experience that I wanted to be able to share with others who are new to renovating, or perhaps just don’t enjoy it as much or don’t have the time to dedicate to the process. I documented our renovation on Instagram and have gained a really great following, which also gave me the encouragement to put myself out there, as well as the platform to showcase my work and advertise my service. It all came together at the end of last year when I was presented with a potential redundancy opportunity from my previous career in communications and I just felt like I had to go for it!

Hallway Stairs
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Was there anything about your personal renovation that really highlighted the need for this?

Mostly the amount of time spent researching every element of the job - from window materials and skirting boards, to space planning and finishing touches. There are so many things we didn’t know and that I’ve discovered a lot of people don’t know, because they’ve never had to know them before. I also did a short survey on Instagram at the end of last year and learned that a lot of people wanted the help with this part of the process, because they were time-poor or intimidated by the prospect of renovating and where to start. Not everyone wants (or is able) to pay for a fully-fledged interior designer, so my service is designed to offer affordable and flexible guidance that can be tailored to all projects and budgets.

What has been your favourite project to work on?

I really love all of my current client projects because each one is so different and presents me with different challenges. Everyone has different styles, needs and preferences, and I work to my clients’ tastes - but I also want to ensure I love everything that I present to them, so sometimes that involves finding a middle ground and pushing them out of their comfort zones too.

Living Dining Space
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How accessible is renovation - what kind of budget do you need to consider this?

Budget depends on so many different factors - where you live, how much work needs doing, how much you’re prepared to do yourself, how much you’re willing to compromise or wait and do things in stages. I would say renovating can be something that’s accessible to anyone wanting to give it a try, but do your research and whatever budget you have, add a 25% contingency. If you don’t spend it, happy days - but you probably will.

What is design research and why is important when renovating your home?

Home design research is basically the term I’ve used to cover the detailed research needed for every stage of the renovation process - whether it’s researching companies for the purposes of gaining multiple quotes, researching a particular time period if you want to retain or recreate features relevant to the era in which your house was built, or researching and planning all the finishing elements of your home, from colours, to furniture, to textiles. All of this research is so important to inform your plans and allow you to move forward with the confidence and know-how to bring your vision to life.

Bathroom Windows
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Where should you start when planning a renovation - i’m sure it can feel a little overwhelming to start!

It can be very overwhelming and that’s why research is so crucial. It may just start with looking at pictures, magazines, other people’s houses for inspiration, but it’s also a really good idea to know about your own house - what will work best for the space, any constraints and how you want to be able to live in it and enjoy it. And of course it’s always good to start by knowing your budget, because everything you want to do may not be realistic.

What is space planning?

Space planning is kind of what it says on the tin - looking at a blank canvas for a room or space and figuring out how best to use it. This is particularly key if you’re looking at an open plan space with multiple uses or “zones”, but it also helps for single-use rooms to plan exactly how you want to use them - what’s the best configuration of the space, what do you want the focal point to be, what kind of furniture do you want and need, where will your plug sockets and light switches go, and so on.

What phase of renovation is your favourite? Design, build, finishing touches?

Ooh good question… I actually love them all for different reasons, but adding the finishing touches and seeing a space come to life is probably what I love most. It’s where you can finally see all of your hard work paying off. I do love being on a building site as well though. It’s so exciting to see walls and spaces being formed and to watch the evolution of the process.

Do you think the pandemic has impacted the renovation process? How so? What should people do differently?

Absolutely - in good and bad ways. On the one hand it has unfortunately caused a lot of people a lot of delays. We were delayed a little, but fortunately we were on the home stretch when the pandemic started so we were less impacted than others. On the positive side, it has most certainly encouraged a lot more people to renovate their homes or try out upcycling or DIY projects that they’d never have considered before - and that’s a great thing. Because of that it seems like builders and tradespeople are busier than ever, so people probably need to plan ahead more so than ever before.

Walk In Wardrobe
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Number one tip for people considering renovation

Be flexible and try to roll with the process. I say this for two reasons: first, it can be such an enjoyable process but it can also be very stressful if plans have to change; and second, there will inevitably need to be some compromises made along the way so looking at how to troubleshoot and find new (perhaps even better) solutions is really important and will contribute to the overall enjoyment of a renovation.

Biggest learning from your own renovation?

Don’t expect everything to be perfect. There’s always something you’ll wish you had done slightly differently, or a detail you only notice later that annoys you. You have to be able to let the little things go (and I’m saying that as the world’s biggest control freak!).

How can people get started? Is a consultation free?

Yes, I offer a free 30 minute consultation where prospective clients can tell me about their projects, their needs & preferences, likes and dislikes - and I can tell them more about how the service works. Just drop me a line through the website contact form if you’d like to set up a consultation.

What role do you think furniture and art plays in the re-design of a room? Do you ever work with vintage, upcycled or pre owned furniture?

Oh a huge role! Every other part of the process is about planning for how you’re going to fill a space and the finishing touches you’re going to add. Furniture is particularly important because it’s fundamental in how you will end up using the room - is it a cosy space, a social space, how do you maximise seating or storage. Art plays an important role in adding colour, texture and/or personality to the space.

I love to work with vintage and pre-owned pieces where they make sense for a space and I actually just tried out my first real upcycling project during the most recent lockdown which I’m very proud of!

Bathroom Shower
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Have you enjoyed studying interior design?

I’m really enjoying it. There’s so much to learn and it felt very important to me to underpin the experience I have already with study. I want to be able to offer my clients the best possible expertise and advice, and my service will also evolve over time as I gain new skills.

I am also a huge fan of biophilic design what are some of your favourite ways to integrate nature into the home?

Adding house plants to a space is an obvious way, but also one of my favourites. I also really like the idea of utilising natural materials and colours in a home to bring that sense of nature inside. From a design point of view I also love the concept of maximising light and glazing that quite literally allows the outside in.

Where did your inspiration for your home come from design wise?

I took a lot of inspiration from the period in which the house was built. It’s a 1930’s house and had lots of beautiful art deco features - some that we were able to restore (for example our two original stained glass windows) and others that we opted to recreate (for example the skirting boards, coving and staircase). But we also wanted to modernise the house and create a space that works for how we want to live it in. I gathered a lot of visual inspiration from Pintrest, Instagram and various magazines too.

From a design perspective could you choose a favourite item from our website?

I absolutely love this art deco drinks cabinet... anything from the art deco era gets a big tick from me. I love the glamour of it.

Master Bedroom bedside tables
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Favourite room you renovated in your own home and why?

I think it has to be our open plan living/kitchen/dining space as it’s definitely the main “feature” of our home and the space we also spend the most time in. But I also love other spaces for different reasons: our utility room was formerly a very old garage that we almost knocked down; our master bedroom was designed with a much more neutral, serene colour scheme; and our lounge at the front of the house that we’re just working on now is the most traditional room that we’re really ramping up on the art deco vibes!

What is your favourite renovation story? Something maybe that did not go to plan but that worked out in the end!

Actually my favourite story is that when we first started looking at houses, we weren’t looking for a renovation project at all. In fact we looked at one house that needed a new kitchen and decided that was way too much work. Unfortunately/fortunately it took us a really long time to sell our previous flat and during that time we went from looking at “finished” houses to complete projects - and that’s how we landed on our very crumbly house in need of a lot of love!

Only have 5 minutes? Here are the top 5 tips:

  1. I would say renovating can be something that’s accessible to anyone wanting to give it a try, but do your research and whatever budget you have, add a 25% contingency. If you don’t spend it, happy days - but you probably will.
  2. It can be very overwhelming to get started and that’s why researchis so crucial. It may just start with looking at pictures, magazines, other people’s houses for inspiration, but it’s also a really good idea to know about your own house - what will work best for the space, any constraints and how you want to be able to live in it and enjoy it. And of course it’s always good to start by knowing your budget, because everything you want to do may not be realistic.
  3. Remember builders and tradespeople are busier than ever, so people probably need to plan ahead more so than ever before.
  4. Be flexible and try to roll with the process. I say this for two reasons: first, it can be such an enjoyable process but it can also be very stressful if plans have to change; and second, there will inevitably need to be some compromises made along the way so looking at how to troubleshoot and find new (perhaps even better) solutions is really important and will contribute to the overall enjoyment of a renovation.
  5. Don’t expect everything to be perfect. There’s always something you’ll wish you had done slightly differently, or a detail you only notice later that annoys you. You have to be able to let the little things go (and I’m saying that as the world’s biggest control freak!).

If you’d like to get Katie’s expert perspective on your home renovation reach out to her for a free consultation @TheWalmingtonProject