The Best House In town – I know this might seem like ages ago now but I’m so not bored of it yet and you know why? No, it’s not because I was in it, I am proud of that but not totally egotistical! It because of all the new people I’m meeting; from budding interior designer mums in the supermarket, to local business owners I didn’t know before and just those who recognise me from watching the show but mostly because I have been meeting a lot of the contestants. I didn’t know any of the them before and now I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of them. And one particular joy has been meeting and chatting to St Albans winner Chrissy Adams.
It seems to me, from all the local chat that Chrissie been a really popular winner and I can totally see why. Obviously her house is fab but I think the reason it’s fab is because it reflects her personality and her approach to life; it’s real, warm and friendly just like her. So as I’m quizzed about Chrissie’s house and the lady herself loads, I asked the local mum of 2 if she’d mind answering all your questions and luckily for us she’s giving us all the inside info on her fabulous renovated 70’s house. So here goes and if you have any other questions for me about the show or the houses, I’ll answer if I can! So drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or better still pop in to the shop!
Q. How did you begin/ plan your renovation and what was your inspiration throughout?
A. We spent quite a long time hunting for the right house to do up. It was our intention to find somewhere that needed improvement and that we could extend. Initially this was because we couldn’t find anywhere affordable in the St Albans/Harpenden area that was the right size with a big garden, so we thought we would try to find the worst house on the street that was cheaper, and then turn into the best house we could. We did not appreciate how much hard work this would actually be! We spent 1.5 years going through planning applications, we were rejected twice! So it took a very long time working with an architect to get the final planning approved. Again we did not realise it would take so long! But the process of designing the home with an architect does take ages. Which in hindsight is good because it helps your ideas evolve from Pintrest and Instagram to the reality of what you can achieve and what is affordable!
Our inspiration was always open plan living. My husband is from New Zealand and he loves open plan kitchens and living spaces that flow straight into the garden. He also wanted as much glass at the rear of the house as possible so it was as bright as it could be and the children could play outside whenever it is sunny. Its a shame the series was filmed in winter and not summer or we could have all the doors and the bifold window open to show how the garden becomes part of the house.
Q. Did you have the help of an interior designer at any stage?
A. Gosh, I wish we could have had the budget for an interior designer! There are so many things about doing a house renovation that you have no idea about until you start. Its not really the colour schemes, mood boards or decoration thats so tricky. It was more things like lighting and electrics plans, fixtures and fittings and access to the right people for various parts of the job. And thats where Interior Designers are a god send. •I spent hours and hours on Pintrest building mood boards for every room. I also spent time in shops like Ikea where they have inspiration rooms already laid out. Plus I used to drive about the local area, curb crawling and goggling at beautiful homes that we could try and copy. That was the funner side of the house build; the decor. But the level of detail and planning that goes into the technical side is tedious and stressful. Also managing your budget is not an easy task! So I am very lucky that I have 2 good friends who are Interior Designers and they were brilliant with their advice on the bigger things. I had no idea the level of detail I needed and thank goodness I could ask them for help. When it came to technical aspects like the Electrics Plan, I am so grateful I could enlist someone who knew what they were doing. I think that was what was so impressive about the Bungalow in the final on Best House in Town. You could tell that it was finished to such a professional standard by someone who knew what they were doing. If I did another house build I would now be so much better prepared.
Q. What was the process of making the concrete worktop and is it practical to live with?
A. It is so practical! Its so industrial and mottled that it doesnt matter what happens to it. It has marks on it from the kids or a cup of tea, and it just blends in. Its a bit more pourous in that respect which i wasn’t expecting. I probably need to reseal it again! But because of the look of it I think it just adds to its charm. I love that its like that because I wouldn’t want to be precious about a work top thats used all day for so many things; eating, painting, drawing, climbing on!
Q. I’m doing a reno in the summer including a double storey extension – do you have any advice?
A. Yes! Make sure you are stocked up on wine, your gonna need a few glasses 🙂 Be realistic about what its going to cost. My friend told me, at the beginning of ours, ‘take your starting budget and double it, and thats what you’ll spend’. And I laughed at her and told her not to be ridiculous. And then when we finished the house and she was so right- we had spent double our original budget. But also be clever where you spend your money. Its easy to find the bathroom fittings that you love if you have lots of money. But if you dedicate time to it, you can find the same type of style online for half the price. It just takes time and patience. A lot of it! But don’t give up. And ALWAYS ask for a discount. Never pay full price on anything if you can help it. Builders and Interior Designers get 20-40% discount on retail prices. So ask for the discount. Or get your builder to buy it for you. Even on the high street you’d be surprised what you can get off if you just ask the question.
Q. If your house didn’t win, which house would you have chosen?
A. Thats so hard to say. I loved all of them. They were all so different too that its hard to compare them. It must have been very hard to be the judges. I could totally have imagined living in the terrace house. And I was so impressed with the Bungalows impeccable attention to detail and faultless elegance. She had thought of everything. I’ve been following her on Instagram and the house is so stylish.
Q. Do you see a future for you in interior design now?
A. We love our house and creating it the way we wanted it to be was fun and rewarding because it was for us. I am still quite surprised we were even on BBC1 in the first place and even won! I wasn’t expecting it and so a career in design isn’t something I have considered. I am not sure I would have the confidence to design other peoples homes. However I do love interiors and god only knows I have spent a huge amount of time researching home ware, lighting, kitchens, bathrooms, tiles, windows, cladding…. So I have a lot of knowledge now all stored up and ready for another project….if I get the chance. I have also enjoyed hearing from people on Instagram and answering their questions on where to get things or what my top tips would be. So who knows what might happen next for me.
Q. What’s your favourite part of your kitchen?
A. Being able to host big dinner parties and cook and entertain with everyone all in the same space.
Q. Do you follow a pattern when you’re hanging photos and pictures like you’ve done in your bathroom or do you just do it by eye?
A. My husband is going to laugh at this question! Because I went out to Next and bought a whole load of different size picture frames, zipped home and told him we could just stick them straight up, it would be easy. •But Paul is less spontaneous than me and is meticulous in planning and he insisted we place them out on the floor and organise the pattern, and then started with the middle one and worked hanging them going outwards. Except he wanted to measure them all so they were all hung exactly the same distance apart. It ended up taking a bloody week. So we followed the pattern that we created on the floor first and then spent hours measuring them all. I am sure theres a better way to do it on Youtube and wouldn’t result in a near miss divorce.
Q.Where did you live before you moved here and did you do that up too?
A. I did my kitchen up in one bed flat I used own in Shoreditch. I managed to buy a teeny little flat just as the Credit Crunch hit and the market dropped, but you could still get an interest only mortgage just by waving at the bank. So I lived there in my one bed for 8 years until I met Paul and we got pregnant and needed a bigger house. We then rented in Harpenden as it was commutable for us both to London. But Harpenden house prices pushed us to look out to the villages and our house that is on the show is in Gustard Wood were we now live as a family of 4. So this was the first property we owned together and were able to renovate.
Q. Are you glad you went on The Best House In Town?
A. Yes, its had a big positive impact on my confidence and my life. Its made me connect with neighbours on the street that I haven’t talked to before. Its lead me to make friends with people from the show. And its given me such a boost in gratitude for being able to have a house like we do. It was stressful doing the house build. I had a new born baby and I was trying to build a house! Poorly timed, very little sleep and quite a few tears. I remember managing all the tradesmen whilst breastfeeding round the building site! But the show came along at just right the time to remind me sometimes pushing yourself into something that is hard can have the best outcomes. And perhaps I might even be good at something creative after all 🙂
Q. Did your house look different seeing it on the TV?
A. Yes! I honestly couldn’t believe how lovely they made it look! Also, it has literally never been tidier! So it does look different because it absolutely does not look that immaculate ever! And half our stuff was in the garage for filming!