We’ve been working super hard over the last few months to try and get the house in Dorset ready for us to move into in time for Christmas…these are pictures taken last week, which show that we are still  a little way away from completion, but we are positive about moving in at the end of this month and having it finished enough for a family Christmas! With a project of this scale there are always challenges, but so far we’ve actually been pretty lucky. No major horrors that we weren’t expecting, just a lot to do. 

Since I last shared pictures, a huge amount has changed. We have replaced the roof, ALL the windows and doors and re-plumbed and re-wired the whole house. We have also had to dig down throughout the ground floor in order to lay under floor heating pipes and then pour cement on top – six huge lorry loads! We now have a cosy, water-tight house with a lot of decoration to do before we move in in a few weeks’ time. 

For a lot of the rooms I designed the schemes a few months ago and it is now so lovely to watch them taking shape. The one space that I have found really tricky is the front hall. As you can see below I have tried a lot of different colours on the wall!

My initial instinct was to go for something fresh and blue, but when the samples went on they were too cold for the space. I then tried some warmer Farrow & Ball colours that I love and use often; Elephants Breath, Cornforth White, Purbeck Stone – they just appeared a little sludgy.

I am now trying green/grey and hope to make a final decision soon – La Seine by Zoffany is my current favourite – what do you think?! The reason it’s a very challenging space is because there are a lot of walls, all facing different directions and all getting different amounts of light, but hopefully I’ll get there soon!

I will share more updates with you in the next few weeks

LBM
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ps – Oh and the Aga is in! I am super excited about that!

{Images by Patrick Butler-Madden}
























I’m so excited to share these pictures of my latest project in South-West London with you. We bought  this beautiful Victorian villa-style home in a Conservation area on the border of Balham and Streatham as two tired flats that had been tenanted for a number of years. 

We took a bit of a risk, as we knew that we wanted to convert the property back into a single home, but to get formal advice from Lambeth Council would have taken months! We had to make a decision on whether we would risk the possibility that they would say no, but on balance the house was so stunning and had so much potential we thought it was a risk worth taking!


Luckily all went smoothly and once the house was purchased we quickly got the approval that we needed and set to work removing the stud walls and returning the house to its former glory. These houses in the conservation area, are all unique and were designed by a well-known architect in the 1870s for wealthy Victorians, who kept houses in this area as country homes on the edge of the city. In those days Streatham was considered the West End of the south with lovely green open spaces, large houses with even larger gardens, as well as theatres, upmarket shops and ballrooms. 


It was such a pleasure to work on this property and bring it back to life. Beautiful original fireplaces were stripped back, cornice repaired and replaced and the stunning staircase patched and restored. We also extended to the rear of the house to create a lovely large open plan kitchen, dining and living area. The work took just over nine months and now it is so lovely to see it once again as a beautiful family home.


LBM

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{Images by Patrick Butler-Madden}


























It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on our latest project, so once again on a quiet Saturday afternoon while P is away working, I am catching up on admin and blogging!

These are the pictures taken seven weeks ago when Spring had almost sprung; the roof came off the house just in time for the good weather! Our team are brilliant and have been working like troopers to bring the project in on time – all being well there are six weeks left to go! At the start of the project they spent almost two weeks clearing the front and rear gardens, removing a WWII bunker from the back garden, before creating a trench for the flood water to disappear into as the garden was pretty waterlogged.

Finally we were able to get started on the construction of the loft extension. As you can see from the pictures, this really left the house open to the elements but we were extremely lucky with the weather and except for a couple of days the rain held off. I will update you again next week with some more pictures – the roof is now back on and the new windows will arrive this week, which we are very excited about. It will be lovely to see the house start to take shape again!

LBM
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I have decided after a lot of recent requests to talk a bit more on the blog about what I really do for work. As well as working as an interior designer, my husband and I work with a wonderful team of builders to develop properties. The reason I haven’t blogged about it that much up until now, is simply because I don’t think that the pictures are very pretty and probably not what you want to see. Writing about spreadsheets and mortgage finance has limited interest and I spend most days either paying bills or in Screwfix collecting something that they sadly forgot to deliver!  

This blog is my place to escape and enjoy the prettier side of the property business, but today I will share a little of what being a property developer involves…

  • The first and most important thing is finance as without that there would be nothing to develop…I have had to be extremely creative over the last 18 months about the financing of the projects as lending is incredibly tricky at the moment. My advice to any would-be developer is to either work with an extremely talented and trusted advisor for this, or to do it yourself as I am now doing. It does involve a lot of financial reading and research as well as a lot of time spent in meetings with banks, but it can be done and once your forge a couple of good relationships it all becomes a lot easier.
  • Then you have to find a project. In South-West London where we are working finding any property is a challenge, but finding something that has a healthy profit margin is verging on impossible. There is such a short supply and such a huge demand that most things are coming to the market and going to sealed bids within 48 hours…as a developer it’s even more challenging as you’re competing with people buying for their own home and to them the margins aren’t important, so they will pay more. On average I look at 2-3 properties a week that would be suitable for developing and put in an offer on most of them – the result so far this year is that we have been successful in getting one, which shows quite how competitive it is! We aim to do two a year, but have to look constantly as you just don’t know which you’ll be lucky with and which you won’t.
  • Once the property is under offer and you are close to exchange I then start work on the planning application and party wall agreements. It’s vital to do this as soon as possible – delays of even a few weeks are very costly. Mortgage payments start as soon as we own the property and waiting two months for planning approval, while no work is happening on site, is just not an option. These few weeks are always stressful as until you have the stamp of approval there are no guarantees!
  • Then building can start – we are lucky at the moment that we have a great team, but we have to keep them in work constantly as otherwise we could lose them to someone else and that job could take months, which would really mess things up for us. The building industry in London is booming at the moment and most contractors have spoken to recently don’t even have time to quote for new jobs, so we really need to hold onto our team!
  • During construction it is my job to source all materials, which involves a lot of time in places like Travis Perkins and B&Q – almost all the trades I deal with and source from are men. Building and construction is understandably a very male industry and I often go for days and days without seeing another woman, which is when working for myself and being able to meet up with a girlfriend for lunch or a coffee is a real bonus.
  • Finally all being well {and there are always a few nasty surprises!} the work is done and hopefully within the budget. This is another tense part when you get the agents in to value with all fingers and toes crossed that you have actually made a profit…there are no guarantees in this business!

As you can see from these pictures we have now made it as far as bullet point four on our current project and so far progress is good. We’re doing a loft extension, side return and rear extension as well as a first floor extension and full refurb and hope to finish by September.  Later this week I will show you pictures of one we did last year; exactly the same as this but the finished version.


Have a lovely day.

LBM
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