Metro Property

Published: 07/10/2015

Gabrielle featured in Metro Property on the 22nd October. Here's a full transcript of the article.

Everyone wants to renovate and make lots of money - what's the best way to spot an opportunity?

I would always go for an ugly property in the best area you can afford. Then in time magically transform your property frog into a handsome prince.  You would be amazed at the difference you can make with some well-judged paint and materials choices and a lot of hard graft. Even the most hideous exterior can be miraculously transformed with cladding, new render and some decent windows.  

Is it as easy as looks on the telly?

No, it is an absolute nightmare! We all work bonkers hours and it nearly kills me every time. We are so lucky that the incredible volunteer trades and suppliers make it happen. Working on DIYSOS has taught me that with the right skills in the room you can achieve anything. Without them I would just be a shrieking madwoman in a hardhat. I am so lucky to be a part of these amazing builds. I love builders!!

What's the best way to 'flip' a property- or is that missing the point!?

I hate the term ‘Flipping’. It makes it sound as if property is totally rational and all about money. It isn’t. Even if you’re looking to make a quick profit on a property, you still have to make an emotional as well as financial investment. If you don’t put a little love in, why should anyone else love it, and want to rent or buy it,  in return?

Should we design/ renovate for ourselves or think to selling?

Moving is expensive and stressful so I would always recommend staying put and renovating or extending if you can. It is amazing how much space is wasted even in the smallest urban home. A clever new layout could double the useable space in your home

You have an art degree - how does this help your work as an interior designer?

Having an art degree was great training in being able to communicate and stand by my ideas … even in the sometimes hostile environment of a busy building site. It also helps to be able to sketch something really quickly and for people to be able to recognise what I’ve drawn!

How do you approach a new project?

With massive amounts of energy and a good laser measurer! I need to get proper drawings out to my team as soon as possible. Then create specifications, schedules, budgets and politely bully everyone I need to get what I need as quickly as possible.

You have worked in the luxury yacht sector - what advice can you give from this? Is there something in working with smaller spaces to help London's housing crisis and lack of available space?

Working in Yacht Design taught me that small spaces can be luxurious.  A lot of it is about attitude, you may have had to compromise on space to live in London, but it does not mean you have to compromise on style. In fact it can be a benefit! Smaller floor space means your budget will stretch further, If you only have a 2sqm of bathroom floor to cover, why not go for the most fabulous marble floor that money can buy!!

You live in Bristol - is it good to be out of the much talked about London property scene?

Most of my family live in London and the majority of my work is there too. I know I am very lucky that I get my London energy buzz every week, while not having to deal with the agonising property issues that are a cause of such concern for many Londoners. Having said that, I know from working across the whole of the UK that the issues of affordable housing, near good schools and amenities are nationwide.  
I would say your style is glamorous but relaxing - would you agree? How do we get the balance right between something great to look at and great to live in?
I live by the mantra that design must be beautiful and useable. The key to creating a relaxing interior is for you to feel relaxed in it - and that comes from both the quality and aesthetics of the finish, and getting the layout right for your lifestyle.

You have worked with multi-millionaires to the deserving families on DIY SOS? Is there a big difference in the way they view renovation and interior design, or is it more similar than people might imagine?

All of my clients, whatever their circumstances, want the same thing. Essentially, they are all looking for a safe, warm, beautiful space that feels like home. My job is to work out what the word ‘Home’ means to each client and then make it happen for them.

What mistakes do people make when renovating?

Starting before you are ready - I never start a build without a full specification and schedule.  Rushing creative decisions on site while a build team waits rolling their eyes always ends in disaster…

Have you ever made any mistakes yourself in renovating?

I am paid to never make mistakes.  Working with other people’s money is a huge responsibility and I have to get it right every time - This is also why I don’t sleep very well! The key is to listen to the other experts around you. Share plans and specifications early and openly. If someone says that something can’t be done - by all means challenge them, but listen as well. Ploughing on regardless, and going through trades people until you find someone who says yes when everyone else has said no, should be a major alarm bell.

Is working on TV as much fun as it looks - any downsides?

TV is amazing fun and I love it, the only downsides are being away from home a lot, and that you can make a total idiot of yourself. Also site gear (hard hat, high Vis and Steel capped boots) is a very tricky look to rock!

What are your Five Top Tips for Renovating?

1. Follow your instincts rather than Fashion. Dressing a house is like dressing a person, if a look doesn’t work, no matter how fashionable, don’t force it – your home will look uncomfortable.  

2. Make all your creative decisions calmly before the renovations start

3. Don’t overcomplicate your lighting, Downlights are expensive to install and often not necessary in bedrooms or sitting rooms. If you are re wiring, put all your table lamps of a 5 amp circuit so they can be switched on from the wall

4. Measure everything twice. If you are going to order a fabulous bespoke sofa at vast expense – for goodness sake make sure you can get it up the stairs.

5. Make your own mood boards, pictures are often the best way of communicating your ideas.