An expert’s insight

Firstly, how do I budget for interiors?

This depends very much on the overall build cost, the size and location of the property and ultimately, who we perceive to be our target audience. For example, our project in the St Paul’s area of Bristol is a Grand Georgian building in a historic square, right in the heart of the city. It’s an area that’s seen a huge gentrification over the last 5-10 years and positioned within easy walking distance of the main shopping areas, bars, clubs and restaurants. It’s perfect for professionals who enjoy all that the city has to offer.

Sadly any trace of original features internally have been lost over many years of neglect, yet the facade remains undamaged and grand. Rather than try to recreate what’s lost, I planned to transform the interiors and communal areas with an industrial style, a nod to the years when this was a commercial building, but also this is a popular city look, and one that can be recreated without the added cost of sourcing or redesigning the cornicing and marble that would have originally featured heavily. When the look was researched, planned and my mood boards presented and agreed with the developers and investors, a budget was set per apartment based on size or bedrooms, bathrooms. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most costly, but once those are sourced it’s relatively easy to work out costs for everything else. The developers choose the flat that will be used as a show flat for potential buyers and I work out a budget for furnishings based on number of bedrooms/bathrooms.

What advice would you give to a relatively new developer?

My advice for potential developers would be to do research on the area before buying. Who lives there, what’s the average demographic, what surrounds the area i.e. Schools, Shops, is there a cafe culture/nightlife for younger people, transport links etc, what is the market paying for properties. Is it an emerging area, how many properties are currently on the market and how quickly are they selling and to whom.

It’s a good idea to check out other developers’ projects and how they’re designing. I try not to replicate anything that’s too basic and plain but look forward to emerging trends. This wouldn’t necessarily work for a development within an older demographic. There needs to be other priorities such as access, parking etc. The trick is to create a look for a market without narrowing your scope too much.

How do you build your interiors when you don’t know anything about the final owner?

Building interiors takes some bravery as you need to trust your instincts which is easier once you’ve fully researched your market. We have a property on the outskirts of the city with great links into both Bath and Bristol. The area is emerging but there’s still a very mixed demographic there. However a new university campus is being built, bringing a lot of younger people into the area along with much more business and workers.

I’ve re-designed an old 1960’s, very uninspiring commercial building into a crisp modern development of 54 apartments. All have open-plan kitchens with bright yellow metro tiled splash backs to add colour and interest. Each room has a grey or dark blue feature wall. However everything else is white, clean, modern and very unobtrusive. It’s up to each buyer to add their own style, not the developer. These apartments are perfect for first time buyers and the price points demonstrate that.

The St Paul’s Georgian building however is aiming at a higher price point, the kitchens are shaker style with dark wood work tops, there’s a brick slip feature wall and the bathrooms all have a more expensive suite and tiling. The market is different and the buyers are likely to be more varied but definitely professional types. However when it comes to furnishing the show flats, I’ve been able to re-use furniture in both by altering the soft furnishings. The sofas, tables etc have been the same. I tend to buy universally popular looks that are easily replicated by buyers needing inspiration. Often they ask to buy the entire contents of the show flats!

Which project is your favourite?

I think my favourite project has been Orchard House, Stockwell Road. The transformation from dull 1960s eyesore has been amazing and I’ve really enjoyed being a bit braver with colour. It’s the first time I’ve created an external look as well as internal.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that everything costs more and takes longer than expected. Even the smoothest projects have hurdles. We’ve had leaks, floods, security issues, late deliveries by months, planning issues, the works. Always have a contingency budget!!!!

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