Build expert Sian Astley shares her hands-on expertise.
Sian Astley is a builder, TV expert, and guest speaker at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, with 22 years of experience renovating both period and contemporary homes. Sian’s TV work includes BBC1’s Getting The Builders In and Channel 5’s Half Built House; and she is currently build project manager for the ground breaking virtual reality show on BBC2: Your Home Made Perfect.
We spoke to Sian about all things build related, from how she got started in the industry to her own self-build project and what tips she has to avoid project costs spiraling!
How did you get started in the build industry?
After leaving University, I took a job running a franchise office that dealt with damp proofing and wall ties and found it fascinating seeing how houses were taken apart and put back together. I left that company and set up my own specialist preservation business with a Princes Trust grant, and at the same time bought my first apartment on 100% mortgage. There began my own property ladder, buying doer-uppers and getting stuck in on home renovations. A few years later followed a period of buying properties to take back to brick, restore and rent out. By then, there was no going back!
What do you love most about working on self-builds?
Self-builds rarely fit into a category do they? There’s something so gloriously individual about them, they way they reflect the personality, dreams and aspirations of the self-builder. It’s why we’re all addicted to Grand Designs, even if we’ll never afford one. There’s the opportunity to be totally radical, to react to the site, to incorporate things which could never be factored into a building already in place – to realise a dream. What’s not to love? If people are brave enough then an ambitious renovation can be nearly as exciting as a self-build, just watch our new show Your Home Made Perfect to see some examples.
Tell us about your own self-build, Moregeous Mansions.
Our home at Moregeous HQ was originally bought and rented out to young professionals. Back in the day, before HMO’s ran riot and it became very run down, the area was quite well to do and the house luckily retained lots of original features and a sense of personality. We knocked half of it down as the oldest section had no foundations, dry rot and the walls were collapsing. The new build used all the original reclaimed bricks (hand cleaned by me!), slates and timbers, and it now 80% finished – apart from the kitchen which is this year’s project. It’s highly personalised and relatively brave in terms of design inside. We hold a fun and interactive How To Renovate day via Airbnb Experiences once a month where we welcome home renovators and give our expert tips and insider knowledge. It’s a great day and has been really well attended. The plan is to hold more events and pop ups – I can’t wait!
What are your top tips for someone who is about to start a self-build?
Plan. Plan and plan. And plan again. Make a mood board and order samples for everything to ensure everything works together. Get any outside trades and builders booked at least six months in advance. involve building control early so any hiccups or cost spiraling requests are noted asap, and get on good terms with your neighbours. Learn how to use a good spreadsheet and start populating one with your big-ticket items and small finishes. Don’t leave out the landscaping and remember you also need to furnish and finish – architects sometimes forget that bit.
Do you have any career highlights?
It might sound silly to say but every single home which I’ve ever worked on has been a highlight, because creating extraordinary homes for people to live in, whether owned or rented, is super special. I’m still in touch with many people who’s homes we’ve transformed, on TV or otherwise, and that means a huge amount to me. Being on TV is of course a highlight, as is being part of expert events like the Homebuilding and Renovating Show. I’m very much looking forward to talking about project management and home interiors trends in 2019 Excel. Of visitors have seen Your Home Made Perfect and have burning questions – come along and ask them!
Sian will be a guest speaker at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show at the London Excel, 4-6 October 2019. Homebuilding & Renovating Show: www.homebuildingshow.co.uk