“I am excited and humbled to live here. I feel as though we are custodians of this old house and we are minding it for the next family.”
Today, we are talking to Tanya Ross, the founder of Element Inc Studio, who’s keen eye for design saw her renovate a derelict period house into a beautiful home she now lives in with her family. Armed with a vision as soon as she stepped foot through the front doors, Tanya, with a little help from her architect parents, managed to transform an empty space into the home of her dreams, and we’ve been lucky enough to pick her brains about the whole process.
You can read all the renovation tips in the world to get you started, but when it comes to working on your own home, there’s nothing more valuable than someone who’s been there and done it themselves.
Hi Tanya. We understand you bought a period house and decided to renovate it? What made you see the potential in it as your future home?
The location – smack in the middle of my home town - was the main reason we viewed it in the first place and it was in fact my husband George who encouraged us to view it on our day off.
When I walked into this house, I had no expectations; having already committed to a plan I designed for a self-build, I knew that anything could happen. I think this allowed me to go in with an open mind and, in turn, I was very pleasantly surprised. The fact that the house was empty also helped.
Being a designer, I have an obsession with visualising things and I’m always daydreaming. I spent a lot of my childhood doing this (and getting into trouble for ‘spacing out’) which I think gave me the skill to be able to see my plans before I actually undertake them.
When it came to designing your new space, where did you find inspiration? Was it in any specific books, blogs or other resources?
I researched on Pinterest and Instagram a lot, as well as the top joinery showrooms in the country.
I often picked my parents brains as well, who run their own architectural business Murray Architectural Services. When it came to designing they were a huge help, so see who you have around you and utilise their skills if possible.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to redesign their home but doesn’t know where to start?
Pinterest and Instagram are a good place to get going. They help you find your favourite designers which can then take you to their website.
I’d also suggest that when things get overwhelming, take a break. Then when you go back, have an individual page for each room, start to edit out things that you really don’t like and you will slowly but surely see your room come together. I’ve had several mood boards for a single space; it’s rare to get a mood board right the first time. Be flexible and be prepared to change your mind!
Did you face any hurdles on the way and if so, how did you overcome them?
I ended up increasing the spec for the main part of the house with coving and ceiling roses, as well as nicer bathroom fittings, so the budget ran out. That meant before I increased the spec I decided that I would have to wait to renovate the basement and the little loo. I went back six months later and finished the basement and this year I am tackling the little loo.
What’s it like, renovating a space that you live in? Does it differ from your other interior design work?
Renovating a space for yourself means that you are your only restriction. You can be creative to achieve certain looks within your budget or wait and save up. Working on design for clients means that you usually have to convince them of your idea and then encourage them to be brave. There is a lot of psychology in design, not to mention the actual design work. Designing for my own family meant the sky was the limit.
What did you learn from the experience of renovating your own home?
Apart from learning more about my own personal style, it was a gift that kept on giving. When you design for someone else, it’s their home. Because I get to experience this everyday, renovating my own home gave me back what I have been putting in. I do have to consciously switch off though, as it can get a bit over stimulating, especially in the evening, because I’m always thinking about the next thing I’d like to work on.
When you started renovating your home was there anybody who helped you and gave you tips? What was the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice was from my architect Dad: “It’s only wrong if it can’t be fixed.”
If something went in that I wasn’t happy with, instead of stressing about it, I would put a plan in place that would fix it. For example, a brand new commercial boiler was put in and kept tripping. This was not fun, but after communicating with the company and some fixes, it got sorted. Also, the patio doors need to be replaced, and they ended up leaking and ruining the floor, which was challenging. But they are being replaced along with a section of the floor now, so I can’t complain. It can be tedious at times, but I feel very lucky to have been able to manage this project myself and to have direct contact with the suppliers.
I was also told that if buying an old property, try and pick a house that is relatively structurally sound. Having to spend money on reinforcing and correcting dry rot etc is not fun, it lengthens the process and it can be very expensive!
How does the space make you feel now?
Very content. I am excited and humbled to live here. I feel as though we are custodians of this old house and we are minding it for the next family.
And finally, why did you choose our Hua Trees wallpaper and how does it work with your new space?
I wanted wallpaper that would make my daughter Willows’ room more cosy, as it is a very big room for a little girl. I prefer murals rather than repeated patterns, and I also adore trees. I wanted a wallpaper to last her childhood and teens. After much research, I discovered Hua Trees on Emily Henderson’s Instagram, who has the pink version in her daughter’s room.
I felt the grey version would be the perfect backdrop to a little girl’s room, but also ideal as she grows up. It’s not childish, but the nature/woodland feel gives an element of magic to the room - perfect for night time story telling.
I can’t wait to add the beautiful stickers to it too (although I don’t think I will have a choice of where they go, Willow has very strong design opinions!)