‘Kids are so adaptable’: why our property renovation was more than worth the disruption
After selling up in 2020, Amy and Ben Chance spent nine months designing their perfect home
Anyone who attempts a hefty renovation project with a newborn baby and two small children in tow, not to mention during a global pandemic, might – fairly – receive a fair few eye-rolls from concerned loved ones. But for Amy Chance, 37, nine months of disruption was more than worth it as not only did it end with the creation of her dream home, but also helped convince her to change the course of her career.
Property lawyer Chance and her husband, Ben, who works in finance, began the hunt for a larger house to accommodate their growing family around three years ago. It took a long time to find the perfect property; the pair wanted a “do-up” with a “great downstairs living space”, Chance told TheWeek.co.uk.
There was also the question of location: the couple loved living in Battersea, south-west London, but also felt pulled by their strong links to Sussex, as well as the south of France. “We had to consider whether to stay as central,” said Chance. “In the end, it made sense for us to stay in London because of work, but we decided to incorporate elements of the English countryside and a bit of Provence into the design of whichever property we found.”
The pair first viewed their future home – listed by Savills – in March 2020, just before the first lockdown. They completed on the property, located just a few streets away from their house at the time, in September 2020 but the extent of the work required meant they didn’t move in until October the following year. “We kept the front facade and side walls, but stripped out pretty much everything inside so we could get the most efficient floor plan,” said Chance. “Just one traditional Victorian arch in the hall remains.”
The family spent six months in a rental around the corner while the work was completed. Numerous lockdowns and enforced isolations delayed the project right up until move-in day, when one of Chance’s sons caught Covid, meaning the builders needed to move out. “The pandemic made things harder, but we still managed to achieve what we wanted to do,” she said.
Fortunately, the couple’s two young boys were on board with the project from day one. “It was disruptive, but children are so adaptable,” said Chance. “They loved coming to the building site and seeing their bedrooms, even when it was just a shell.” The couple fully involved the boys, aged seven and four, in the process, letting them pick paint colours and feed into the design of a den built in the property’s eaves. “Kids love to look forward to something and mine found it hugely exciting to see house progress.”
Overseeing a renovation of this size from start to finish was also the push Chance needed to explore a new career path. She’d always had a keen interest in interior design and, along with a close university friend, would often provide advice to friends and family undertaking their own property projects. Renovating her Battersea home helped convince Chance to turn her side hustle into a formal business and the pair incorporated their company, Orbel Ursula, in December last year.
Chance believes her family has the best of both worlds in Battersea – they’re less than 30 minutes from central London and a stone’s throw from world-class shops, museums and galleries, but the area also has the feel of an intimate neighbourhood. “People often think of London as very lonely, but we’ve had the opposite experience,” she said. “There’s this great sense of community here.”
And for anyone thinking of taking on their own renovation project, Chance has some useful advice. “Surround yourself with the best team of advisers – architects, builders and designers – because a property move is a big decision to make,” she said. “You need people who can visualise how the space can be optimised for your needs but also envisage how your needs will change over the years.”
Another point worth remembering, Chance added, is that buying a home is “a process”. The best homes “evolve over time”, she explained. “You’ll add trinkets from special holidays or find a piece of artwork you love. Try and avoid the pressure to do everything quickly; you’ll make it lovely by slowly making it your own.”
If you’re thinking about moving, book a complimentary valuation with Savills today