5As most of you already know, planning your dream home doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s a process that can take weeks, sometimes years to gather everything you love into one humble abode. It’s cutting and pasting kitchens or bathrooms you love from interior magazines, it’s scanning Pinterest boards, spending hours in the bathroom section at Bunnings staring at taps, and attending numerous open homes for inspiration.

But perhaps the most crucial element, and often overlooked, is sharing those ideas with industry professionals to gauge whether the ideas are a reality or just pure fantasy, and more importantly, within your budget.

Anita and her husband Martin Thorley, fully understand this process after personally undertaking a complete house renovation in early 2010. With her 20-year career in retail VM, and her husbands building background, the pair proved a powerful combination and they quickly turned it into a successful business, JAMM Styling.

JAMM (which represents each of the family member names – son Jack, Anita, daughter Mia, and Martin) offers the complete outside inside package from home repairs, renovations, project management service, carpentry, steel welding, painting, sheds, and designer studio spaces; along with an interior styling service lead by Anita of course.

“The decision after working for large Corporates for almost 20 years was to make it count for ‘my’ family and make a go of it in an industry we LOVE!,” said Anita.

Working closely with their clients and managing their renovation needs and wants, within a budget, is vital to achieving the desired end product. And in most cases, increase the value too.

“For a new project, we would both sit in on the discussions of the build/reno and then what the client might want for the interior,” she said.

“I make visual suggestions then Marty will advise whether it is structurally possible or not (eg; we convinced a client to remove a wall feeling it would really add to the spaciousness and add to the capital value of the property – it came up brilliantly) we chat it all through with the client.

“We take many photos and listen to their needs, wants and budgets, then we go home and discuss various possibilities for the property over making bolognaise sauce for dinner! We really try and achieve the ‘WOW’ factor for them.

“We will then quote it up, bring in various trusted contractors to submit to client with ideas. If it is a larger project Marty works to a gant chart.”

Here’s a quick interview with one half of JAMM, Anita Thorley on moving from retail to reno’s; what you need to know before you reno; tips on creating the `wow’ factor; and some stunning before & after shots including a single fronter they transformed in Albert Park which was one block from the beach and sold unrenovated for $900k, only to be valued at $1.2m after spending $110k on renovations.

St Kilda BBQ Deck project after JAMM Styling renovations

St Kilda BBQ Deck project after JAMM Styling renovations

Your background includes 20 years of VM for retail, how has this career prepared you for your current role at JAMM styling? How has it differentiated you from the current builder/renovators in the market?

Yes, retail has definitely prepared me for this. I’ve opened many shops and been involved in the design/build of various stores. I completely understand that quality takes time, but also that much time can be wasted with incorrect briefs or communication.

Marty and I talk about everything, anything is possible with patience and the right approach. I think we do differ from other builders and renovators because I understand the ‘look’ and Marty understands the building issues/restraints. I think we are a true renovating couple – I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and have helped him to concrete, build sheds (in bitter winter) etc.

Also, we can say we’ve been through the  whole process together ourselves, so I feel couples feel more at ease with us.

You started out renovating your own home, what are some things you discovered on this project that we can learn from too? 

When doing our own home there was lots we learned;

1. Really know what you want the house to look like before you start the plans (whether it be with a draughts person or architect) this will save time and money. Have a basic idea how much things cost before you start the plans as well.
2. Communication is vital on site – you really need one person to ‘project manage’ the whole process so the communication between the builder, architect, contractors and owners is clear.
3. We sought 3 quotes for everything – we learned that the cheapest is not necessarily the best and can often cause more expenditure. Trust your gut instinct with contractors as well.
4. Whatever we thought we could do ourselves, no matter how messy, we tried (we researched thoroughly first and then asked expert advice). Martin even learned to weld our massive ‘rusted’ exterior fireplace.
5. Never underestimate how $$$ costly demolition can be. We used double the amount of skips we budgeted on.
6. Always budget for the worst case scenario (like hitting rock if you need to dig a trench for example)
7. Quality takes time – why rush what will possibly be your biggest asset?

Aside from homes, you’ve also helped transform work spaces/studio spaces and designer bespoke sheds? Can you talk us through this? What are some of the changes you’ve made to work spaces?

We have transformed a couple of workspaces. One client wanted her home office turned into a ‘french salon’. This was a beautiful job. She had great taste and so this is what transpired; soft lavender porters paint for the whole room, authentic Chekoslavakian crystal chandlier, Phillipe Starke transparent ‘ghost’ chairs, modern glass and chrome desk from Voyager Interiors, vintage chaise lounge from a antiques store recovered in french Manuel Canovas floral fabric, chair upholstery also in french fabric, bronze metallic wall Chanel quote, bookshelves and ceiling repainted, floors repolished, french mannequin sourced and purchased.

A large office space in Richmond was transformed for ‘Lime door brands’ , a brand building agency. We started with a blank canvas and removed walls, opened the space up, painted a lime feature wall with decals and branding, transformed desks with colour, bought new furniture, bean bags, added a ‘chill out’ area, small staff kitchen, plasma TV, new lighting and finally made from old doors a fabulous huge ‘studio’ table for the creatives to work at.

You’ve become known for creating the `wow’ factor – what are some of your styling/reno secrets?

The WOW factor is something people underestimate. Generally, people are fairly conservative and ask to be shown just HOW much better their office space or home could look with a few simple tricks;

1. Go large – if ceilings are high you can afford to be generous in size with a light fitting,even if the space is smaller sometimes a large hanging light fitting ( the right style) will play tricks with proportions and the space may look bigger! Also hang it low to create mood, especially over a coffee table or dining room table. Artwork is often too small for the wall it is on, it is best to do a cluster of paintings or have a ‘theme’ going in one dedicated area. If the wall is vertical and high hang artwork vertically to take your ‘eye’ up, if the wall is wide and landscape shape with a lower ceiling go for smaller artwork across the space

Home_zone_roller2. Colour instantly changes the look and feel –  don’t be afraid to experiment with bold and different colours ( I have bright peacock coloured velveteen very high curtains and I love them every day of my life!) Look at your beloved belongings, your upholstery, think of what colour makes you happy and try a sample on the wall. Contrasts always work well – bright sunny yellow always looks great against architectural charcoal and black. Metallics (especially gold) are coming back in a big way. Bronze has been favoured a lot in interiors of late and a little bit of bling (not too shiny), distressed bling can go a long way. Antique looking bronze Morrocan hanging lamps over a wooden kitchen bench and matte concrete floors will work well because you are creating an interesting mix of textures, colours and surfaces – I LOVE mixing old and new together, matte and shiny, natural and ‘pop’ colours.

3. Furniture placement is really important so that upon entering the room you really do say ‘wow’. Amazing bespoke cushions (only feather and large), floral arrangements (at the right height, with the right flowers and generous in size) a great wall as a feature (with an interesting treatment – large format digital wallpaper, family portraits and photos/momentos), or a great colour (paint more than one wall!) and soft furnishings – if you have hard edges; metal, concrete, glass, you need soft flowing curtains, ottomans, cushions etc.

4. If building go for generous proportions – larger than average door heights and openings can transform a room.

You mentioned recent bank valuations of homes you’ve renovated are proof of the good work you’re doing & the JAMM styling difference – can you reveal any details?

Single fronter in Albert park (one block from the beach) sold unrenovated for $900k, spent $110k on reno and afterwards valued at $1.2m (before & after’s below).
Northcote house purchased in 2007 for $408k, spent $250k on it and recently valued at $1.175 (large capital gain in the area too).

You operate out of Northcote, the new boom area especially in renovations, what are some of the projects you’ve worked on here?

Most of the Northcote work has been building decks and seat storage, full bathroom renovations, internal renovations (removing walls to make more space, adding a room), bike sheds, bespoke designer studio spaces in backyards.

You recently renovated single fronter in Albert Park, finishing it off with a stunning red door – how did you improve the capital value of this home without costing the earth?

Albert Park Single Fronter before & after JAMM Styling renovation

Albert Park Single Fronter before & after JAMM Styling renovation

As you can see from the photos we kept and matched the original slate flooring (it needed patching in as well) that helped and ended up looking really lovely with the mix of old and new. Doing a lot of surface prep for painting really helped the paint go on well and the boards almost looked new again!

Painting the interior entirely (including ceiling) the one same colour – whisper white, and  kept the cost down (no edging/cutting in etc.) We kept the money for great lighting to create that WOW factor, great for a small home in a glamourous location.

We also kept the original floorboards and had them patched up then buffed, taken back and finally polished with Japanese black lacquer to hide any imperfections – it came up a treat!!

Only one window was so bad it needed to be replaced. We nurtured the others.
We did big opening french doors out the back – this really opened up the space. We bought these on eBay and saved $$ there too. We kept the backyard pavers, cleaned them really well and diverted your attention to great plants and planter boxes.

Is eco-friendly, green and sustainable building a priority for your clients? If so, how? What are some of those changes you are implementing?

Eco friendly and sustainability are a priority for some clients but not all. We are sensitive to what we buy and use but at the end of the day we need to go with the clients brief.
We have been very lucky to have like-minded clients mostly. I am a great advocate with styling to use what you already have if possible; a coat of paint, new upholstery, revamping old frames etc. all add to a homes character.

What’s the next project you’re working on?

This is the current job only just completed; large deck and designer BBQ area with seating and tiled space; (before & after’s below).

For this job, we worked with Susi of Susi Leeton Architects and Interiors.

To learn more about JAMM Styling, head to their website; jammstyling.com.au