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Interior designer and star of BBC1’s mega popular DIY SOS show, Julia Kendell started her own business as a single mum in her twenties. She’s since built her own home and has developed quite a knack for energy efficient home design.
We talked to the ‘Queen of DIY’ about smart lighting and why every girl needs a power drill.
What was it like working on BBC1’s DIY SOS and ITV’s Rebuild Our Home?
It’s like a big community coming together for a common cause. These homes usually take months and months to complete, so to have a home built and designed and ready for a family to move into in two weeks is amazing. The schedule is gruelling.
Is energy efficient design in the home important to you?
Yes. It’s very important for everybody to embrace, even if it’s just from the standpoint of saving money on your fuel bills.
How have you modified or designed your own home to be more energy efficient?
We installed a heat exchange system that draws air out of the home and puts it back in the house, so there’s no heat loss. We also put in a ground source heat pump so we now generate a lot of our own hot water and heating. It was a big investment upfront but going forward it means that our energy bills are next to nothing.
Solar panels are another technology worth investing in as they have come such a long way. Our windows are also triple glazed to keep the heat in.
Do you think energy efficient design is an affordable option for all?
It can be expensive to fully retrofit a home but it doesn’t have to be a huge expense. You can choose to increase your insulation in the roof or just replace your windows. It’s a foolish person who doesn’t consider all the options to make a better home, as prices and the efficiency of technologies are improving all the time.
Are you a fan of smart home technologies?
I like apps where you can control your heating or your lighting. I have a lighting system where I can pre-select my lighting moods so when I walk through the front door I just press one button to light up the entire house. It saves me a lot of time. It also has a holiday setting where your lighting use is mimicked to keep your home safe while you’re away – quite cunning, really.
You're a self-taught DIY expert. Tell us more about how you developed your skills.
I’ve always been able to read a manual and get on with it. When I was a child I was already putting up shelves, decorating and building things. I started putting rooms together by the age of 20 and went on to work in a kitchen studio. I later learned plumbing in a bathroom studio. Working in interior design, I wanted a home that was as beautiful as my client’s houses but I didn’t have the money and building it was the only option for me. I learned carpentry and in the evenings I was learning how to make curtains. Over a 10-year period, I learned the equivalent of an interior design degree.
Is there any type of DIY you dislike?
I challenge anyone to get excited about prepping a room but I do love sanding floorboards – it’s very therapeutic. I am very passionate about empowering women to do things for themselves. Women have great attention to detail and we learn quickly so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do DIY as well as men.
Have you ever had any DIY nightmares of your own?
Oh yes. I think I’ve drilled through electric cables at least three times.
What's the most important item in your toolbox?
My custom-made power drill – it’s pink but it’s very, very powerful.