10th June 2024

Renovating Stories: Claire Totman Designs

Category: Property

Tags: architecture, diy, renovating, Renovation,

In our last renovating stories blog, we introduced our new series where we interview a range of individuals, who share their real-life experiences, innovative solutions, and practical advice of their renovation projects.

From budget management to design inspiration and tackling unexpected challenges, our experts cover it all to help you navigate your renovation journey with confidence.

In this blog, we’ve spoken to Claire Totman, owner of Claire Totman Designs based in Walton on Thames, Surrey. Established in 2016, Claire Totman Designs specialises in high-end design for private residential clients and developers ranging from design focussed extensions, major renovations and new build homes.

Renovation Timeline

October 2019 – Property was acquired via acquaintance, probate and off market.

August 2020 – Construction began

March 2021 – Construction completed

Renovation Overview

Homeowner – Private Client

Location – Cobham, Surrey

House type – Detached property

Build time – 7 months

Budget – £600,000

What was the renovation project? 

The project was an extensive refurbishment including a rear and side double storey extension, new roof structure to make space for a second floor, a complete facelift and internal reconfiguration.

What was the budget? Did you stick to it? If not, why not?

Yes, we stuck to the budget of 600k + VAT and contingency.

What was the most expensive aspect of the project?

As we were left with 4 existing walls, the largest two expenses were the amass of structural work and the interior fit out elements due to level of specification.

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

Keeping on top of trades and increasing material prices. Also, the fear of site closing due to year 1 of Covid.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the project?

Seeing the interior fit out coming together and then the end product

What is your favourite finished product of the renovation?

The front elevation.

Why did you undertake the renovation?

We were looking for another project and this came up via an acquaintance. Her father had recently passed away so we were able to purchase the property privately probate off market. The property had not been touched since the 1980’s and needed to be bought up to 21st Century living.

Did you use third parties? 

I own an Architectural and Interior Design studio so we saved on fees and used our contacts.

“My favourite element of the build is the front exterior. You would never know it’s the same property, most people assume it’s a new build as they cannot believe what is achievable.”

Finally… For anyone thinking of undertaking a renovation like yours, what advice would you give them?

Extensive renovations are not for the faint hearted but it is so rewarding and a great way to add a significant amount of equity to a property. Make sure you chose your teams wisely. Your architect, interior designer and trades. Review their portfolios, visit past projects and make sure you can get on well. From planning to completion, the time period can be 2-3 years so the relationship is crucial. Make sure you have a healthy contingency fee as building works, especially now will cost more than you think.

You will also always come across unforeseen extras as the building is opened up. Make sure you spend time on getting all designs signed off before works start. This way everything is approved before the works start.

Spend money on having detailed construction and deign packages prepared meaning your builder can get on with the build with no delays due to waiting on decisions. Front loading a project is vital to a smooth build.

We hope the insights from experienced renovators and real-life projects like Claire’s provide the foundations, tools and confidence to tackle your own renovations.

As we partner with the Southern Homebuilding and Renovating Show in Surrey, we’re excited to offer two free tickets worth £24* to help you nail down your plans and hammer out the details of your next project!


Interested in sharing your story? We’d love to hear from you! Please email us with a brief overview of your renovation project at marketing@curchods.com.


*Saving based on full priced tickets for two people. Offer ends 3pm 28 June. Children aged 16 and under go free.

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