Georgina Burnett, DIY and upcycling expert on ITV’s This Morning, spoke with Homes South editor Chris Ogden about her journey into property development and the trials and tribulations of renovating a home.
About Georgina Burnett
Georgina Burnett is an Australian-born British TV presenter, vlogger, property developer, life coach and author. She is a freelance presenter and reporter for BBC News and Weather, and a regular DIY and upcycling expert on ITV’s This Morning off the back of her popular YouTube vlog The Home Genie.
Burnett’s book The Street-wise Guide to Buying, Improving and Selling Your Home was published in March 2019. She has also been published in several national newspapers and interiors magazines. make their dreams come true.
Q: Hello Georgina! We’ve all spent a lot of time indoors over the past year. What have you been working on during that time, at home and at work?
It’s been quite a busy year, considering we have been in and out of lockdown. I’ve been broadcasting live for TV from home from day one of the first lockdown, which certainly had its challenges – not least because of juggling home schooling of course! I am lucky that I’ve always made my social media videos from home so I have all the equipment and was able to continue offering these to clients. It also coincided with me finishing off my first self-build, which was certainly not easy due to availability of products. I’m proud of the results though, and have managed to fill it with upcycled furniture.
Q: You’re a regular news and weather presenter on the BBC and ITV, as well as a property developer and a life coach. How did you find yourself getting involved in television, and how do you find the time to fit it all in?
I consider myself very fortunate to have the variety I do in my career as it certainly suits my character. I do have to be incredibly organised to juggle it all well though, particularly since I became a mummy, which is always my priority. I actually started in shopping TV many years ago, which was a great training ground as you learn to talk without scripting for many hours and handle presenting to multi-cameras, whilst listening to the director and producer in your ear.
Q: Your first job was selling houses and flats off-plan for the holiday resort company
Polaris World. What was that like as a formative experience and what did that teach you about what people are looking for in a new home?
My goodness, that feels like a lifetime ago! I think you learn that although the practical needs of most people are the same. Emotionally, people are very different, so you have to find out where they are coming from where the heart is concerned as one size does not fit all (and certainly doesn’t fit all budgets!).
Q: You’ve long been developing and renovating properties, especially period properties. What inspired you to get involved in renovating property, and what are a few of the renovation projects that you’re most proud of?
I love taking something that nobody else wants and making it better, and there’s nothing more satisfying than doing that to a home. I’ve always loved the character of period property and the many stories it has to tell (or at least I imagine them!).
The house I’m currently living in was my biggest project, a derelict seven-bed Victorian property. Timing wasn’t great as we were renovating it when I was pregnant and then in my daughter’s first year, but it was worth it. I really don’t know how I had the energy when I look back now! We were renting elsewhere for most of the project and I used to do the 7pm feed, put my daughter to bed and then come scrape paint off the banisters by the light of my phone (as there was no electricity) and then head back for the 10pm feed – insane really. You could say I’m a dog with a bone when I’m doing something!
Q: What challenges are there in renovating period properties compared to new build homes? How easy is it to stay respectful to the history of the building while managing to put your own stamp on it?
I seem to spend my life scraping paint off marble fireplaces, and uncovering them too! I love original fireplaces – and they really sell a house – and yet so many people hide them away! I try to be as true to the house’s history and will save everything I can, which is always a battle with the builders I’ve used as they just want to rip everything down and replace with the new because it’s easier. I love having to work around a house though, as each one is different, but sometimes budgets mean you can’t do the restoration you would like to do.
My experience of new builds has been more about being clever with space, but still very satisfying. It’s also much easier to build in an eco-friendly way with a new build – although not impossible with an older property. My dream is to turn a period property into a self-sustained home. That will probably be my next big project, but I’m having a rest for a little while now to concentrate on my family and TV career.
Q: You have your own book The Street-wise Guide to Buying, Improving and Selling Your Home. What are the common things that you find people underestimate when it comes to buying their first property? Are there any pitfalls our readers should know about?
People are often so hung up on waiting until they can afford to buy the perfect property they hold off for too long. Don’t go for perfection, just get your foot on the ladder – but in a strategic way. That’s all it needs to be, a foot on the ladder. The way I look at it, I didn’t marry the first guy I dated and I knew I wouldn’t stay long in the first property I bought!
If you go for a project though, you need to make sure you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew, but also if you are ploughing money into that renovation, make sure you will be left with some change when you sell. The worth of every property has a ceiling, depending on its size and location so going for the most expensive fittings isn’t always appropriate.
Q: Your popular DIY and interior design vlog The Home Genie has led to you to become a regular DIY and upcycling expert on ITV’s This Morning. Does having your own vlog allow you to be more creative and indulge in a few more passion projects?
I think having my vlog helped me to grow and experiment more, which as a creative person is really liberating. It’s very restrictive filming myself though at times, as projects take far longer to do when you have to stop to reframe the camera! For TV everything has a fast turnaround, but needs to be exciting and turn heads, so it’s taught me not to sit and procrastinate before getting stuck in! One thing I love about my TV career is that I’ve managed to inspire so many people to start upcycling, which is something I’m really passionate about – my goal is to have my own programme encouraging people to do more to improve the planet, their living space and mental health.
Q: On The Home Genie recently you’ve been documenting your work on your self-build which you recently completed. How do you feel about the final result? Is building your own home an option you’d recommend that other people explore?
It has been really exciting and I’m utterly thrilled with the result. So many people have walked by and complimented it, and they haven’t even seen inside. I love that place and every time I walk in there it takes my breath away that I created it from a dilapidated garage that people used to go to the toilet in! I don’t think it’s something for a novice to do and the difficulty these days is finding a plot that a large developer doesn’t snap up – and they tend to have deeper pockets than the average homeowner. I do think we could be more creative though in where we find to build, without ruining the country’s greenery. I also can’t bear how many empty properties there are just sitting there, so I’d like to see more of those being renovated.
Q: You’ve been a trained life coach for the last 15 years. In what ways do people’s living spaces influence their lives, and what simple changes can our readers make to their homes to help them achieve their goals?
I started as a corporate and executive coach, alongside my freelance TV career. Then when I was renovating and styling houses it began to infiltrate my coaching as I realised the power a person’s environment has on their motivation, mood and general wellbeing. The very first thing you must do is declutter – I can’t emphasise this enough. Then make sure your home is filled with the right colours for you that make you feel the way you need to in that particular room.
Q: Lastly, how much are you looking forward to the summer? Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of the year?
I love the summer and I’m hoping to take lots of little staycations. I’ve bought a decent tent for the first time, so I’m looking forward to being at one with nature and toasting marshmallows on a fire – let’s hope the weather is kind to us all!