Property interview: Julia Kendell on the 30th Homebuilding & Renovating Show

As the Homebuilding & Renovating Show turns 30, one of the event’s keynote speakers Julia Kendell tells Kirsty McLuckie what’s currently hot on her aesthetic menu.

Job title Lead designer and owner of kitchen design company Kendell and Co. Over the years, I have dipped into different specialities, but I keep coming back to kitchens because I love the mathematics and functionality of getting the space right.

In 2004, I started a parallel career as a television designer on programmes such as 60 Minute Makeover and DIY SOS, but three years ago I came full circle and came back to my first love with my own company.

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I’m also a keynote speaker on kitchen design for the Homebuilding & Renovating shows – click here to claim two free tickets.

Kitchen queen Julia Kendell. Image: contributedKitchen queen Julia Kendell. Image: contributed
Kitchen queen Julia Kendell. Image: contributed

How has the advice changed over your career? When I was a newly qualified designer 30 years ago, one would expect to spend 10 per cent of the value of one’s property on a new kitchen. With house prices having risen way above inflation, this percentage has changed to approximately 4-5 per cent.

It is therefore a better investment than in previous years, particularly in light of the trend to live in a property and enjoy the renovations.

I think that when it comes time to sell, even if the finish of the kitchen isn’t exactly what a buyer would choose, if the layout and the functionality is there – perhaps with an island and a double oven, etc – buyers can see that it will suit them without the need for a major renovation or an extension.

Do you think our attitudes to our homes has changed over the decades? One of things that I have had feedback on at the Homebuilding shows is the number of young people these days who are buying their “forever homes”. When I first started out in business, we were all buying properties to make money and build up some equity – selling every few years – and therefore, when investing in a kitchen or redecorating, one would choose very bland aesthetics to make sure it wouldn’t put anyone off when it was sold.

Julia giving a keynote address at last year's show. Image: Will Ireland/Future PublishingJulia giving a keynote address at last year's show. Image: Will Ireland/Future Publishing
Julia giving a keynote address at last year's show. Image: Will Ireland/Future Publishing

But these days that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, I imagine because it is so expensive to move. So there is a difference in thinking – people are creating a home for themselves, and I think that is fantastic. We’ve wasted a lot of years worrying about what the next buyer might like rather than enjoying our own spaces.

It is worth investing in the areas where you will get the most enjoyment and a good kitchen should last at least 15 to 20 years. These days we are also thinking more about sustainability, so if we can make big purchases last a bit longer it is good for our pockets and the planet.

How has the advice changed in terms of building extensions? 30 years ago I advised to build as large a footprint as planning would allow, to maximise future equity. With build prices per square metre having sky-rocketed in recent years and our attitude to the importance of outdoor space, I now advise a more considered approach, building only what is required for each room, by paying thorough attention to the layout and design of a space early in the process.

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Lockdowns shifted our minds about the importance of our home environs and if you haven’t got a huge garden, think twice before building a huge extension.

A splendid interior design. Image: Simon MaxwellA splendid interior design. Image: Simon Maxwell
A splendid interior design. Image: Simon Maxwell

Sometimes the biggest kitchens can feel like an airport lounge and I would always advise people to talk to an interior designer before your architect signs off on plans – just to work out exactly how much space is really required.

What advice can you give people wanting value for money in a new kitchen? There are a lot of consultant designers out there so if you are looking to save money, that is one way of doing it – get a consultant to design the layout of your kitchen and then buy the units from a cheaper source.

If you don’t have the budget for your aspirations, look at second-hand kitchens. There are a lot of websites now where you can find unbelievable bargains – and remember you can also sell your old kitchen to make a few bob too.

Interestingly, after giving this advice at the Homebuilding & Renovating shows, one of the audience members contacted me to say that they had found a high-end Mark Wilkinson kitchen online. Its retail price was £250,000, but they bought it for £25,000. I helped them tweak it to fit the space, but they were super lucky – the bargain of the century!

What have you planned for 2024? I’m launching a website – – which will offer guides and courses in interior and kitchen design. It will offer video tutorials and downloadable PDFs giving the key considerations if you are embarking on a project, especially focused on making it affordable.

When I started out in the industry I felt it was elitist, but I’ve always thought that everyone should be able to afford a lovely home.

Scheduled 2024 Homebuilding & Renovating shows around the UK include Birmingham in March and Glasgow in May. Claim free tickets online at

Personal properties

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First job I started in a soft furnishings shop at 14 as a Saturday girl, and became the manager when I was 18. I then trained in kitchen design.

Where do you live? Knowl Hill, just outside Henley-on-Thames, in a converted barn.

Family I live with my partner and I have two grown-up daughters, and a granddaughter, and two stepdaughters and two step-grandsons.

Hobbies I run and lift weights. I’m also halfway through a history of art degree, and I like making my own furnishings and upcycling.

Retirement plan There are times when I think I can see retirement in my future but I just enjoy what I do too much. I would love to have more time to spend with my kids and grandchildren, though.

Personal motto I believe that everyone should live in a home that inspires joy through thoughtful and uplifting design.

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