Have you ever had a passion that you wished you could make into a reality?
Well, this week marks the exiting start to a 10 year long dream to work with my bestie and incredibly talented friend, and at the same time to transform neglected houses into loved homes that inspire and bring joy.
6 years ago we brainstormed together over many glasses of wine, talking about what we loved, what our ideal company would look like and what we wanted to create. Who would have thought that our geographical divergent paths were actually building the foundations for Hills & West Renovations.
“The thing I’ve learnt with age, is that timing is really important, sometimes you can’t force it.”
Meet Roz West, the chemical engineering, investment banking, fine artist.
Hi, I’m Roz, originally from the UK but really see myself as a global citizen – I lived in Sydney for 12 years and most recently South Africa for the past 6 years. I have two young children, a husband who is from Sydney and 2 dogs and a cat – so busy! I’m really adventurous by nature and like to push the envelope in most things I do. I travelled extensively during the last 20 years, backpacking around world by myself when I was 21, driving from London to Mongolia when I was 33 and going on a two month road trip through Europe with a 2 year and 6 month old (never to be done again!)
You never know where your journey will take you…
Growing up I always had a passion for science and art, so when it came to choosing my degree, I took the ‘safe’ route and studied chemical engineering. This led me into a career in finance, where I worked in sales for a number of global investment banks in London, Singapore and Sydney. From day one of my degree I always had the itch and desire to do something creative, so finally after 14 years in banking I decided to quit and go study fine art, where I did my honour’s degree at the University of Johannesburg. Even though I love painting, I realised that career wise I wanted to do something creative combined with a people and commercial aspect too and that led me to think of renovating houses as a career – as a hobby I’ve always developed the houses I’ve owned and loved it, so now I’ve decided to make that my main gig.
H&W Renovations occurred organically. When I did my first renovation in Sydney I lived with Aisha during that time, so she has always been with me first hand during the projects and we’ve always seen eye to eye interiors wise (even though we can have different tastes). Aisha was in a similar place to me career wise 6 years ago; unfulfilled and searching for something creative. However our paths went different ways when I moved to Johannesburg with my husband’s work and Aisha started H&W handbags. As Aisha’s best friend, I have always been part of her creative journey but we have never been able to formalise working together, this changed earlier this year when Aisha was visiting me in Joberg and we spent a few days brainstorming how we could work together and combine both our skills and make it work with the different timezones.
I’ve always bought houses that need work as a side hustle, and as it happens I have a run-down terrace in the UK which I originally bought to live in and eventually renovate. I have also just purchased a run-down grade 2 listed Georgian manor house which needs gutting and will be my home when I move to the UK this month. Crazy I know.
On brainstorming, Aisha and I decided we could use these houses to launch H&W Renovations, both very different in approach but a great testament to the diversity we want to bring to H&W Renovations H&W renovations is really a platform for us to turn run down houses into fabulous homes that inspire – looking to invest each renovation’s successes, financially and creatively, into the next, so we can continue to build our renovation and interior design portfolio.
Aisha and I complement each other so well too.. I tend to be the pragmatic, negotiator and figures person, I also enjoy the more structural aspects of design, whereas Aisha brings the energy, creative flare and crazy ideas to the table – she also has more patience for soft-furnishings than I do! So together our skills are pretty well suited.
We have similar tastes most of the time, although Aisha definitely does minimalism better than me and I think I’m a bit more gung-ho when it comes to colour. I think we both like making a home individual and personal to the person, rather than creating a cooker cutter of what everyone else is doing. It is going to be such a fun journey blending the best of the two together.
The Yin and Yang
Our first two projects are very different. Pebbledash is a run down Victorian terrace which we intend to sell as soon as the job is done, so our budget and purpose is very different to the grade 2 listed house. For Pebbledash, we will go for Victorian minimalism and a more neutral pallet. For the Beacon (grade 2 listed house), as it will my home will be a much larger and grander project, where we will have the budget to really let our creative flare run wild. I love colour, character and beautiful features and textures. As I have travelled a lot and have a number of pieces from around the world which we will build into the interior design aspect. We are already sourcing amazing finishes, pieces and obscurities so keep an eye out.
A Grade 11 listed manor
I’m moving to the UK as my husbands work is taking us there. I have family and ageing parents in the uk so it makes sense we do a stint before moving back to Sydney. We needed to buy a house to live in, so looked all through surrey and that’s when I saw The Beacon online for sale. I immediately fell in love with the project; I love any building with character and that needs renovating – and this one had both in spades. I sent my husband to go and look at it and we put an offer in straight away, even before I visited it.
My favourite artists are Jenny Saville and Diane Victor. Jenny Saville is a genius with oil paint and I’ve followed her since I was 18 (if only I’d bought her work then!) and Diane Victor creates very dark work related to feminism and the political situation in South Africa. Both are female artists that really push the envelope dialogue wise. I tend to be drawn to strong female creatives and designers, as I am a proud feminist!
5 things on the bucket list…
I’ve really lived a lot in my 20&30’s and more recently been plagued with injuries so my bucket list is much simpler these days;
To work in something I love
To one day produce my own wine
To have a holiday home in Italy
To start cycling again
To do some volunteer conservation work with animals in Africa
5 things you can’t live without…
As an art investor…
When it comes to art I either buy for two reasons; I either love the piece and don’t care about whether it is an investment, or as an investment to hold and increase in value.
When I’m buying for investment I firstly have to enjoy the work and then secondly, it has to either be an up and coming artist, or one that is established and still making interesting work. For example William Kentridge is part of every South Africans portfolio but I just don’t enjoy his work so I haven’t invested in any of his pieces. Whereas, Nelson Makamo is very investable right plus I love his work so I own two of his artworks. I’ve been wanting to buy Jenny Savilles work since before her debut Sensation show back in the 90’s (when I could have picked it up for peanuts) but I was a student then so couldn’t much more than baked beans. Now her stuff is worth millions and I still can’t afford it!
I think when people are looking for their next hustle, it either has to happen organically and almost accidentally, or when they are evaluating what they want to do it has to be a mix of passion and what you love combined with being able to make it work timing wise. The thing I’ve learnt with age, is that timing is really important, sometimes you can’t force it – Aisha and I have wanted to work together creatively for 10 years but our lives have just not allowed it. I had a painting itch that needed to be scratched and Aisha had to do her handbags first – it is only now that it makes sense logistically.
We are just so excited to see what we can create together. Watch this space and follow us on @hillsandwestrenovations.
In December we finalise the plans for construction to start in 2020.
Wish us luck. We know we will have fun.