The Art Studio Renovation Diary – Phase 1 Completed!

After years of painting trips, holidays and a rollercoaster of a property search, we’ve finally found our dream studio in Cornwall.

Leaking roofs, copious amounts of whitewashing, numerous skips, and an epic space once the working studio of Royal Academy artist Sandra Blow, in glorious St Ives.

I’ve been taking lots of photographs and Vanessa has been writing a monthly journal following our highs and lows of creating a studio and new life by the sea (with 12 short videos of the progress). The Renovation Diaries, 12-months in 12 minutes

Phase 1, The Garden Room, (formerly the Annexe) completed

Hook, mirrors and shelves have gone up. Final paint coats applied, window ledges made, sanded and oiled and all the electrics signed off.

Letting in the Light

Installing the tilt and turn drawing-room window

The windows and sliding doors arrived mid-March in the end, but they were definitely worth the wait. The mid-grey powder coating is the perfect value against the metal cladding on the studio, and once they were fitted the whole space was transformed with light.

We wanted the tiles to feel illustrative with a mix of herringbone in the bathroom, grey grout and a natural leaf pattern in the kitchen. The shelves on the wall unit have been upcycled reusing Sandra’s old shelving from the studio, leaving exposed Mortise and Tenon Joints on the ends for detail.

The ceiling height was raised and a sun tunnel was installed to give a more directional strong light source above the shower.

By April the crew had begun working on the exterior turning it into a huge jigsaw puzzle of painted sealed ply. This was prep for the cedar cladding to go on top of. The other side boarded out ready for a render finish.

Cedar cladding starting to go on with over 300 individual ‘soldiers’ to sit on the fascia.

The workmanship that went into installing the cedar cladding was incredible and it looks absolutely stunning.

A strip of cedar had been routed out so a LED strip light could be hidden behind the facia

We wanted to angle the sofit to mirror the roof pitch, so from the side elevation, you get a lovely subtle design detail.

Luke & Jon from Build St Ives Ltd & Tim stepped in for an improntu portrait. What a fab crew!

Ben the plasterer came back to K-rend the exterior, also incorporating where there had previously been a window, it makes for a much cleaner design.

Before, check out the down pipe over the window

The terrace decking is as level with the interior floor height as possible for a flat, easy-access entrance. The risers on the steps just need a pattern tiled finish that Vanessa is going to install over the Summer.

The resinstated drawing room

Renovating the tall Cezanne-style doors.

Although they’ll need replacing in the future, for the time being, have a new lease of life. Loving using U-Pol, a car body filler for quick filling of the woodwork.

The void where the glazed window had been, now allowed for some alcove shelving to be installed and when the top of the painting door is open it lets in a beautiful high light and view of the sky.

A quiet corner for contemplation…and biscuits

Phase 2 starts in the Autumn/Winter but for now, we are enjoying planning the planting, the summer, the new garden room space, the reclaimed studio and finding time to create again!

You can read the previous renovation diaries here:

This Post Has 166 Comments

  1. Jivko

    This looks so beautiful Will! Congratulations!

  2. Jenny

    Looks fabulous

  3. Lynn

    Absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks, Lynn glad you enjoyed seeing the progress

  4. Henrieke

    Fantastic YOU DESERVE IT .



  5. Chris Peacock

    Looks fabulous. The cedar cladding especially. With time that will form a lovely silvery patina if you let it. The roof, with the battens is reminiscent of zinc or lead but I imagine it is glass fibre. A really sumptuous space. You must be so thrilled with it. Congratulations and here’s hoping you have many years enjoying it. You need a few pictures on those walls though.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments Chris; glad you like it.

  6. valOrie paladinO

    What an extraordinary space. How pleased you must be. Thank you for sharing with us/ your devoted fans!
    Well done both of you!
    Many biscuits & happy painting!
    valOrie p

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey ValOrie, thank you so for your support and such lovely comments.
      Here’s to many more painting sessions with a brew and biscuit!

  7. Tamara Torres


    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Tamara, thanks so much, so pleased you like it.

  8. Giselle snell

    That looks amazing, plenty of inspiration down in St Ives. Thank you for sharing your renovations. Being able to see this is like being part of a virtual artist colony, it’s bliss. You’ve put a smile on my face. Giselle

    1. Will Kemp

      Ahh, that’s so lovely to hear Giselle.

  9. Frances Crosthwait

    Will, all I can say is WOW! I can’t believe the transformation. No one could accuse you of having no vision when you first bought the place. It’s out of this world fantastic, a dream come true, and I wish you and Vanessa every happiness. I can only imagine the peace and beauty you have surrounded yourselves with, something we all need. Thank you so much for sharing this with me, Frances.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Frances, yes the studio is feeling like a very tranquil meditative space at the moment.

  10. irene

    What a stunning home!! So calm, peaceful and flooded with natural light – I love every inch! I bet you are still pinching yourself from disbelief! A million kudos to your crew of artisaans who made your dream come true.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Irene, yes, it was a real team effort; really enjoying the space.

  11. Lisa

    Beautifully designed and documented — congratulations!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Lisa, glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Jan

    What an achievement! The transformation is stunning.
    My congratulations to you both, may you have a lifetime of happiness and endless creative juices. Jan xx

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much for your kind words Jan and positive message,

  13. Victoria

    Stunningly gorgeous design! I hope you submit to home and architecture magazines.
    When will you be starting courses there? I must come. All the best from Vancouver Canada.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much for your support, Victoria and such lovely comments. If in the future I run courses I’ll add details to the blog.

  14. Susan

    That’s absolutely stunning!!! Enjoy! …WOW!

  15. Amy


  16. Leslie Mark

    Beautiful! Many happy painting hours to come…enjoy every moment!

  17. Carole

    This is absolutely wonderful journal and video series of the transformation of this property and in such a lovely place! So much to enjoy!

    1. Will Kemp

      So glad you’re enjoying the journey, Carole; thanks for your support.

  18. Andaleeb

    A beautiful space Will! So open and peaceful!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks, Andaleeb, so pleased you like the design.

  19. Breeze Woodlock

    Well Done!! Love that you included your trademark biscuits. Biscuits are a whole other thing in the states.Congratulations on a beautiful creation of space and light and architecture. Breeze

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Breeze, haha, the biscuits sure helped through the project! So pleased you like the space!

  20. Karen

    You and Vanessa have done a wonderful job. What you’ve achieved so far is remarkable given the challenges with supplies and labor and the ongoing pandemic. I just love the simplicity and how light and airy the space is. Can’t wait to see the results of the next phase. Congrats and enjoy your space, it’s well earned!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Karen, so pleased you like the feel of the space.

  21. Faith

    Beautiful renovation!

  22. C Carter Walker III

    Will, this is absolutely fabulous.
    I am an art teacher/artist and have been following you for a while now. I live with my wife in Albuquerque New Mexico. What you have done is totally inspirational and very much my aesthetic. I might have to totally appropriate pretty much everything you have done there. We have just purchased land south of us along the Rio Grande Valley as we hope to build a new home and studios for ourselves in the near future.
    Congratulations on a beautiful creative space!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Carter, so great to hear from you and fab to hear that you’re feeling inspired. What an exciting project ahead with the new land, sounds perfect.

  23. Sage

    Just spent my last hour reading and watching the amazing transformation of the studio and courtyard. So excellent! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Sage, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the video journal; it was fun to make too!

  24. Carla Zainie

    Wow! Very impressive — both the renovations and the video/photo diary. Congrats to both of you (and your bevy of workers).

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you enjoyed the videos Carla.

  25. Nat

    Thank you for sharing! Your design choices, the inclusion of the beauty of the surrounding town and even the style of the blog documentation of the journey are an inspiration…and the photo of your builders looks like an album cover! – seeing a building renovation through an artist’s eye is such a joy… taking the ordinary moments and details and making them something beautiful and intriguing…thank you for sharing and thank you for reminding me (all the way over in Australia) that the hard work and staying true to creativity is worth it. Congratulations to you both!

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Nat, so glad you enjoyed the photos and films!

  26. Nancy

    Absolutely stunning! May you and Vanessa have many wonderful years in your new house. A place by the sea…so beautiful! From landlocked Colorado, USA.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Nancy, so kind of you to say so.

  27. Tracey Carnahan

    Absolutely gorgeous! What a beautiful and inspirational place to create!

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Tracey, really enjoying the new space.

  28. Laura

    Hi Will,

    Your renovation looks great. Love pocket doors. I imagine if your weather is mild you’ll open them a lot. It’s interesting that many of the design elements you’re putting in are similar to the construction going in the US west coast …like the vertical cedar planks on the outside. Love it. Congratulations.

  29. Gina

    So beautiful… Looks like a dream come true… I love St Ives and Porthmeor Beach (I have a painting of this beach by Elaine Pamphilon on my kitchen wall) and we eat at the Porthminster Beach cafe once a year if we are lucky, when we visit Prussia Cove. I’m sure you have found and created a glorious piece of heaven.

    1. Will Kemp

      Great choice Gina, love the beach cafe, especially if you can grab a pod!

  30. susanbrennan

    Gorgeous space—very nicely done! I would expect no less. Congrats and Enjoy!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Susan, so pleased you like it.

  31. Sally

    Wow! Fantastic job that you and Vanessa and your crew have done! So beautiful! Congratulations !!

  32. Alan Howlett

    Hi Will,
    Serious envy here at what you have both created. Having spent many months bringing our Edwardian Terrace in Eastbourne’s Old Town up scratch I truly appreciate the work you have taken on.
    At the moment we are in Valencia having spent 5 days in Madrid enduring 40 degrees plus. However, after seeing your blog on Sorolla a few years ago we were excited to visit the house ourselves. What an exceptional artist he was. It’s a pity he is so little known in the UK. Our visit to his house was the highlight of the trip, even outdoing the Prado. Thank you so much for introducing me to his work.
    Wishing you many years of joy in your completed home.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you managed to catch the house Alan; it’s a magical place at Sorolla’s.

  33. Alan

    Wow! Great work!

  34. Cilla Gibby

    What an enjoyable couple of hours I’ve just had catching up on all your renovations. Somehow I’ve missed these videos before although I’ve seen several of your posts and been intrigued by the layout of the property. I think I’ve sort of worked it out now. You’ve got some real interior design talent there between the two of you. I hope you take time every now and again to be really proud of yourselves! A big thank you for sharing

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you enjoyed reading the blogs Cilla and are enjoying the interiors, Vanessa has a great eye for colours and pattern.

  35. Terill Mensah

    Absolutely beautiful! It looks so relaxing and calming. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Susan Simpson

    Your renovation is serene in every way.
    Your colors are lovely.

    1. Will Kemp

      Ahh, thanks Susan, so pleased you like the colour palette.

  37. Patricia Murphy

    What a dream!… your home, your studio…all with seaviews and the smell of the Ocean. A wonderful place for creating. Well done and so beautiful!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Patricia, glad you like the space.

  38. Trish

    Looks very posh for an artist. well done!

  39. Giseli Andrade

    What an inspiring place! I’m immensely happy for you Will. I wish that many, many blessings continue to come into your life! Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re so kind to say so Giseli, thanks very much.

  40. Sandie

    totally wonderful Will – I hope you both have many happy and fulfilling years. looking forward to seeing what comes out of that fab studio!

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Sandie, really looking forward to using the space.

  41. Marivone Lier

    Hi Will and Vanessa, what a beautiful space you created, lots planning and effort but a great rewarding. Congratulations and happiness to you both. Cheers from Edmonton, Canada

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Marivone, great to hear from you, so pleased you like it.

  42. Heather Courtis

    A beautiful transformation. Looks like an Australian Beach House. Cornwall- Down- Under.
    May the sun shine every day.

  43. Linda C

    What glorious light you get with those sliding panel windows. Your art space is so beautiful! Congratulations to you and Vanessa. Look forward to pictures of the completed studio.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Linda, so pleased you like the space.

  44. Lela

    What a beautiful transformation and lovely space to spend time in. I love the way those glass doors fold open… so awesome! And nice touch on the biscuits and tea!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Lela, yes the tea and biscuits were essential to the build!

  45. Kathleen

    A beautiful spot, full of light and harmony…and function. The before and after brought a smile to my face. It’s beautiful. Enjoy many Happy Hours there and thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Kathleen, so kind of you to say so.

  46. Diane Peck

    What an absolutely amazing and beautiful space you have both created. Many congratulations on the vision you and your team had to accomplish this, with hard work and drive!! Well done to you and Vanessa and wishing you many happy and productive years there.

  47. Janice

    What a beautiful place! Congratulations on your inspirational workspace. Fabulous.

  48. Ulrikke

    Looks just fabulous! What a beautiful place to live and work! Congratulations

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Ulrikke, glad you like the feel of the space.

  49. Syl

    Only an artist and his wife could make such a fabulous place to work in. You must both be very satisfied and proud. Enjoy those vistas.

  50. Maddy

    Extraordinarily Fabulous!
    What a superb space you’ve painstakingly created.
    Really appreciate how all your efforts have been lovingly documented.
    I have to admit to a little ‘studio envy’, as mine is a somewhat small space in the garden.
    Wishing you both Happiness & Success.
    Maddy Moon Norris xx
    (from Mojacar in Andusia)

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Maddy, pleased you enjoyed seeing the progress of the project.

  51. helen brett

    Fantastic! Congratulations to you both.
    I have painted many of your courses, which were a complete saviour these last two years . I have yet to tackle oils.
    Love to see an open studio in the future!

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you’ve found the courses helpful Helen, and good to know an intro to oils would be of interest.

  52. Joan

    Thank you for taking us on this journey with you. The hard work you and your team have put in is evident in every image. I am envious beyond belief. Congratulations to you and Vanessa.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks for your kind words Joan, much appreciated.

  53. Jude Birt

    Congratulations Will and Vanessa, its a fabulous video/written blog of your dream journey in St Ives. I have a friend who is the niece of Roger and Rose Hilton and shared your blog with her. She was happy to read it and said she remembers meeting Isabella Blow at one of Rose’s exhibitions. I’m hoping you will do some art holidays in the future.

    1. Will Kemp

      Oh wow, that’s fab to hear Jude, thanks so much for sharing.

  54. Ted Trill

    Fantastic Will. When you announced this I could not believe such places still existed. You are doing a wonderful job, I wish you both best wishes for the no doubt many years that you will enjoy living and working there.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s great to hear Ted, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  55. Karen

    Thoughtfully planned for a beautiful but functional and serene space. Thank you for sharing.

  56. Justin

    That looks incredible Will! Being on the tail end of a major addition/renovation myself, I know how good it must feel to start using the space!

    1. Will Kemp

      For sure Justin, it feels great, hope your project is going well.

  57. Carol

    Oh my goodness, there is no end to your talents, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Glad to see biscuits still feature

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Carol, great to hear from you, hope you’re all keeping well. So pleased you like the space.
      W & V

  58. Lisa

    I’m so happy for you both! Beautiful! Blessings from Ottawa.

  59. Sarah

    So glad you have such a beautiful space to live & work in. You and the team have worked very hard to make this and It’s so lovely to see someone realise a dream. It’s been very inspiring, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s so great to hear Sarah, pleased you enjoyed reading it.

  60. Connie Hurley

    Wow, absolutely stunning. That place is a dream, so happy for you both.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Connie, lovely to hear from you, so pleased you like it, hope you’re keeping well.

  61. Juliánna

    This is just so beautiful and serene… breathtaking.

  62. Cindy

    Wow, what a beautiful transformation!!! Great inspiration for your new journey :) Best wishes to you and your family! :)x

  63. Andra

    Congratulations to you and Vanessa. What a stunning space, enjoy it – so well deserved!

  64. Lucy Mocchetti

    Congratulations to you both for creating such a fabulous space to call your own.
    The light and the colours are beautiful. I can see why you have chosen such an inspiring place by the sea. Good luck & enjoy! Lucy

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Lucy, that’s very kind of you.

  65. Gail

    Congratulations on making a dream come true! It is so much hard word but, oh, so worth it. I enjoyed reading every minute of the transformation. Your view is breathtaking and such inspiration for painting and living the next phase of your life. Most people dream of having a place like this. You, Vanessa, and your crew made it a reality. Enjoy!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Gail, so pleased you enjoyed reading about the build and thanks so much for your kind words.

  66. Jane

    Truly a stunning vision you and Vanessa had for this place. It is quite inspiring to see it take on reworked shape, form, life and light. I really love seeing the place you will be taking inspiration and creating new works from now and into the future. What a lovely place to hold you both. Good luck with the rest of the renovations! Jane

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Jane, so pleased you enjoyed seeing the progress, yes, super excited to both work in the space.

  67. Aghavni J

    Stunning renovation . Many happy years ahead of living and painting in a dream location. I’m a commercial designer here in the US – Aren’t those stack back glass doors amazing !!! I’m in love with your entire space.

  68. Cheryl

    What a beautiful place to work in. You must be really pleased with it and in such a beautiful place. I remember our first visit to St. Ives for the day in 1955 when I was three and watching the beat nicks gathering on the front with their motorbikes. Our favourite place in the UK.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Cheryl, wow, it must have been amazing to see St Ives back then.

  69. Bourke

    Thanks so much to you and Vanessa for sharing your renovation journey.
    Time for a biscuit and a brew!

  70. Susan KInne

    What a beautiful, wonderful space. It is so, so lovely! A dream space. Absolutely LOVE IT!!!

    1. Will Kemp

      Ahh, thanks so much Susan, so pleased you like it.

  71. Keith

    Stunning, inspiring location. I am sure you will spend many happy hours in your new studio. Look forward to seeing more of the fruits of your works in future.

    We are looking forward to visiting the North Coast of Cornwall in September for the fist time.

    Best wishes

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Keith, have a fab time in September.

  72. Ruth Hannley

    Thank you Will for sharing this incredible renovation journey with all of us…. So impressive that you and Vanessa had the vision to come up with such an invitingly gorgeous space in which to create art, relax and simply enjoy life in that lovely little town by the sea. I loved being able to take this arm chair journey….Congratulations on a job well done!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Ruth, so pleased you enjoyed reading the renovation progress, glad you enjoyed it.

  73. Nicoleta

    Such a lovely place! I usually like to see renovations, (as I daily watch HGTV:)) but here is an artist’s renovation. Gorgeous! Enjoy!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Nicoleta, pleased you enjoyed it.

  74. Eva

    Will, what a wonderful Studio. Now it’s time to mess it up (hahaha).
    I always like reading your post and work with your courses. Enjoy the great place and the light in Cornwall.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Eva, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.

  75. Mike

    Absolutely outstanding Will! I love the vibes from this place, great atmosphere! An artist dream place :)

  76. Mary

    It’s all been said above – I’m blown away by the process and how beautifully, visually and in written form, you both shared the journey of it. Congratulations, I’m so happy for you and your family – it is all so beautifully stunning, clean, and artistically simple. So lovely to experience JOY (of this) in the crazy world we live in now. Blessings and happy ongoing creating in all forms for you and yours!
    PS – pretty fancy sneakers for construction work ;-))

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much for your kind words Mary, really pleased you enjoyed reading the journey, and the sneakers!

  77. SarahJane

    Wow. Well done. It’s is stunning. Happy painting!

  78. Joan Emri

    Will, Your space is stunning! Love your kitchen tiles! The light you have captured is incredible. A very creative space. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  79. Mario

    Realmente maraviloso!!! Felicitaciones Will.

  80. Grace Glover

    Will, you and Vanessa (and crew) have done a wonderful thing in restoring Sandra Blow’s studio to preserve and honor her amazing legacy. The renovation is simply stunning and shows the care and love you put into it. Well done and thank you so much for sharing your journey.


    1. Will Kemp

      Ahh, thanks so much Grace, so pleased you like it.

  81. Janice Hardisty

    I spent last evening watching all the videos of your home/studio being transformed. I can’t imagine how much work and cost this was for you. But the reveal is absolutely incredible! What an inspirational space for you to live and create. Bravo, Will and Vanessa!

    *BTW, even though I live in the U.S. I have been buying some of my supplies from Jackson. The Jackson brushes are quite nice for the money.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Janice, ahh, so pleased you enjoyed them. Thanks for your kind words on the project. Glad you’ve been enjoying Jackson’s Art brushes.

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