Tag Archives: architect

House Project Update – nearly ready for planning!

It’s a while since I have updated on the progress of our House Project…it has been ticking away in the background but I didn’t feel I should inflict on you our endless discussions on whether to keep the slate floor (he won, it stays) or whether we need a new oven (I won, we do).

We’re finally at a stage where we can move on to the next big ‘To Do’ item – getting ready to apply for planning permission! As soon as the final set of plans from our architect Nadim arrive, I’ll be making a start on filling out the several billion forms that will no doubt be required, and, assuming we get the planning permission, or a Lawful Development Certificate, or whatever it is we need, things will start to get real. Probably not in the timescale I had hoped for (starting February, done by September) but at least we will be moving forward.

What’s interesting is that if you’d shown me our final plans right at the beginning of the process, I would have rejected them out of hand. I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the downstairs to be laid out, and it’s fair to say that what we’ve ended up with is quite different in several respects. It’s definitely better, and more suited to our needs as a family, but I wouldn’t have liked it at all first off.

This is one of the reasons that I’m really glad we set aside some money to do some work with an architect at the beginning of the process. We did have some debate about this – since we’d already had a consultation through Shelter’s Architect in the House scheme, which had confirmed that our basic ideas were viable, the Husband was of the opinion that we could probably go straight into getting quotes from builders. I think we’re both glad that we didn’t do that now.

Apart from anything else, the design process has been fun for all of us. The kids loved the 3D walkthroughs on the computer (though I still haven’t got the hang of walking through without ending up on the ceiling). Having plans to talk about and pore over, without the time pressure of a builder eager to get the job signed off and started, has meant that we’ve really got to grips with what we want from the project. It’s been a creative and satisfying process – each new set of drawings has identified different issues, which have been ironed out as we go along. There have been some surprises – I did not realise how strongly I felt about having a woodburner until I was told I couldn’t have one with the layout I’d set my heart on; I’d thought that a downstairs toilet was a high priority but when it came to the crunch we sacrificed it for a more spacious living area. And the final iteration was a surprise to all of us – in the words of Nadim, our architect ‘The idea for this didn’t come to me until I’d started drawing’.

That’s what we would have missed out on had we gone straight to the builder stage. We’d have got what we thought we wanted, without being challenged by another set of eyes looking at our ideas; without gently having the flaws in my oh so perfect plans pointed out; without getting the chance to mentally live with and play with different iterations.

I’m a bit sad that this process has come to an end actually – I suspect the next bits won’t be anywhere near as much fun!



On Architect in the House


I recently wrote about my tips on choosing an architect – hopefully it gave you some food for thought if you’re about to start a building project. But what if you’re not yet sure what you want to do to your house, or if it’s even possible to do anything, or if you’re just not sure about the moving/building dilemma?

Then you should definitely check out Architect in the House, a collaboration between  Shelter and RIBA.

Shelter is the housing and homelessness charity for the UK; they do sterling work, and not only in terms of advising and supporting those who are homeless or  in danger of becoming so. Shelter also campaign and lobby on a wide range of issues linked to housing; including improving standards in rented accommodation; reducing the number of homes standing empty; and building more houses so that homes – whether rented or bought – become more affordable. These are issues that affect us all – if we’re lucky, we’re affected indirectly, but, make no mistake – we ALL stand to benefit from the work Shelter does.

Shelter have teamed up with RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects – to offer homeowners the opportunity for a consultation with an architect, in exchange for a donation to Shelter. The suggested donation is £45, but you can give as much or as little as you like – and you don’t have to give anything at all, but that’d just be cheeky. This scheme is brilliant if you want some early stage advice, without any commitment, on the possibilities for changing your house. We took part in the scheme three years ago, and it gave us a really good basis for working out which of our ideas were feasible, and which were just mad fool crazy.

Taking part is really simple – you just need to sign up here, and Shelter will match you with a local architect, who will contact you directly to arrange a home visit at your convenience. And when you register, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a Warren Evans bedroom or a very funky brushed steel wall clock from Art Marketing. But a word of warning – the scheme is VERY popular and usually oversubscribed – we missed the boat the first time I tried to sign up and had to wait for the next year, so though the deadline is 21st August 2013, I’d sign up asap.

So head over to Architect in the House, sign up, and start your journey!

More information on the work of Shelter where you are:

Shelter Cymru

Shelter in Scotland

Shelter in  Northern Ireland

Shelter in England

On choosing an architect

You might remember that we are about to embark on a  hugely exciting family journey over the next 18 months  – the house project. I have a feeling that before the end of it, I will be heartily sick of anything and everything to do with builders and decorating. But for the moment we’re in the exciting planning stage, where anything seems possible, and all the horrible stuff that goes with it (moving out, raising a ridiculous amount of cash) all feels nice and vague. Heck, even the husband has said that he thinks it’ll be ‘pretty good’ when it’s done. Believe me, that’s high excitement levels for him!

I’m hoping to blog the journey – when it’s all done and dusted, it’ll be something for our family to look back on (Ha! wasn’t it FUN when the builder broke a sewer/5 of us lived in a studio flat for 6 months/the cat got nailed under the floorboards). Also, if I can rant at you lot when the going gets tough instead of ranting at the long suffering husband, that might give us a fighting chance of getting through this without succumbing to the big D.

Also, I’d like my witterings to be useful to other folk who might be planning to turn their lives upside down in pursuit of creating a living space that works for them, so to start with here’s my tips for choosing an architect.

  • Spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of your project – what are the ‘essentials’ and ‘desirables’? For us, the essentials are: an extra bedroom; an extra shower room & loo; a more open plan living space. Desirables are: a study, more light in the kitchen and another loo. Being completely clear about our needs meant that we could have meaningful conversations with  prospective architects about how they would approach our project.
  • Also have an idea about how creative and avant garde you want to be with your project, and be clear about this when you’re talking to prospective architects. When you finally sign on the dotted line to hire your architect, you want to be reasonably sure that they are not going to come up with plans that, beautiful and sunday-supplement-worthy as they may be, are completely impractical for you and your family. Completely redoing plans, because of a misunderstood brief, will add extra time, and possibly extra costs to your project
  • Talk to family and friends that have recently undertaken building work. Find out what they liked and didn’t like about their architect, and what they might do differently in choosing second time around. They may recommend their architect – and if you have a bona fide recommendation from someone you trust, it’s a pretty good start. But it’s not a done deal – all projects are different and play to different strengths; also personalities are going to come into the equation. So I’d say – add the recommendation into the mix, but don’t skip meeting other architects.
  • Make use of websites that take basic details about your project and put you in touch with appropriate architects. We used Local Surveyors Direct but there are others; you can also find chartered architects in your area on the directory on the RIBA website.
  • Now you have a list of possibles, take some time to find out more about each one. Look at their websites to see what kind of projects they undertake, whether they have recommendations/testimonials, whether they look like people you can get on with – and then arrange to meet the ones that look the most promising.
  • From here on it’s probably a question of chemistry as much as anything else. We met four or five different architects, and probably all of them could have done the job. The one we chose – Nadim from Guildsman was the one who seemed to listen most carefully to what we wanted, and who seemed completely unfazed by talking through the project whilst small children ran amok around him – even to the point of explaining to the eldest why, sadly, it wouldn’t be possible to install a robotic arm with burglar punching capabilities in his bedroom. That sealed the deal for me – if Nad has the patience to deal with robotic arm queries from a seven year old, I figured he’d have enough patience to deal with the queries that he will be getting, on probably an hourly basis, from a slightly neurotic 41 year old. Ha! He has NO idea what he’s let himself in for!

So. I hope that’s a useful starter for 10 if you’re thinking of undertaking a mad fool crazy  dream project. I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions too, both on choosing an architect and on any aspect of a building experience. But for now, we have our architect – and in a few weeks we’ll have some plans! To be continued!