This project was for a couple who love sunshine, entertaining and cocktails.
Wanting to maximise their enjoyment of their Victorian terrace home, they called me in for a Home Design Workshop to explore the potential for a sunny roof terrace.
This couple were keen home improvers and had already extended their ground floor to create a beautiful open plan kitchen diner that opened out to their spectacularly lush back garden that rose up a steep slope behind their home.
They had also reconfigured their bedrooms to make it easy for them to entertain guests with two beautiful double bedrooms with ensuites. Their own bedroom had been further maximised by opening up to the loft space to create a dramatic double storey space with a small storage mezzanine.
Their garden, although stunning and well designed for entertaining, lost light towards the end of the day and was in shade by the evening.
What they were missing was some space to enjoy cocktails in the sunshine towards the end of the day.
They had discovered that their mezzanine space enjoyed the last of the evening rays and they wanted to see if they might be able to have a private sunny roof terrace where they could enjoy time together as a couple, enjoying a full evenings worth of sunshine.
This project explored if it was going to be possible to create a roof terrace given the size and configuration of the space. It also created sketches that could be used to discuss the proposal with planners to check on its potential to gain planning approval.
Although the balcony was feasible, the option to use a balcony rooflight, such as the Cabrio by Velux, seemed like a more affordable and flexible option for this couple.
A rooflight balcony would maintain the same mezzanine space internally but allow them to open it up during the summer to create the balcony as and when they wanted it.
Let's face it the UK isn't blessed with all year round sunshine so sunbathing and cocktails in the evening sunshine is unlikely to be a daily occurrence, unless we see some dramatic effects from Climate Change.
This sketch design gave this couple all the information they needed to help them make decisions for their next home improvements and saved them from making an expensive mistake with their home.
Design Your Home Vision Checklist
The first way to improve circulation space is to eliminate it.
Circulation space is just space that you're using to walk from A to B. It's often not very great space. The worst types of circulation space are narrow corridors with lots of doors. If you can, get rid of that type of space altogether.
One way to eliminate circulation space is to make your place more open plan.
In an open plan layout rooms are not separated off from each other and they don't have a separate circulation space in between the rooms. Instead there are different types of uses in the same room. So circulation spaces or hallways are not dividing up your floorplan and using up valuable space.
If you are not comfortable with a completely open space then open plan space can be delineated by furniture, partial walls or sliding screens.
Going from one room directly into another room then into another room is an ancient layout concept. You can see this in very old houses, Speke Hall in Liverpool is a really good example of this. Originally it was a courtyard building. It was built without corridors. You simply went from one room to another room to another room all the way around the courtyard.
Most of us would consider there to be a lack of privacy for bedrooms if you have to go through one bedroom to get to another bedroom. So from our cultural perspective on privacy this probably wouldn't work for most bedrooms. However, it could work in your living room or in your kitchen. For most people there's no problem to go from your living room through your dining room through to your kitchen.
Eliminating circulation space as much as possible and absorbing that into your living space can give you bigger and nicer living space that's more comfortable to use and fits in more of the furniture and activities that you want.
Reconfiguring an existing house by opening it up and eliminating circulation space will make it feel more spacious without necessarily also having to build an extension to create more space.
The second way to improve your circulation space and your floor plan through circulation space is to make that circulation space have more purpose. To give it a use. Especially a use that will give value to you and your life.
You can do this is two ways.
You could make corridors a little bit wider in some places. You could turn them from long thin narrow corridors and make wider spaces that are more useable. You should also consider really carefully the types of door that you use onto that circulation space and the positioning of the doors, and move them if it helps.
If you've got an older home, you might have circulation space that was intended to keep spaces separate so that they were easier to heat and keep warm. In this case you will have a door that you would close to maintain more warmth in the room.
If maintaining warmth is still a consideration for you in your home, at least at some periods during the year, then you could increase openings to double doors or sliding doors so that you can have some flexibility to treat the corridor space as part of the room. This gives you flexibility and the ability to use your space differently depending on the time of the year and the amount of warmth and comfort you need.
If you've got an older building, then maybe you're not actually looking at making lots of big changes. If you want to maintain the character of the rooms then you could give the circulation space more of a defined function to increase its useability for you. You could make it a room of its own in-between spaces.
Here are some ideas of ways that you can make your circulation space more useful and valuable for you:
If you've got a wide enough space for your dining table and chairs and still move comfortably around them, this can be a great option. Especially if you're not somebody who needs a formal dining room very often, but you'd like to have one for occasional use, then this can be a really good option.
When you're passing through it can be quite useful to have a table in a hall to put things down on. When you need to you can bring shopping in, put it on the table and then take it into the kitchen, for example. So this can be a very practical solution. Then you don't have a separate dining room that you're not actually using.
This gives you space with more function. You do need quite a big hall to be able to do this, especially if you want a big table and chairs permanently set up for dining. Alternatively you can look at different types of furniture, for example use dining tables that increase in size, such as extendable or drop leaf tables, and chairs that fold away or stack, if you want to make this approach work in a smaller space.
If you've got enough width or if you've got a staircase and you're not using the space underneath then you can make a home office.
Like many people maybe you now spend a day or two or even more working from home but you don't have a room that you can use as a home office.
Creating a home office within some of your circulation space is a really good way to get yourself a dedicated workspace that's not eating off space from any of the other rooms that you want to live in.
Anywhere you've got a long corridor type space is ideal to hang a swing. Little ones love swings. Adults love swings. Swings are great! So if you've got a long corridor space then you could hang a swing in there and play. You just need to make sure that you fix it into something structural that will cope with the weight and movement.
Corridors are also great for racing. Driving cars up and down. Scooting. All of that sort of thing. You could paint road tracks, train tracks, even just lines or lay a stripy carpet to make it into a play space for your children, or even you, to enjoy that space in a different way.
There are so many fun things that you can do with a corridor or hallway to lift it up and make it not just about circulation but give it more use and most importantly give your life more ease and enjoyment. More functionality in your home will make it work better for you and help you make the most of the space you have.
I hope these ideas:
- inspire you with ideas to make your home a more enjoyable and fun place to live
- show how you can maximise the space you have
- show how you can make small changes to the way you use your home
- will help you make your home an easier and more fulfilling place to live
Design Your Home Vision Checklist
The Design Your Home Vision Checklist will help you kickstart your home improvements.
Download yours with the button below to get your home project off to a great start:
The problem is you have no idea how to get there. You don't even know what decisions you need to make. Or, you have an idea, but it's so overwhelming that you don't know what to choose.
This much you do know. You know you need to replace your roof. Slates have slipped, the battens have snapped, there's no roofing felt left if there ever was any, and it's leaking in several places. You know you need some more insulation. It's freezing in winter and too hot in summer.
Imagine you have your roofer working away already. The scaffolding is going up. Your roofer is asking you for some decisions and needs an immediate answer. They want to get on with the work and you want your new roof completed before the next rainfall. You've got an hour to decide, tops, because they need to get the materials from the builders merchants this afternoon so they can make a start tomorrow.
Then imagine lying awake at night worrying if those were the right decisions and not ones that you'll live to regret.
Imagine taking your time to think about it over the weekend. Chatting about it with your other half over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Filling a Pinterest board with beautiful photos of your favourite options.
Minimum stress. Maximum chance of your best roof outcome.
If this sounds good to you, lets get started making decisions for your Victorian roof with this ultimate guide to Victorian Roofs in the North West.
Making the right decisions will help you to take your roof refurb from standard to stand-out.
Instead of losing character and keeping the same existing and typically poor quality of energy performance you can enhance the original features of your Victorian home and make it easier to heat and feel more comfortable at home, both during the winter and the summer.
To help you visualise all these elements and options follow iarchitectuk on Pinterest, where you can see my Victorian Roof Pinterest board and other architectural design boards to inspire you on your home improvements journey. You can also join my free Facebook group Design Your Home Vision, for homeowners of period property with potential, to share advice, support and inspiration with other homeowners like you.
So what is this significant first step?!
Put simply, it is a description of what you need and want.
I call this designing your vision and I've created some worksheets and checklists to help you.
Design Your Vision
1. Your Needs
2. Building and Site Information
3. Decide your Priorities
4. Your Desires
Why is this such an important first step?
A great brief creates a great building
Are you ready to take the first step for your project?
Stick around and you'll find out why it is!
Best of Houzz for Service Award 2018
Houzz also awarded iarchitect with “Best of Houzz for Design” in 2017 as our project photographs were among those most shared on the platform.
Houzz has also marked iarchitect out as an “Influencer” as we regularly help out members of the Houzz community through the dilemma forums.
We use Houzz with many of our customers to create ideasbooks which are great for communicating ideas and visualizing options. Cheers to communicating beautiful ideas and delivering good customer service!
"Jane's help and advice has been invaluable" Caroline Ellis, Homeowner
"Jane was able to come up with some fabulous ideas that ticked all our boxes and then some." Trasie Einig Jones, Homeowner
"Made the whole build process much less stressful and delivered on every level" Tracey Gibbs, Homeowner
"We are very pleased with the result" Elise Watson, Homeowner
Best Full-Service Architect Firm, Manchester
Excellence Award for Conservation Services, North West
Best Full-Service Architect Firm, Manchester and Excellence Award for Conservation Services, North West.
Since joining the RIBA conservation register as an accredited registrant, iarchitect has worked on a number of conservation projects. Our highest profile conservation project being the landscape refurbishment and access improvements for Northenden War Memorial. Cheers to protecting and enhancing architectural heritage!
Featured in Ideal Home, Dream Homes Edition
Another highlight of 2017 was a beautiful editorial piece published in Ideal Home, August edition. This piece showcases one of our completed projects in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, South Manchester. It is a lovely example of a Victorian Terrace for which we designed the extension, reconfigured rooms and refurbishment throughout to create a striking and comfortable modern family home. Cheers to warm, energy-efficient and characterful homes that meet the needs of modern families!
If you'd like to read about this project you can still get a digital copy of Ideal Home August 2017 edition:
Read about our project on page 100, August 2017 edition.
and every day...
We are expanding
It has been filled with many achievements including:
- a successful application to the War Memorial Trust, funding works to Northenden War Memorial
- several successful planning and building control applications for homeowners and businesses
- opening of the first Sultan Ahmet restaurant - an exciting new UK franchise
- helping worthwhile causes with Landaid though their pro-bono programme
This year has also had many memorable moments such as:
- meeting the latest in voice controlled technology with Steve and Siobhan
- many Home Design Consultations during which I have loved getting to know homeowners and their homes
- chasing around after a toddler whilst discussing bandstands with Joy and the ups and downs of projects with Julie
- behind the scenes in photoshoots for completed projects
- catching up with past colleagues starting new adventures like Sally
It's been a fantastic year and I hope it has been for all of you too. Lets hope that 2017 brings more of the same.
Best Christmas wishes to everyone.
Part 1: Which Architect?
1. Is an architect really what you need?
- Where you want a single structural opening, or a wall removing, perhaps to create a more open plan space. While it is beneficial to get an architects input to decide the positioning of an opening or which wall to remove, to create the space the best suits you, once these are decided then what you really need is a structural engineer to check structural stability and provide calculations for building regulations. It's important to note that any structural alterations require building control approval.
2. What kind of architect do you want?
- Form: strong sculptural approaches to design often using unusual shapes. Think Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. “Less is a bore.”
- Function: clear to understand spaces that are easy to use and move around in. Think Mies Van de Rohe and Luis Kahn. “Form follows function.”
- Technology: cutting edge use of materials that push them to their limits or integrate the latest technological advances. Think Norman Foster and Santiago Calatrava. “Machine for living in”
3. How involved do you want your architect to be?
4. What have they done before?
5. Do you feel relaxed, comfortable and confident with your potential architect?
Has this been helpful? What criteria will you use to select your architect? Comment below.
"I needed some professional drawings for a small extension to my kitchen and advice on building regs, etc. I had a rough plan with my initial ideas and someone to build it but needed some more accurate plans that my builder could build from. The house is 300 years old so nothing is straight!"
- new downstairs loo
- larger dining area off the kitchen
- new entrance hall
- covered unheated porch
- to feel like sitting in the garden
- maintain maximum light into the kitchen
As this was a small project, not requiring planning permission, of traditional build and our client had a competent builder in place, it was possible for the project to progress with only our sketch design. The client and builder made all decisions on detailed design, although we were available should our support be required during construction. Building regulations were dealt with on notice by the builder.
- new downstairs loo, with easy access giving more privacy upstairs
- new front door position, visible from the road making it easier to find especially for deliveries
- larger space for dining, with better light and direct views and access into the garden
- cloakroom area with dedicated space for coats and storage in the new hall
- gallery space
"I really enjoyed our discussions and solutions and everyone was really excited by the plans. The extension took 5 months but it is now finished and we have the final sign off certificate."
"It is gorgeous, really gorgeous and has made a massive difference to our lives. Thank you so much for the design - you did a fab job."
Sitting down over the Christmas holidays
watching the terrible scenes of flooding across the UK made many of us realise how lucky we are not to live in a floodplain. As our facebook feeds filled up with affected friends and family, telling us of their difficulties dealing with the rising water, we could sit back in our lovely dry living rooms and help ourselves to another mince pie and cup of tea.
There are some things we can all do to help reduce the risks, extent or severity of future flooding.
1. Make your drives and patios porous so they don't add to surface water run-off
You do not need planning permission to lay a permeable (or porous) drive as this is permitted development. You do need planning permission to lay a traditional non-porous driveway.
Examples of porous materials are: gravel, reinforced grass, specially laid block paving, and permeable asphalt, concrete or resin bonded aggregate.
Alternatively you can drain to a soakaway so that the water will soak into the ground nearby.
You can find more information in this government guidance document.
2. Fit water butts to your rainwater downpipes to slow water flow
This is a simple example of rainwater harvesting and easy to retrofit. You can then use the water stored in the water butt to water your garden or wash your car and windows.
There are many rainwater harvesting techniques, which can give you a store of water to flush toilets, wash clothes and for other non-potable needs. These can also reduce your water use costs. The options vary in complexity and ease of retrofit for existing houses.
We have a focus on sustainable design and can advise on ways to both save water in use and by rainwater harvesting, along with other energy efficiency measures.
You can book an i-architect Home Design Consultation to discuss your options.
3. Plant trees and thirsty plants
Landscaping your garden can help, both in flood risk areas to direct water and floating debris away, and in other areas to control wet areas and flow. There are many ways to use landscape to control water, such as creating a rain garden with wet-tolerant planting, an area of lower ground which fills up during wet weather and dries out during a (hopefully) sunny summer.
Trees are especially good at taking up water with some mature trees taking 50-100 gallons a day. If the ground is often very wet then you need to use trees and plants that won't die when roots stay wet for extended periods.
Be careful to plant trees that are sized appropriately to your garden and placed where they will not cause damage to foundations and drains.
What actions will you be taking to stabilise the water table in your area?
We frequently save our clients thousands of pounds through our Home Design Workshops. This project is an example of how our analysis and assessment of our clients needs and their homes ensure that we design solutions that suit both lifestyles and budget.
In this home our clients wanted a better connection from the family room to the garden and kitchen. They enjoy entertaining and wanted to host their legendary barbecues in a sunnier patio with quicker kitchen access. The old conservatory was blocking the garden view and the lean-to store was blocking out evening sunshine from the patio.
Existing Ground Floor Plan
Our clients felt they would need an extension to achieve this. So we looked at how an extension might work to create more room, to link to the steeply sloping garden and between the kitchen and family room. They also wanted to move the laundry and freezer from the lean-to store room and into the house to make them easier to access.
We discovered that they had an unused space under the stairs ideal for storage and that their kitchen was brand new and that they were happy with it, apart from the poor link to the family room.
As an alternative we showed them how to create additional storage space within the kitchen, improve the connection with the family room and create a sunnier and easier to access space for entertaining in the garden. This option would simply mean some minor internal alterations, garden landscaping and demolition of the dilapidated conservatory and lean-to store. An option which would save them over £20k in construction costs.
We love improving our clients lives and whenever possible saving them money at the same time. We could help you to do the same with one of our Home Design Consultations.
Light Touch Option
- make the fundamental decisions
- gather the essential information
- set your priorities
- define your wishlist
Design Your Home Vision
Download yours with the button below to get your home project off to a great start:
Get started with the free Design Your Home Vision checklist.
Jane Leach, principal architect at i-architect