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
"Can I afford this?"
Before I answer this question I want to share with you a story about one of my clients.
She was really keen on the spend-to-the-maximum option. This was her dream home option. It included a large new kitchen diner that would overlook and open up to the garden.
In the end the fit-easily-within-budget option was their chosen way forward. This option met all their needs from their home, leaving the kitchen, dining and living room untouched, and giving them a new guest suite / hobby room, with a shower room and utility.
Since the work has been completed my clients, have traveled extensively and enjoyed many evenings out indulging their passion for music at concerts around the country. She told me that she was really pleased that they had chosen not to spend to their maximum budget as if they had then they wouldn't have been able to live the same lifestyle, with as many exciting holidays or rock-n-roll gigs.
I was so pleased to hear that they are enjoying their life, that their home works well for them, and that they were really satisfied with the choices they had made.
This high level of satisfaction and enjoyment of life is what I hope for all of my clients.
So back to the frequently asked question, Can I afford this?
In truth the simple answer is that I can not answer this for you. Only you know what your finances look like and what your priorities in your life are. But there is a more important question, that I can help you answer.
What you should be asking yourself is...
Is it worth doing this work?
Here I'm giving you 5 key things to consider that will help you to answer this question.
1 | How long will you live here?
If you're planning to move in the next 5 years then look at other homes in your local area, which have the types of spaces and features that you'd like. Compare the market value of these homes to yours. Particularly look at homes that are similar to yours that have been added to.
Speak to a local estate agent to get some help understanding the current value of your home and the potential value once you've carried out the work.
Ask yourself if you can you do that work to your home and then recoup the costs of that investment when you come to sell.
Also ask yourself if it is important to you to be able to recoup your costs, or would living in a home that works for you, even if only in the short term, would be worth the spend even if you can't recoup it?
Or perhaps you're planning to live in this home for the rest of your life, or at least for as long as you can foresee. In that case it will be more difficult to assess resale value possibly several decades into the future and perhaps this is less important to you.
Ask yourself how much you feel it is worth live to live in this home but to make it better and suit your specific desires, needs and tastes. What value do you place on living in this home and having this home suit you better.
Consider how much it would cost to buy a house that meets your needs and desires without having to do any work to it. If you can find one then check what the difference in value is between your potential resale value and the purchase price of your ideal home.
2 | Do you need more space or better space?
If you decide that you need more space then as a starting point you can estimate around £2k per square meter for new build space and about £1k per square meter to upgrade and remodel existing space. This is in no way accurate costing for any particular project but is a reasonable guideline to start to outline what budget you will need.
As you can see it generally costs less to make your existing space work better than it does to build more space.
Estimating budgets based on cost per square meter is a method that you can use to get a ballpark budget figure, that can go up or down from this depending on the detailed decisions that you make. Sometimes these decisions may not be all up to you, for example if you have a really special building, such as a listed building or live in a conservation area, then you may have to meet special requirements and these figures can get much higher.
If you feel that you need more space then consider what do you need more space for? Then you can ask yourself if these uses are really worth the project spend.
If you have enough space but you want to make better use of your existing space then consider how your existing space is wasted or not working for you.
3 | How are you going to pay for it?
Is it from savings, mortgage, lottery winnings, a home building loan, inheritance? Where the money is coming from may affect your project. For example if the money is going to be released in stages this might affect your construction contract.
If you need to find the money somewhere then you need to get specialist financial advice. Speak to an independent financial advisor, a mortgage advisor or broker, to get advise on how to raise money to fund your project.
Do you really prefer to spend this money on your home or would you rather spend you money going to music concerts and extravagant holidays? Consider what other things you could be spending that money on and which is more important to you.
If setting your budget too high will mean sacrifices in other areas of your life then you need to be happy to live with those sacrifices. You might have your dream home, but if paying for that is preventing you from living the life you dream of then is it really worth it?
4 | Have you included for extra or unexpected costs?
On top of the construction budget you need to add 20% VAT and fees for specialist consultants. It is also wise to have some contingency money just in case something unexpected happens on site and this bumps up the cost.
Your basic consultants that you'll need to deliver a good project, are your architect and structural engineer. On top of these, depending on your project, your building and your area, you may also need surveyors to look at a range of things such as asbestos, drainage, trees (arboricultural), bats (ecology), amongst many other possibilities.
You may also want additional specialist designers on your team such as an interior designer, lighting designer, integrated technology or home cinema designers, sustainable renewable heating and energy systems designers and engineers. This depends on the quality of the build that you're looking to create. Which leads us neatly to this final question.
5 | What quality of build do you want?
Quality is a difficult thing to define. It means different things to different people. You need to define what quality means to you.
Then you need to decide if your idea of quality is more or less important to you than the cost to achieve it.
Here are some questions to help you decide what quality means to you.
How long do you want this work to last?
How long do you want this work to last? Do you want 25 years guaranteed and no more. Do you want something short term that you can sell on and don't really care about the long term effects because you'll be out of there. Or are you looking to create a legacy that will last for generations to come. Perhaps something that you can pass on to your grandchildren and great grandchildren. This leads on to other questions such as how durable do you want the materials to be?
Are you happy to carry out regular maintenance work, or not?
Consider the ongoing effort and costs of maintenance. Would you prefer to spend a bit more upfront so that you don't have so much ongoing maintenance to do? Or is there a particular material that does need ongoing maintenance, maybe is a bit more fragile, but you're happy to do that because you really love that material. An example of this might be timber windows instead of UPVc.
Is there anything that you want because you feel that it's the right thing to do?
For example would you prefer to use renewable materials, like timber instead of concrete, or locally made materials like Cumbrian sheeps wool insulation instead of imported German wood fibre board. Any aspect of quality related to ethical or environmental standards.
Will you have any special requirements imposed on your project?
For example if it's a listed building or a conservation area, you might have to use a particular material or traditional technique, such as a Welsh slate roof.
You need to consider and decide a few key things to set the right project budget for you. Improving your home can be an investment and it can also be fundamental to the satisfaction you get from your project and the basis of a lifestyle that you dream of.
Here are the points to consider in bullet form
- decide if this is your short or long term home
- decide if you need more space or better use of existing space
- decide where the money to pay for this is coming from
- include for any extra costs, like consultants fees, VAT and contingency
- decide what quality means to you and if that is more or less important than cost
Setting your budget is only one of the key decisions that need to be made when preparing for a construction project.
For guidance on other fundamental decisions you need to make at the beginning of your project get my free Design Your Home Vision Checklist.
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?
My favourite client brief from 2017 was “Please help me make my home more lovable”. This client didn't want to build more space, but wanted to reconfigure the space he had and incorporate better storage solutions so that his home both looked and felt better to be in.
Please help me make my home more lovable
Typically in the UK it costs about £1,500-2,000 per square meter of new-build space. This means that to build the space for a standard wardrobe, roughly W1.5m and D0.6m, this is likely to cost you between £1,500 and £2,000. Quite a lot of money for hanging some extra clothes especially since it's estimated that the average person only wears 20% of their clothes. So making the most of the space you already have is a good place to start when you're feeling like your home is bursting at the seams.
TIP#1 Gather Inspiration
TIP#2 Fresh Eyes
TIP#3 Spark Joy
TIP#4 Minimalist Game
Tip#5 The Clockwise Sweep
Now that you've completed your Spring Clean and have a fresh view of your home it's time to get the kettle on and enjoy your space. You've given your home a lovely refresh, and the chances are that you know your space better now than you did before. Come over to our Facebook page and show us your before and after photos.
Let us know in the comments below if you need more space and a more beautiful home and what you're doing to make it happen.
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
While travelling this summer I was reminded of the beautifully subtle but relatively rare use of marble for windows. Examples of marble panes for windows can be found in historic ecclesiastical architecture (churches, monasteries, etc), particularly in Mediterranean countries. Although I had heard about this use whilst at university and proposed it in one of my student projects for a museum, I had never seen any real life examples before this summer.
Jaca, in the Spanish Pyrenees and the heart of the Aragonese kingdom, has several examples of buildings with marble windows. Two of these examples really stood out to me, one modern and one historic. I then did some research into marble windows and found a few more examples to share. As the images in this blog piece show, marble windows, create a gentle light source and striking patterned visual effect which can be breathtakingly beautiful.
The external aspect during the daytime of an historic marble window is like looking at an area of marble wall. They look the same as a much thicker piece of marble until you can see light falling through it. At night the effect seen internally during the daytime in sunlight is reversed as electric lighting will create a glow seen outside.
Away from the med in northern europe the light levels are not as strong, so using thin-cut marble is most effective orientated so that sunlight can fall on it. In spaces where a lot of light is not needed, such as those for prayer or meditation, or is undesirable such as for storing and displaying light sensitive objects such as books and art works, marble can be used to both control the daylight while creating a striking decorative interior.
There are some particularly striking mid-century examples of marble windows and two that I'd love to visit are the Yale University's rare book library and the Pius Church in Meggan, Switzerland.
The marble used is white, grey-veined, Vermont marble cut to a thickness of approximately 3cm.
The marble used is Penthelian Dionysos marble cut to 2.8cm thick and in panels of 1.5x1.02m. To create an effect of columns of marble, the panels were carefully selected and cut from the same block for consistent veining. This marble appears as white with grey veins until seen with light shining through, when more depth and colour is revealed.
Did you see any beautiful architecture during your summer trips? Have you used marble or seen it used in any interesting ways? Would you like to use marble as a light source in your project? Let us know in the comments below.
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.
- 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