After interior kitchen with dining space.

House remodel in Woburn Sands.

Our clients had bought a bungalow in a very sought after area of Woburn Sands. They had carefully assessed what they wished to achieve with the alterations to the bungalow, in brief this consisted of creating an open plan downstairs where they could eat and entertain guests, and create a first-floor bedroom in the loft space. On analysis, it was clear that not much of the roof structure could be kept, and so they vacated the whole house for a few months to allow the roof to be removed, and a new taller roof structure created. It was all quite a major overhaul of what was a very tired and outdated house.

We also suggested that given the radical nature of these changes, consideration should be given to improving the entrance area. As clients go, these were a joy to work with and we found out early on that as a design team (I believe that the client is also apart of the design team), we could all introduce ideas into the scheme knowing they would all be given open and full consideration. Many ideas were introduced into the design even from the earliest discussions, and the eventual final design managed to effortlessly accommodate nearly everything the clients had wanted, and more.

The resulting chalet now has a fabulous bedroom suite overlooking the most beautiful canopy of trees rising up from the valley below. The interior has been modified and slightly extended to create a collection of spaces which achieve what is required of individual spaces, but they also connect together so that you can pass from space to space in an easy, uncomplicated way whilst taking in the interior and exterior views.

Externally, the building was given more of a facelift. The raised roof structure was treated to a new slate roof, which together with sprocketed eaves always looks majestic. The walls were clad in render and cedar, which enabled us to introduce more insulation underneath, and together with the limited use of metal on parts of the roof, the house now has a modern, fresh and contemporary look.

Obviously, our clients have invested heavily in this project, but the resulting house is perfect, and very special. From out point of view, we’re proud to have been a part of this project, and would thank our clients for the commission, which incidentally has already resulted in two more commissions from admiring neighbours.


Sex, drugs and architecture

One of my architectural lecturers used to say that along with eating drinking and sex, building was also up there as a natural impulse. Perhaps, in essence, at its heart it is nest building. This same nest-making urge may explain why some of our customers wish to convert their loft into a habitable room or extend their house even if they do not need the extra space, at least that’s what I’ve always assumed. However, there may be more to it.

Consider this, we give spaces names such as kitchen, bedroom and lounge etc and even though this nomenclature is very useful when we wish to identify a room, it also describes the activity that takes place there and so becomes a sort of repository for that function. We all like to compartmentalise whether it be our book collection or the aspects of our life and this I’m sure helps us to make order of our lives and make decisions.

However perhaps using such nomenclature belies the subtlety of human existence and life. I now realise that some clients are after a space to sit and ponder for instance, or somewhere to have a quiet face to face chat or even view their collection of matchboxes and they find it hard to explain to me as their designer what they are after.

For me, the nearest we come to this discussion is the subject of phenomenology, which may be described as those factors that together coalesce to form the character of the space. It is not just about the room or the materials or even where the space is geographically located, but something even more esoteric. It’s quite simply about the feeling the space is to engender and therefore, the problem for me is how on earth can I get inside a client’s head to know what feeling this is?

Along with requesting a list of requirements, if I sense it’s going to be helpful, I will also ask for a scrapbook of images that illicit the right feeling and this is useful but not foolproof. I would say to any such new clients, please give this some thought and I’ll try to help.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics.

A successful building project.

As I tell my clients, there are four simple rules for a successful building project.
Firstly, you need a good scheme and plan of work. It should be a thorough review of what is required, it needs to be realistic, achieve the essential goals and be robust.
Secondly, the chosen scheme needs to be adequately documented with good technical plans so that others can quote, understand and ultimately build.
Thirdly, you need to choose your suppliers and builders with care so you can be sure that they operate with integrity and the necessary skill.
Fourthly, and finally, you should not change the design once the building work has been commissioned.
In my opinion, if you follow these four rules your project will almost certainly be a success, and that means on time and to budget.
I will expand on the above four point over the next weeks weeks for those that may be interested.

Garage to kitchen/family room conversions.

I have spoken about garage conversions before, and that to losing the valuable storage space that a garage provides should not be undertaken lightly. However, we have had a speight of projects recently where the existing garage has been in exactly the right place to provide a kitchen and/or family room so that it connects up with the house to create a really great layout. In both cases we have been able to build a new garage to replace the old one. They were both large double garages and so they made great kitchen spaces. One project is completed and the other is still on site at the moment. The other clever thing to do with a garage that is to be converted is to open the roof so a really light and airy space can be created. Given the relatively low ceiling heights of rooms in the UK, the contrast in height makes for an amazing room, especially where skylights are installed.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Project in Bletchley

Our clients wanted to replace a conservatory with a room that they could use all year round. The old timber conservatory was in need of replacement as it was rotten in places but rather than opt for a newer plastic conservatory (which would still have a limited life expectancy), they wanted to invest their money wisely by extending their house and create what we  would call a “garden room”. They believe, as we do, that this would be a longer lasting asset. They wanted to create a more integrated layout so that the “garden room” became a space to be used in conjunction with the kitchen and also formed the ‘hub’ of the house, connecting with the lounge and the garden. The exterior was intended to be simple, unostentatious and blend in with the existing building. The clients are delighted with the results as it gives them everything they required.

What makes us different.

An article on using social media has suggested that as a company, you should make it clear how you differ from the competition. So here goes:

When we start a project off we nearly always carry out a measured survey. Many of our competitors develop a scheme from a basic sketch of the building to be altered and then carry out a proper survey once a scheme was been agreed. We’ve considered working this way, but the danger is that if you base your scheme on erroneous information, the scheme may not be as build-able as supposed, thus leading to delays and additional design costs later on. Of course the cost of the survey has to be borne at some point, but with our way of working it’s at the very beginning of a project, and with the other way, it’s later. I can see why some clients prefer to defer this cost, especially if they worry that they’ll never achieve an acceptable scheme, but we can nearly always find a suitable scene for our clients. Our record shows that less that 2% fail to move forward because we could not achieve a suitable scheme, and all but one of these clients has returned to us with another building to look at. I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons for this is because we’re thorough, and that having accurate data at the outset means we can “design tight”, meaning we do not have to shy away from solutions that are highly spatially/structurally sensitive to what is there in respect of the existing building.We’ve certainly found solutions where others have failed, and this perhaps is one reason for this.

The downside of our policy is that we have to charge more for this initial phase of the work, and no doubt this will put some potential clients off. However, if you read the recent report that shows a great dissatisfaction and mistrust of architects to deliver their schemes to the client on time and budget because of a lack of technical rigour, I must stick to my policy of insisting thoroughness from day one.

Of course, we have our way of working and other successful practices have theirs and I do not wish to denigrate other ways of working. I will, however go on to explain where we differ from other architectural practices in future articles.

Tony Keller
Building Tectonics

Home improvements very much in vogue.

Planning applications have increased 46% over the last year or so (for so-called householder applications) compared to the same period in 2013. As these figures suggest, extending your home is once again a national pastime.

So what is motivating people to extend or improve their homes?

In most cases a need or desire will be driving the process, such as needing another bedroom or a larger kitchen, but in many instances it’s the desire for what has been coined ‘integrated living’. Strange as it may seem, the way people use space would appear to be almost fashion led and we are definitely going through a phase where people want to open up their living space to create a kitchen, family/lounge space all as one. People now see the kitchen as the hub of the home, which should have direct links to other social spaces. Living rooms have become smaller and cosier, a place to retire to later in the evening. Upstairs the pressure is on to create larger bedrooms with a large dressing space for the master bedroom. Interestingly for the first time we have seen some clients prepared to loose a room to create this effect but more often extending the house is the preference.

It would appear that the difficulty in finding a suitable larger house to move to is as much a problem as that of affordability. Although in many instances clients tell us that the cost of extending is much less than moving, once all the costs are taken into account. It is possible that householders are generally becoming more demanding, whilst house builders have not yet caught up in terms of design. If this is true, and I think it is, then extending and altering your house to fit your family’s requirements is more likely to give you what you want, rather than moving. Of course you will need to think about how desirable the house is to others when you come to sell it on, and this is where professional help can really assist.

The art of the drawing.

The advent of the personal computer and computer aided drafting software has made the old fashioned way of producing drawings, namely with a pen or pencil on paper, unusual. It’s true that there are some architects and architectural practices out there that still prepare plans this way but it’s been a long time since I did, and certainly my younger staff never have.

A client loaned us a drawing that he had been given of his house that had been produced for the builder when the house was built in 1933. There is something beautiful about an old plan like this and you can see the pride and the care the draftsman employed in his draftsmanship. Look at the lettering and the rendering of the solid surfaces and you will see that this drawing conveys more than the information strictly needed to build this house. We also take pride in our work and I would hope this is evident in our drawings too, it’s just that denied the ability to express ourselves with hand drawn graphics, we try to make sure that the plans, sections and elevations are set out on the sheet of paper so that it is pleasing to the eye. As they say, first impressions matter and if, even before the client has studied the content of our drawing, we have created a good impression, then hopefully the client will look at our proposals with a more positive attitude. It seems to be working.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

1933 drawing smaller size

Feasibility Scheme Drawings

We pride ourselves on getting the architectural plans for our schemes right, but this is almost guaranteed not to happen on the first try. So when we are commissioned to do a feasibility study, we will keep drawing up alternative designs until we get something that the client is happy with before moving onto the next stage. Sometimes we come up with a number of schemes which explore very different ideas, and sometimes there can be minor alterations as the client gets closer to a final design. It’s so important to get a design that the client agrees with before moving onto the next stage, as if the client changes their minds at any point after this stage it can cause problems which may well make the remainder of the process longer.

Below is an image of a set of schemes we have been working on in the office to give you an idea of the kinds of ideas which have been generated by our team for a particular client.

Scheme ideas

Testimonials and the truth

We received an email from a client last week following a meeting, and thought we would share some of the feedback given to us:

“Thanks a lot for your time today. We do feel that the rigour and length to which you have gone to understand our POV to incorporate in the design is exceptional and we are grateful for the same.”

I asked if I could use this as a testimonial, and he agreed with one condition; “please do not publish my name because I am media shy”. This is fair enough, and so we have respected the clients wishes.

I was speaking to a potential new client who liked our website, in particular, some of the projects highlighted there because they’re the sort of thing he wishes to achieve with his house alterations. In fact he liked everything about us but pointed out that we don’t have many client testimonials or reviews.

This is a frustration I have; clients tell us how much they appreciate what we do, but trying to get them to write something is so difficult. I told my new client this (he has now commissioned us), and we laughed at how easy it’d be to create some fictitious reviews, so the fact that I haven’t must prove something. He also said that he would be suspicious of reviews that were all too glowing, this is of course true. I did mention that sometimes clients say they’re too busy, but if I write something suitable they’ll put their name to it, I have done this on very few occasions. I find it really hard to write a glowing report of our work, so now I know that it shouldn’t be too glowing so as to be believable. Perhaps with that knowledge I’ll find it easier!

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.