Open-Plan Living Brings the Family Together at Christmas

Celebrating with the family at Christmas is when open-plan living really comes into its own, as the space lends itself to many layout options and allows for a big table to be the centrepiece of the celebrations. Our happy clients in Luton have just put the finishing touches to their open-plan living/breakfast/dining/kitchen area; created by a rear extension and are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in their new space.

Although our clients originally had lots of ideas, they needed us to help them decide what was economically feasible given their lifestyle, family needs and what was a sensible spend on their particular house. The scheme they chose resulted in a rear extension to create a stunning open-plan kitchen/breakfast/dining/living area that the whole family could “live” in, but also has individual zones to work unhindered. 

During the festive period, although more formal dining is popular; open-plan dining is still the preference year-round of most homeowners; as separate dining rooms have yet to make a real comeback.  Whilst some people still prefer the dining room set-up, if you have a big family it can be challenging to try and fit your own family around the table, let alone grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Therefore, an open-plan living/dining/kitchen space has this advantage.

In houses that still have separate dining rooms but also enjoy an open plan kitchen/diner/living area, it is often the case that the old dining room has been converted into a snug, playroom, office or sometimes even a downstairs guest bedroom.

Although homes with open floor plans offer great light and views (often across the garden) and are very sociable for entertaining and bringing family and friends together; they can sometimes be tricky to decorate at Christmas. The high ceilings and minimal walls can make it hard to define areas, create transitions and get the scale right and can sometimes make the Christmas tree look too small for the area.

Therefore, whether you prefer a fresh-cut tree or an artificial version, buy the tallest and fullest tree that will fit comfortably in the spot you choose and upsize your Christmas decorations so you can see them from anywhere; making sure your tree lights are bright enough to make it dazzle as part of the overall décor. When your living room, dining room and kitchen are all one big space, it helps to pick a spot to be the focal point of the decorations which could be the fireplace if you still have one?

Whilst it is great to have all this space, it can sometimes not feel very cosy, which is why it is important to structure the space to give defined areas for eating, socialising and quiet time thereby, making it much more functional and useable. This is indeed what our clients have created by having a dining/breakfast area, kitchen space and then a cosy area with sofas so, all of the family can be together but they don’t need to be on top of each other all the time.

In properties where the original dining room is now being used as a playroom or office, if you came to sell, the agents would more than likely still refer to it as a dining room in the marketing literature. However, by giving it an alternative description, such as calling it a dining/family room, it shows potential buyers the flexibility of the space and how it could work best for them.

All houses need to continuously evolve over time to suit the changing needs of their owners let alone a new buyer, so the use of the dining room will probably change a few times over the years. Although open-plan gives more options, it needs to be clear where people could easily put their table and chairs. The trend for staying in more and hosting dinner parties or gatherings in your home, does mean that open-plan living is a bonus, as it makes it more informal and guests can socialise with the host in the kitchen whilst they cook.

Whatever your preference; be it modern, open-plan dining or the traditional dining room for family get-togethers, the beautifully decorated dining table will always be the centre piece of your social gatherings over the Christmas and New Year period and where all your memories are made.

If you would love to have the benefit of an open-plan living space for next Christmas with your family; please do contact Building Tectonics Ltd to see how we can help you with ideas for how to achieve it.

We would like to wish all our clients (past, present and future) a wonderful and prosperous Christmas and New Year!

Open-Plan Living in Luton

Our client found us on the website called Houzz and, after reading all the positive reviews we had received from previous clients, contacted us regarding their 4-bedroom detached property in Luton. They had lots of ideas for potentially extending or remodelling their home including creating an open-plan living area; but needed our help to turn the ideas into workable schemes. Having read about our Feasibility Scheme on our website; they rightly assumed that this would be the way forward.

Our Feasibility Scheme involves us visiting a client, listening to what they feel is lacking in their current house or what they wish to achieve and then carrying out a survey of their property. We are then in a position to formulate workable ideas which we typically send to clients 3 to 5 weeks after our visit.

They were not short of ideas for what they hoped to achieve and the ideas ranged from an open-plan dining/breakfast/kitchen/living space which would become the ‘hub’ of their home to possibly adding another bedroom.

Discussions also revolved around a better designed kitchen, a utility room to hide away some of their appliances and the washing when it was drying indoors. Their existing dining room was also quite dark so they were looking at possible solutions to provide an area for working from home or for the kids to study in.

Once the process got going it was clear that they really only needed a single storey extension; which meant demolishing their current conservatory and then remodeling some of their existing space. Other ideas that had been considered included the possibility of a Loft Conversion but we soon established this would involve a new roof as the ridge was too low. 

They needed us to help them decide what was economically feasible given their lifestyle, family needs and what was a sensible spend on their particular house. The scheme they chose resulted in a rear extension, creating a stunning open-plan kitchen/breakfast/dining/living area that the whole family could “live” in, but also has individual zones to work unhindered. 

The build was finished this Summer and now they have just put the finishing touches to the interior; so it is now all ready for Christmas. Early in the new year they will also lay a patio area outside the new bi-fold doors; ready to make the most of the outdoors in the Summer. In the meantime they can also enjoy the view during the colder winter months.

Our clients said “You worked up many ideas before we chose one for our extension; which was at the end of last year and we finished the build late this Summer.  Many thanks for the great variety of designs that really helped us get to where we wanted along with the help guiding us to what was structurally sensible, the Planning Process and Building Regulations too, of course. Thank you as it looks great and we are really pleased with the end result”.

Kitchen Extension in Caldecott, Milton Keynes

Many of our clients contact us on recommendation from a builder; as was the case with this side extension project in Caldecott, Milton Keynes to create a new kitchen space, utility room and enlarged garage.

The builder had in turn also been highly recommended by friends of theirs. The design brief was relatively simple; but what set this project apart was the attention to detail and the finish achieved in the execution of this extension project.

Our goal with any house scheme we produce is to give the client what they want; but without any unnecessary complications. We achieve this by carefully listening to the clients wishes, interpreting these points and bringing into the discussion other aspects that they would not necessarily think about. This means we can produce the best possible scheme using our expert technical knowledge.

Once we had produced the kitchen extension schemes, obtained planning permission and building regulation approval, we handed the project data over to the client.  We were therefore, delighted 7 months later to be invited back to see the finished result and to be met by very happy clients and a proud builder.

If a project starts off on the right footing (no pun intended); then it can progress to fruition without any drama for the client, subject to them also appointing a good builder of course.

House Remodelling in Bedfordshire

Our clients in Bedfordshire asked us to look at their modest 3 bedroom bungalow to see if it would benefit from remodelling. Although the bungalow had been previously extended a few times to give more space and to create a beautiful kitchen; they felt the layout still had outstanding issues that needed resolving.

Its main entrance was tucked away up a long path bounded on one side by the bedroom wing. This was awkward and far from an impressive visual introduction to the house. The lounge worked well as a cosy snug, but as a main lounge it was too small. Externally, the house did not connect with the garden and the garden itself being adjacent to a busy road, suffered from noise and a lack of privacy.

The key innovation we brought to the problem was switching the lounge to the bedroom wing and the bedrooms to where the lounge had been. Our plan recreated the bedrooms as a two storey wing to ensure no bedroom capacity was lost.

Bringing the lounge to the front of the site meant that a beautiful and spacious entrance lobby adjacent to the car spaces could be added. Remodelling the layout meant that it worked as a house should in terms of approach and connectivity with the garden and the interconnection of the rooms. The garage was moved and rebuild to act as a screen between the garden and the road. This created a private and beautiful lawn space that the lounge and bedrooms could overlook.

It must be noted that during the construction phase the builder and the client also had their own moments of inspiration. This not only enhanced our general concept but helped create a house and home that is a delight to live in.

Remodelling and Extension of House in the Country

At first glance, this superb house in the rolling hills of Buckinghamshire appears to have it all – a character building with generous rooms and plenty of land around it, perfect for a growing family. However, even a big house with lots of room and green space can still have its issues and need remodelling to make it work more efficiently for the people occupying it.

When our clients bought their current home; it suffered with some major problematical issues with the layout and headroom in certain rooms.  Alongside this they desired a wow factor kitchen which you would normally come to expect in this size of house. Unfortunately, the existing kitchen space was just not suitable to make this a reality which was a shame.

Our first stage in visiting a client is normally to conduct a feasibility study to see just what is viable with the house. During this step we identified some old outbuildings that could potentially be connected to the house via a new extension.

Having shown our clients how this could work as an option for their new kitchen; they decided to take this opportunity to also look at other aspects of their house that they didn’t like. They left no stone unturned in their desire to create their perfect home.

Our clients possessed great attention to detail and working with us on the project resulted in the stairs being relocated. This created a beautiful spacious entrance hallway and corridors.

The overall end result is stunning and has given them a much more useable layout, along with the big kitchen they longed for. We think you will agree the new extension looks fantastic and blends seamlessly with the existing house.

Top Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Almost overnight the mornings now have a distinct chill, the evenings are already getting darker earlier; and the warmth of the summer sunshine is becoming a distant memory.  As the evenings start to draw in, it’s time to start looking at your home and garden to see what needs organising before the chill sets in and how to make it cosier and work more efficiently for you.

Summer versus Winter
In the Summer it’s all about connecting with our outside space and spending as much time outside enjoying our gardens, patios and decking. Blinds are used to keep rooms cool and we use air-conditioning and fans in the really hot weather. However, as it cools down the opposite is true with windows being closed (also to try and keep the many spiders out) and central heating and fires being lit to warm our homes.

Move your furniture
In the warmer seasons; we tend to turn our furniture more towards the windows to enjoy the sunshine coming in, with our windows and doors all left open to let the fresh air in.  However, in the winter months furniture is rearranged for a cosier feel centred around the fireplace or another central focal point. Make sure you move any furniture away from radiators to maximise the heat coming out.

Roof ventilation
In the Summer months, the roof space can literally bake and if there is nowhere for that heat to go it will build a stack of hot air in the roof which will eventually force itself into your living space from the ceiling down. It is essential therefore, to install just enough ventilation to stop the stacking effect.  In the winter months; you have the opposite problem of all your heat rising into the loft, so it is recommended to consider insulation in the loft to stop the heat rising and the cooler loft space impacting on your downstairs space.

Adjust your thermostat
It is suggested that in some circumstances for each degree you turn down the thermostat towards the outside temperature you reduces your heating costs and greenhouse emissions by roughly 10%. Make sure though that your boiler is in tip-top condition and has been serviced within the last year to make sure it is not only safe to use but working as efficiently as possible. Bleed any radiators to make sure they are working properly.

Get snug with textiles and textures
When it starts to get chilly; we dig out our jumpers and cosy socks but the other way to keep warm and make your home look cosy is through the use of textiles and textures. You can introduce more fleeces and fake fur throws into your home to put on the sofa; along with cushions in cosy fabrics like chenille to keep yourself snug of an evening and the heating down lower.

Check for any gaps
It is a good idea to check around your doors and windows for any significant gaps and seal them to keep any drafts out (and spiders).

Close your doors
Make sure you don’t leave all your doors open, so therefore, close the doors to rooms you do not use which thereby reduces the area to keep cool or warm.

Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs)
These bulbs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs which will save you money as well on cooling. Also consider LED lights as they are often cheaper and easier to retrofit. It is a good idea to consider brighter bulbs for those darker days but make sure they are energy efficient where possible.

Clothing
If you can get your family members into the habit of wearing a jumper and similar warm clothes; you will save a fortune in heating costs. You will be using your own body heat to help keep you warm, so allowing you to reduce the heating thermostat.

Use an electric blanket at night
If you don’t like a hot bedroom but still get a bit chilly, why not use an electric blanket or go old school and bring out your hot water bottle which means not having to heat the whole bedroom.

Put your Summer clothing away
Once the last of the sunshine has gone, put your summer clothing into the loft to make more room for warmer winter clothing.

Tidy your garden space
When it comes to your outside space, make sure you put your garden furniture away that is susceptible to wet weather (or frost) and could potentially crack.  Look at bringing any plants inside that can’t cope with winter or cover them with protective sleeves. 

Give your windows one last clean
Autumn is a good time to have one last clean of your windows before the bad weather sets in. It also gets rid of some of the many spider’s webs and nests that have appeared towards the end of the summer.

We hope some of these tips have been useful to help you organise and transform your home ready for the Winter 😊

The Benefits of Choosing an Experienced Architect over a Cheap Drawings Company

Making your dream home a reality can be a costly process and understandably many people try to keep their costs as low as possible; and stick to a budget – whether this is £5,000 or £500,000. The first step in this process is to arrive at a scheme that gives you what you want. However, it also has to be possible structurally; so, you can then make the decision whether to go ahead with your project.

Therefore, the first point of call is making contact with either an architectural practice or alternatively, a drawings company that offer a fixed low-cost package. Whilst many people think that by choosing the low-cost package drawings firm, they are saving money this is often not the case. We wanted to show you why this is not always the cheapest option and the pitfalls to look out for when choosing a company to design your house alterations.

What are your requirements?
As an experienced architectural practice, once a potential client makes contact with us, we would always start with a Feasibility Scheme. This is a fixed fee service and involves visiting your home at a time that suits you, to listen to your requirements. The visit normally takes about two and a half to three and a half hours.

Which is the best scheme for you?
Following the visit and survey we will produce a number of schemes for you to consider and will work with you until you are happy that you have the best possible scheme for you. It also needs to have the best chance of being approved by planning. Once you have a chance to evaluate our schemes and give us your thoughts, we can then further explore a particular idea and alter it as necessary.

The Planning Application Stage
The second stage is the Scheme Acceptance which is where we proceed with your chosen scheme. A Planning Application is then submitted to the Planning Authority, preparing the Building Regulations Application and then Project Managing your scheme to completion.

How do we save you Money in the Long Run?
Whilst this may sound fairly simple and you would think that any company could offer this service; it is rarely an easy transition. There are always queries and issues that pop up along the way and this is where an experienced architectural practice has the advantage over a fixed fee drawings company. They know every detail of your agreed scheme and can tweak it and liaise with the different bodies along the way from planning through to building control/regulations.

As an architectural practice, Building Tectonics have close relationships spanning over 30 years with the local planning authorities. We therefore, know what is likely to be approved and where you may run into problems; therefore, saving you time and money in the long run.

Over the years, many clients have come to us after choosing the cheaper option and then later regretted it. They have found that the company in question just didn’t have the knowledge or expertise when they ran into problems or they simply didn’t like their design concepts. They therefore, end up coming to us to try to sort it out. We are always happy to take a client on at any stage but it can sometimes take a while to rectify what has been undertaken already by the previous company.

Many of these package drawings companies may also say that they include all fees; but often further down the line you will find areas crop up that are not included. The fees may also not include you making any design changes at a later date. Whilst they can do the basic drawings they won’t think outside the box and give you alternative options that you may not have considered and find a solution that really suits you, your family and your lifestyle.

These services tend to focus on speedy transactions and quick turnover as this is how they keep their costs so low. They just don’t offer the personal architect/client relationship that architectural practices have, where we aim to find the best solution for our clients whatever it takes.

Building Tectonics will design and develop your ideas and work with you to guide you through the whole process step by step. We always go the extra mile to find a scheme that gives our clients the best possible fit with what they desire. Not all clients know exactly what they want and during the exchange of ideas and two or three different schemes, the brief can often get altered several times until the perfect solution is reached.

If you would like to know more about the services we offer and how to take the first step towards achieving your dream home; please do give us a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.

Townhouse Extension in Broughton, Milton Keynes

With Milton Keynes being a relatively new city; it includes amongst its housing stock a large number of townhouses. They are a popular choice for many housing developers due to them still offering 3-4 bedrooms to potential customers but on a considerably smaller footprint. Therefore, more houses can be packed into housing developments.

Whilst they are popular with the younger generation who find the living space works for them sufficiently, further down the line it can became more difficult when growing families struggle to make the space work for them.

Many clients are now contacting us because they either already owned one of these townhouses or have recently purchased one and want to know what their options are. They are desperate for more downstairs living space to accommodate the children’s toys and other belongings that they have built up over the years.

Back in 2014 we were asked by a kitchen design company, that we worked with to make contact with the owners of a house in Broughton. The townhouse was built in 2009 and like so many houses built now, suffered from not enough family space on the ground floor. With it being a 3 storey; it benefitted from plenty of bedroom space. It also featured a reasonable sized garden but on the downside the kitchen/dining space was relativity cramped for everyday family life.

The obvious solution was to extend the kitchen area and create a family open plan area that could be used all year round with plenty of light coming in. Whilst we knew what needed to be done to improve the house; it is always the extra care and attention to the design that can really make the end result special for the client.

Given the window configuration to the upstairs, which the clients did not wish to alter, we had to choose a roof shape that would be compatible with their existing design. This in turn facilitated a double aspect skylight configuration, which really does make this room space special.

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Our clients have dressed the room beautifully and the kitchen designers have really made the most of the new space. They have given them a stunning open plan eating/living area that they can really enjoy spending time in.

As an architectural practice; it gives us a real thrill to know that we have been instrumental in achieving such a lovely space and knowing that without any exaggeration, how this can transform people’s lives.

If you have a townhouse and would like to know more how you can benefit from extra downstairs living space; please do give Building Tectonics a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.

Kitchen Extension – Woughton on the Green

Our clients in Woughton on the Green desired a new updated kitchen which made the most of the fabulous countryside views from their garden; so, therefore came to us for ideas and design options. Due to the L shape layout of their house it meant we could explore a number of locations, orientations and designs as to where was best to locate the new kitchen extension.

A new design was chosen by our clients and achieved exactly what they asked for – a light and airy kitchen with an island for cooking and socialising; which they did not have before with roof lights which really open up the space. The bi-fold doors across the back means more importantly it now connects with the surrounding landscape whilst overall integrating better with the house.

Our clients said “We thought you’d like to know that John Foster has practically finished our extension now and we are extremely happy with the design and plans”.

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Connect Your Home to Your Outside Space with a Garden Room

Garden Rooms are often thought of as being a separate cabin style building down the end of your garden; which you would typically use as an office, craft room, a spare bedroom or as a separate summer only additional living space.

However, did you know that a Garden Room can also refer to a fixed structure that is part of your house? This can be from designing a new structure to extend your existing living space, or by altering a conservatory into a more usable room that connects your living space to your garden as a conservatory does; but with the benefit of being able to use it all year around not just in the warmer months.

Whilst conservatories have their uses and in the summer are great spaces to relax in and make the most of the sunshine streaming in; they can become too hot at the height of summer as the heat becomes trapped inside and they are difficult to cool down. At the other end of the temperature scale; come the winter, they then become too cold so people end up shutting them off from the rest of the house and using them as storage; as they are simply too cold to even open the door to let alone use the space. This is a shame as it is often a good-sized space that is not being fully utilised and thereby restricts your overall living space during the winter months.

However, there are a number of options available to make this space more useable. These range from swapping the glass/polycarbonate roof to an insulated tiled roof to help maintain a consistent temperature; through to swapping the structure for a more permanent structure that can be put to full use throughout the year.

Additionally; many clients are now asking for a garden room to be added to their house when they have no existing structure there in the first place. They love the idea of having a room that they can relax in and enjoy the garden views from whatever the time of year; making the most of the summer or winter sunshine but with it still being part of their house rather than separate.

Whichever route you are considering, replacing a conservatory with a permanent structure that can be used all year round will not only add value to your home but will make it more attractive to sellers should you decide to move later down the line.

Here are some examples of Garden Rooms we have worked on for previous clients:

Garden Room – Milton Keynes
Our client wanted a garden room which could be used all year round without costing a fortune in heating bills. Therefore, we produced a light airy room that connected with the garden and the rest of the house. We also advised on the reshaping of the garden and rebuilding of a garden wall to create an adjacent outdoor sunspace. They were very happy with the finished outcome and said “The project was delivered on time to a high spec. Building Tectonics engaged with us throughout the process ensuring that any changes were managed and we would highly recommend them”.

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Conservatory Conversion – Milton Keynes
When Tony, our company director, brought his house it included a conservatory so one of the main upgrades he made was to put a ‘proper’ roof on it.  This required getting builders to form a foundation outside the conservatory, construct the necessary steel-work, remove the old plastic roof and replace it with a new traditional roof. The glass sides and floor were left as they were but it had a super insulated roof installed. Although the conservatory was already there; Planning and Building Regulation approvals will often still be necessary for this type of work.

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House Remodel – Bedfordshire
Our client had bought a very tired 1960’s house which they thought needed remodelling. The house had a very un-inspiring appearance, an outdated internal arrangement, very poor insulation and lacked connection with the garden. An architect had produced some plans but the client thought these were unsuitable. Therefore, we were asked to perform our magic and remodel the house and make it a home fit for the future. We are pleased to say that everyone has been delighted with the results.

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Do you have an existing conservatory or outbuilding that you would like to make better use of and to connect it with the garden for all-round year use? Or would you simply like some ideas for how a new garden room structure could be added to the back of your house? Please do get in touch to see how Building Tectonics can help you.