The clients owned a very prestigious house which had been designed by a renowned company of architects, and it’s in an exclusive part of Milton Keynes. The main problem with the house was the layout which was very dated, the kitchen area in particular, which was very small and lacking an attached family space which is what most of our clients require in a house. The house was built around 25 years or so ago, and in an attempt to create a farmhouse-like exterior, the windows were quite small and set too high in the bedrooms, which was a shame since it restricted some beautiful views. Incidentally, this is one of the best examples we could have of what happens when you try to design in a single-minded way. Good design has to integrate all of the requirements satisfactorily and not sacrifice one in favour of another, and this is why it’s so difficult.
Our challenge was to extend the house in such a way that the kitchen would become more efficient, but would also be a beautiful place for entertaining guests. The family room was separate to the kitchen beforehand, but with some structural gymnastics, we connected the two and suggested opening up the roof above to give an airy sense of space and light. The client wanted a balcony to make the most of the views, so to give the maximum transparency glass balustrades were used. Any balustrades around the rooflight above the kitchen would also cause an obstruction to this view, so we had to make sure the rooflight could withstand being walked over, as opposed to falling through it.
It has its technical difficulties as well; many companies offer glass balustrades, they’re now a tried and tested piece of construction. The difficulty is to robustly fix them to the structure so that they do their job, which is to stop people from falling over the edge. Imagine a family of adults gathered on the balcony to watch the kids in the garden below, leaning on the balustrade, and what it takes to ensure that it doesn’t give way. It’s the interface between building elements which is so often the challenge for us. Even a simple requirement like a balcony, which is essentially a walk on flat roof, has to satisfy many different criteria and can cause ongoing problems if not designed with care.
This project needed to be finished within a very tight time-scale, so to make a success of a project like this, and under those circumstances, the detailing had to be sound. We find that it’s a good idea to specify any off the shelf components where possible, or use items which can be readily fabricated locally and put together by available trades.
Anyway, in short, it happened and we are all delighted with the outcome. We’re very grateful to the client for allowing us to publish the photos below. Understandably, clients are often reluctant to allow us to share with the world what is essentially their private space, so when a client gives us leave to show what we can do we are very pleased indeed.