35 Years in Business for MK Architectural Practice

35 years in business

The 10th July 2020, marks 35 years in business for ‘Building Tectonics Ltd’ as an architectural practice in Milton Keynes. Whilst we want to take the opportunity to celebrate this notable accomplishment, we also wanted to reflect on how things have changed significantly over the years especially in terms of technology, what we have learnt and our biggest design achievements to date.

We Design, You Enjoy
Over the last 35 years we have re-designed, altered and extended hundreds of happy clients’ houses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Many clients have come back to us a second (and even third time) when they have decided to make further changes to their homes or moved house. We have always endeavoured to exceed the aspirations and desires of our clients whilst providing a personal and friendly service. Our aim is to generate innovative and intelligent design ideas that often achieve much more than the original client brief.  Indeed, that is why our business slogan is ‘We Design, You Enjoy’.

Where it all started
To go back briefly to the beginning; Building Tectonics Ltd, was formed by Tony Keller, our Chief Designer in 1985; following a career working on large commercial projects in and around London.  The business moved to Fenny Stratford in 1998 after completing the conversion of a Grade 2 listed building into three commercial units and three flats; after which the team moved to our current office space in an old Salvation Army Hall. It was completely refurbished to create a wonderful studio space that we now enjoy together with other companies.

Tony Keller – Chief Designer


High quality architectural design
Our ethos is to provide a high-quality architectural design led by a careful feasibility planning process to make clients projects a reality, without suffering the pitfalls that many owners of properties face. With Tony’s excellent organisational and communication skills and extensive knowledge of what does and doesn’t work design and build wise, it means all the projects that we as a company take on are managed successfully to completion.

How technology has changed over 35 years
We have seen many changes over 35 years in business with technology being the biggest shift. When we started out in 1985; there was no internet, emails or social media and everything was done via the telephone, fax or post. Computers were slowly coming into use but were not at the same technical level as today. Drawing boards were used (many architectural technologists still draw by hand even now) and we had no laser measuring equipment or Google Earth. It was a slower pace of life as you had to wait for responses, documents and fees via the post instead of just logging into a system.  

The introduction of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn has meant us constantly having to reassess how we work and promote ourselves to potential new clients. This includes how we share useful information through to how we promote our new projects. Our website is obviously key to showcasing our work; but websites such as ‘Houzz’ are also becoming critical to view a professional’s previous design and/or building work.


Home design across the years
Home design is very different to 35 years ago; when it was mainly featured in company brochures and renovation magazines.  It is now heavily influenced by the many TV programmes on renovation, design, interior design and DIY across numerous different TV and streaming channels. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are key for clients to consult to get ideas for designing a room (or their entire house) and there is not much you cannot find on there if looking to extend, remodel or make any changes to your home. Social media influencers are constantly piling pressure onto people to try and achieve the same lifestyle as them by showing their rooms off and endorsing household products and styles.

Increasing popularity of open-plan living
Open-plan living is still one of the most popular schemes that we as an architectural practice get asked to design; as families aim to spend more time together whilst also having zones to enjoy individual time in. Loft conversions are also becoming more and more requested as children stay at home for longer and therefore, need more space with many families not able to afford the next step up on the housing ladder.

Staff have come and gone over the years and each one has contributed a great deal to the business and its clients. Our current team have a varied skill set but each have their individual areas that they excel at and work together to meet our clients varied needs.

Renovating listed buildings takes a certain skill set which, fortunately as a practice, Building Tectonics have and it also helped our Chief Designer, Tony realise his other dream of owning his own restaurant after converting our original office in the Grade 2 listed building into ‘The Fenny Kitchen’ an Anglo Mediterranean Restaurant which opened in August 2018.


Still here after 35 Years
We are proud to have survived as a business for 35 years despite several recessions, the twin towers disaster, hurricanes, record heat, rules and regulations and of course the latest COVID-19 crisis and currently are lucky to be busier than ever. This unfortunate crisis with people having to spend months locked in their homes has meant they have now identified more than ever what they want to change about their houses. Therefore, following the ease in lockdown restrictions we have been contacted by numerous home-owners to ask for our help with design ideas for changing the layout of their houses.

Tony Keller, Owner and Chief Designer at Building Tectonics says “We are still here despite the economic and health crisis’ mentioned above and still really love our job. Our aim is to help people with sometimes tough choices, sometimes helping those with what we call the problem of choice (too many choices and can’t decide), sometimes achieving what the client dreamt of but dare not hope was possible and sometimes saving an old building by showing how it can have a new lease of life. We hope to continue helping our current and new clients realise their home dreams for many more years to come”.

Building Tectonics are proud to be a member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists and an approved member of Milton Keynes Buy with Confidence Scheme; so, you know you can put your trust in us. We aim to leave you with a house that is designed for a modern family lifestyle.  If your requirements are just a simple home extension or a loft /garage conversion, you too could benefit from our expertise and experience.

Please look at our projects on Facebook, our website and Houzz to get a taste of what we can do and why we have so many delighted clients. You can contact the Building Tectonics team on 01908 333000 or message us via Facebook and we will be only too happy to discuss whatever project you may be looking to undertake.

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!

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.

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.

How Clerestory Windows Can Bring Light to the Darkest Home

If you need to bring more light into your home without losing valuable wall-space, Clerestory windows could be the answer to your prayers.  Although mainly seen in the commercial sector or in contemporary/smart houses and apartments, these little gems are windows at high level (above your eye line). They are often used by architects and designers producing individual homes for self-builders but despite this, many aspiring self-builders do not actually know what they are.

The term ‘Clerestory’ was originally applied to the wall containing the windows above the nave (that’s the middle bit often incorrectly called the Aisle). So believe it or not, the Bride and Groom do not actually come down the aisle, they come down the nave! The windows created light and airiness in our magnificent cathedrals, which is exactly what the architects were trying to achieve. As the building technology developed to create bigger and bigger openings in the structure, the amount of opaque glass got larger and more impressive.

The main aim was to impress and show off to other cities just how technologically advanced they were. However, there is no doubt we are still impressed, even today, by so called curtain glazing or perhaps a well-placed little window that just manages by its position and orientation to allow some light to infiltrate into the otherwise darkest vestige of a house.

As house designers, it is this type of clerestory window that we are interested in because that little chink of light can be so effective in contemporary interior design. It can be unexpected, it can cast shadows picking up the sculptural nature of the structure and it can carry inside the mood of the day. Therefore, connecting you with the early morning sun, the turbulent sky or the hues of the setting sun.

From a practical standpoint, clerestory lighting can be useful to avoid overlooking in compact cities and it is the height of a window that determines how far light will penetrate into an otherwise gloomy room. Even with ordinary eye level windows, the width of the window will determine the light intensity in the room near the window. If you want the light to penetrate in then it is the height of the window that is important. There is also something to be said for orientating the clerestory window northwards because north light is more consistent. It also does not cause glare one minute requiring the blinds to be drawn and dinginess the next, making it necessary to turn the light on.

The other advantage in using north light is that solar gain and over-heating will not be a problem. Beware of using too much glass inclined to the south facing sky because of overheating. You will not need such a big glass area anyway because the light that they will allow in is much more effective than the equivalent window area. Lastly you may wish to avoid roof lights in bedrooms unless you are a very sound sleeper as hail hitting glass is very noisy and can be quite scary.

Another useful feature of a clerestory window is when your self-build or new extension is often overlooked on one side by an ugly wall or other feature belonging to the adjoining house that is very close to you. Therefore, it will provide light at a high level but the narrow size of the window will mean that the ugly feature can hardly be seen.

Clerestory windows are also useful on single storey houses when there is a projection outside the building in the form of a corridor; which is used to get from the front to the rear of a long, thin single storey house. A clerestory window therefore, can help counter the effect of the corridor by reducing the amount of light that enters the house.

When it comes to first floors on houses, you will often find a clerestory window tucked under the roof at the head of a staircase. Many architects feel that staircases often end up depending on artificial light and therefore, if they are properly lit, they can become much more of a feature. Additionally; many architects like to tuck an upstairs clerestory window under the eaves; as you have no external wall structure above that has to be supported by the window frame.

High level windows if fitted with the means to open can be a real joy to allow stale air out of a living space.  Drafts can be avoided and, as heat rises, a natural flow of air will circulate upwards, pulling cool and fresh air in from outside. That is if the space is designed with this in mind of course.

If you would like more information on how clerestory windows could work in your current home or proposed self-build home, please do contact Building Tectonics as we will be only too pleased to advise you.

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