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; and 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, but 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 thus 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; but if you want the light to penetrate 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 and 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, as you will not need such a big glass area anyway because the light, 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, as 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 as 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’s 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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Spotlight on the Team – Ina Cicu

Ina Cicu – Design Technologist

Ina joined the Building Tectonics Team almost five years ago as a Design Technologist. Having an Interior Design degree background, she was always fascinated by buildings and architecture but it wasn’t until she started to work here, she discovered the back stage of this wonderful creative process.

Due to her colleagues’ patience and professionalism, she has learned to redesign client’s houses; to undertake the technical part of projects such as Building Regulation drawings and how to deal with the planning applications.  Ina’s favourite part of the job is to design people houses, to create new space and to bring life to them.

Three things that inspire Ina:

Nature – this is the most amazing ‘architect’ as everything is perfect – shapes, colours, sounds, etc.

Travelling – this is one of my passions as travelling from place to place you can discover the different architectural styles influenced by culture, geographical area and time. You also meet new people who share with you their amazing life stories and visions.

Successful and intelligent people – these are the ones who inspire me the most – both in my personal and work life.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite architect is Antoni Gaudi and his work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by natural forms. One of my favourites is his masterpiece Casa Batllo (pictured above) as like everything Gaudí designed, it is only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense.

The other example of Architectural design which inspires me is Tianjin Binhai Library, in Tianjin, China; which was designed by a Rotterdam-based architectural firm along with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, a group of local architects. Due to its tight construction schedule by the local government, the project went from preliminary drawings to its doors opening within three years in October 2017.

Tips when choosing art for your walls.

Have you ever wanted to buy some artwork for your home, only to get overwhelmed, not knowing where to start? There is a lot on offer out there so I’m sure a lot of us have been in that predicament, which is why we’ve written this post, hopefully it will help you out next time you’re trying to choose. As I see it, there are two main perspectives I can come at this from – an emotionally based angle, and an objectively based angle. For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that you have a room in mind for the piece, and that cost is irrelevant.

Firstly, I’d like to talk about the emotional aspects of what we can consider. We’re drawn to the things we like, so one of the first things we should really ask ourselves is “how does this make me feel?”, if you look at it and don’t get any emotional response, then it may not be the right piece for you. It should be something you’re proud to own and show off to other people, after all your own personality will be reflected in what you choose to buy and display but really, it has to be something you’d be happy to look at every day. If you spot a piece that grabs your attention, you should think about whether it not only grabs your attention initially, but continues to hold it. Personally I find that easier if the piece you choose is unique, a one of a kind piece as opposed to something mass produced, you know that you’re the only one who owns that particular piece and so you automatically feel more proud of it.

Once you’ve thought about all of that, and chosen a piece that you really connect with emotionally, thinking about this from an objective standpoint we should consider whether the piece is going to be a focal point, does the room already have a statement piece? Be that in the form of some art, some interesting furniture, an ornate mirror or even a grand chandelier. If you already have a focal piece in the room and only want one, then you should be looking at decor or accent pieces to complement the room as a whole. The colour of the piece will have a dramatic impact on the amount by which it fits into the space, unless you do want this to be the focal point of the room you don’t want it to stand out too much; you’d want it to almost blend in, just not to the point that it fades into the background. Every piece of art or decor we buy is for the purpose of enhancing a space, so you need to ask yourself how this piece will enhance the room you have in mind.

The size and shape of the artwork is something we automatically think about when looking for art, but I find that a lot of people forget about the impact the orientation will have as well. Consider the wallspace you have available, and whether a horizontal or vertical emphasis would fit into that better. If you have an abstract painting for example, it could go either way but the orientation will have an impact on how people view it, and how it makes them feel. You’d need to think practically about the weight if it’s a large framed painting, wall sculpture or something similar, and how you’re going to mount it in the space you have in mind. You wouldn’t want to mount something heavy on a plasterboard wall, the next time you go to view it it could have pulled some of the wall down under the weight!

When deciding on a piece of art, just try to remember that it may be a longer process than you initially thought. However, if you bear what we’ve said in mind, we think you’ll come to own a piece that you’d never regret owning.

After interior of a kitchen leading to living room.

Extended in Tattenhoe

Our client wanted to create a larger kitchen family area, and a space to sit with friends and enjoy the views over the sunnier side of the house. They’d already thought that converting the garage to livable space may be part of the answer, but our job was to show how the existing and new spaces could be satisfactorily connected together. The resulting scheme achieves a very spacious house, with rooms that allow for separate activities to take place without interference, but also when the time is right, the doors can be opened to allow the new spaces to fully interact. Large folding sliding doors to the garden also allow the outside spaces to be used in conjunction too.
Our client said the following:

“The design has also allowed for some flexibility in how we use our living spaces, which has meant that we have been able to make the most of the increased light coming from the bifold doors and velux windows. We’re delighted with the new living area and the vaulted ceiling has created even more of a spacious feel than we had anticipated”.

The client is extremely pleased with the end result, as are we. To have choices in the way you use space is nice to have, and even though it isn’t requested by clients, we’ll suggest this to clients in the future.

We had been recommended to this client by a previous client, which makes it so much more rewarding.

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A screenshot of our Houzz profile.

We’re on Houzz

We’ve recently set up a profile on a social media platform called Houzz, this is all about design, mainly interior design and lifestyle images. We like to think of it as a more specialised version of Pinterest, but specifically for design. Imagine the stack of magazines from which you’ve been trying to get ideas for your home, when you try to find the specific images again it can be quite time-consuming.

That is where Houzz can help you and your designer(s). Houzz has a large directory of beautiful photos which you can browse through, one of its main features allows you to put groups of images into groups called ‘ideabooks’. These ideabooks could be thought of as your online scrapbooks, other people can also add to your ideabooks if you send them an invite. So your interior designer, or architect could share ideas with you just by adding photos to this online scrapbook of yours!

You could be looking for a certain type of style for your room or home. You can search Houzz for images with a certain style in mind, it will search its repertoire of images and you can see if there’s anything you like. When you click on an image, it will show you other images in that ideabook as well as other images people who have liked that image have also liked. So you can view images that people who have a similar taste to you have found, making it easier to find ideas your dream room(s).

What’s more, you can find professionals to hire for certain aspects of the designs and perhaps even building your vision. There is also a review system based upon what people think of that particular professional so that you can check their reputation and view their projects and ideabooks. There is also an advice section where you can post any design related queries you might have for other design enthusiasts, or professionals to answer. You can ask about certain products in photos, post your own photos and ask for advice and a lot more!

To view ourHouzz profile, click here.

Remodelling to add space and beauty.

This project began when our clients visited the Tecton Art gallery, and saw some of our projects on display. It later transpired that they had realised that their house needed a different layout for some time, but had not known who to approach for such a project and how far some of the structural changes that were clearly required were feasible. The main element of the project was to re-design the space so that all of the rooms were accessed from a corridor or hall, as some of the rooms could only be accessed from others – which was a cause of a lot of frustration! They also wanted to re-orientate all the main living rooms to the back of the house – which faces fields and is much quieter than the front of the house, which overlooks a road. Several of the rooms were also peculiar shapes (due to badly thought out historic extensions) and therefore impractical, and there was no en-suite for the master bedroom. The existing heating system was also inadequate – another implication of the aforementioned extensions, and therefore the house was very cold in the winter. We discovered that our clients had a love of art, and so they had many paintings and objet d’art and wanted the new space to do them justice. As is always the case, the house had many nice features such as high ceilings, and it was not without a certain ambiance, but there was clearly a lot that needed to change.

Best before DSCF5290

Our first set of schemes went to the heart of the problem, starting with the small L shaped lounge. It was clear that it was too narrow, but it had to stay where it was (although we often move rooms around with projects like this). So the only way to resolve the problem was to extend into part of the garden. Our clients took some persuading about this as they were worried about losing garden space, but the plans told the whole story in a way which words could not; they showed that it worked and in fact the impact on the garden was minimal. After about eight iterations, we had achieved all of the requirements and more. We like to give value for money and as part of the design process, we were able consider how the thermal efficiency of the house could be improved.

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The cherry on the cake was showing how the house could be given a new look on the outside. Our clients had never liked the external look of the house and wanted to replace the cheap roof tiles with the original slates, but we were able to show how increasing the size of the eaves overhang and introducing sprocketed eaves would also improve the look of the building. We also drew up some visuals to show how, at a later stage, cladding on the front of the house would soften the appearance of the frontage. Not many balconies are worth the effort, but we also came up with the idea of a balcony leading off the master bedroom which our clients absolutely love. It really is gorgeous and again, overlooks the fantastic rural scene, complete with cows!

Balcony

The house now has plenty of space to do justice to the art, and there are a range of room sizes to match the family mood. Now the arrangement of the rooms is almost perfect. Some wonderful, and comfortable smaller intimate spaces have been retained, and in some cases new ones have been created. Even the lounge extension has helped to create a lovely private seating area outside to overlook the adjacent field.

We do not consider ourselves as interior designers, we prefer our clients to create the ambiance which they desire. However, once you understand what the client ultimately wants, you can facilitate this by creating the right type of spaces. It should always be kept in mind that you cannot force a certain interior style on all types of space and vice versa.

Ensuite blue (2)   Stained glass window

I think that we are good at creating the right spaces, and working with the existing structure/building to bring this about economically, without too much stress. We always advocate working with the building, rather than against it. We take time and trouble to understand the building, its history and the way it was built as well as taking time to understand the clients wants. Clients do not always know what they are after, and even if they do, expressing it can be quite a difficult task, even for the most articulate. Furthermore, sometimes people are coy about their wants because they are reluctant to be seen as asking for the impossible. I try to encourage new clients to open up and tell me what they would like, even if they think it is unattainable. We do not have a magic wand, but we do have an immense amount of experience in this type of project; if you are thinking about such a project, don’t be coy – contact us.

Please also note that our client has her own business sourcing art works of all types for private and public spaces.  If you would like to contact her please email marie@lyndone.co.uk

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Modern spaces.

Our client, Glen is a bit of a celebrity in Milton Keynes, having made himself very wealthy by buying, selling and renting property. So we were proud to be asked by him to come up with some ideas for his new house. In short we did our thing, producing some schemes showing how to extend and remodel this tired and outmoded property. As we have said many times before, we are not interior designers because we do not generally advise on colours, wallpaper and carpets etc, but we are good with space. Most clients enjoy the process of “dressing” the space and in this case Glen and Amanda have clearly enjoyed the process.

Click on any of the pictures below to view the gallery, I think most people would agree that the pictures look stunning.

 

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Lifestyle choices for your home.

It becomes increasingly clear that it is lifestyle, or the dream of a particular lifestyle, that drives most of our clients to extend or alter their house. This may sound fairly obvious, but it is important for me as a designer to understand because it means that I have to change the way which I approach a design project. Long gone are the days when our typical client wanted just another room. Clearly, the need for an extra bedroom or larger cooking space can still be a driving force, but so often now it is a desire for a ‘beautiful space’, as seen in a magazine or more likely an architectural TV program such as Grand Designs or George Clarkes Amazing Spaces, which causes them to contact us.

This is why clients are often showing me an example of an interior design which they really like. Even the way they do this has changed. It used to be clipping from a magazine that our client had been cherishing for months or even years perhaps, but now it is a bookmarked page on Pinterest or Houzz more often.

New house, architectural design,

In some ways, all this has made the work of an architect or interior designer easier because the client can point the designer in the right stylistic direction but of course it also makes a client more design savvy and demanding. Good thing too I say, since it may well sort out the wheat from the design chaff. Now, here is the interesting thing for me. My company, Building Tectonics are neither architects, nor interior designers, so how come we keep getting asked to do this type of work? The simple answer to this is that we are good at producing spaces that give the client what they want. We have a good feel for it, and we can often do it without rebuilding the whole house or spending your money for you on expensive wallpaper.

Frankly, we can do it on the cheap. Essentially we are Technologists and we understand the technology of space, or rather how to produce it. Sounds a bit pretentious I know, and I am sorry about that, if you have a better explanation I would be interested to hear it.

A very influential architect, Richard Meier, once said “the architect has to think of the original material of architecture; space and light”. This is true, but you also have to think of the stuff that is between the spaces and also the surfaces which the light can play on. We also have to keep our feet on the ground. I want clients to bring their high expectations to me and I certainly do not want to squash that expectation. We will then do our best to make them happen in a practical, sensible way. This is actually the way to make sure that they get built.

We also like to return the favour and show clients what design ideas we have found for interiors and parts of the house by sharing our boards on pinterest with them. www.pinterest.com/btectonics in case you’re curious.

Family, family room, extension, garden room

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

A well in the kitchen…

The project, in essence, was to extend this 17th century building into the rear garden. Interestingly, there was an old well in that part of the garden which our new building footprint would extend over. The clients did not want to get rid of the well by filling it in, they wanted it to become a feature within.

We had to come up with some idea’s to incorporate the well into the fabric of the building, to make it stand out without being an inconvenience. One idea was to extend the well up above ground level, using the same materials , making it look as authentic as possible, and then capping the top to form a dining table or breakfast bar. Another idea was to cover the opening of the well in a sheet of glass at ground level and allow it to become part of the floor. By installing some lights inside the well itself, this would light up the interior making it a focal point.

Either of the ideas would have created a talking point whenever they had guests over, but the client decided to go with the idea of covering it over with a glass sheet and illuminating it with lights connected the the inner side of the well. We assisted with this transformation, including choosing what we thought to be the best lights for the purpose.

The only unfortunate thing is that photographs of things like this never really look as good when presented on a web page as they do in real life. But on a good note, the client is delighted with the outcome, and I suppose that this is the thing which matters most in the long run.

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Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

“It’s just the hall.”

Recently, I was talking to my friend who is currently redecorating his hallway. I asked him about the colour scheme, and how he will decorate it to which he replied:

I don’t know, it’s just the hall.

This made me think about how our attitudes towards certain rooms has changed over time. How specific rooms once held an air of importance and were respected in a sense, to now holding no real meaning, and in most cases being regarded as just another room in the house.

As I’ve already mentioned it, I’ll use the hallway as our example.

Through history the hall has lost the meaning that it used to have associated with it; before Medieval times it used to be the only room which the house consisted of, referred to as the ‘Great Hall’. It was used for everything – sleeping, eating, entertaining guests, you didn’t have privacy in those times. Privacy as we know it didn’t come about until around Medieval times when the chimney was invented, because then they could begin to think about building liveable rooms upstairs.

The concept of having an upstairs living level was not really feasible before the chimney came about due to the fact that in the hall (or Great Hall), they would have had an open-hearth in the middle of the room to keep warm, but the fumes and smoke from this would gather around the roof space, therefore making it inhabitable. But with the chimney to get rid of these fumes, the roof space had cleaner air, meaning rooms could be built upstairs, which in turn, brought about real privacy.

It saddens me to think that a room once filled with so much history, and grandeur is now used as a passing place to take your shoes and coats off, and venture on into one of the other rooms.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.