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!

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.

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.

Remodelling of Bletchley Bungalow Interior

Having purchased this bungalow in Tavistock Street, Bletchley with the intention of renovating it by enlarging its footprint and remodelling the interior; our clients contacted us for help with the design and planning of the project.

The main aim of the remodelling exercise was to open up the bungalow roof space to create a usable first floor which would then house a new bedroom; in addition to creating ‘drop lighting’ into darker areas of the ground floor where a new kitchen area would be situated.

When it comes to loft conversions, they can be quite tricky at the best of times, but providing the shafts for the drop lighting added an extra structural difficulty we needed to plan for.

Our clients have worked very hard to project manage and, in some cases, even provided the labour for this project with the end result being a stunning kitchen/diner with lots of natural light flooding in and a new light and airy bedroom upstairs.

If you are embarking on a project like this it is essential to have a thorough set of good detailed plans; and a pre-requisite to this is a good scheme where all of the fundamental difficulties have been considered and preferably designed away. This means that even a quite large design change is easier to manage if thorough plans have been produced beforehand, and in our client’s case we are now tying up some changes initiated during the building work.

We always recommend to clients that once the work starts it is best not to change the design, but sometimes it is inevitable, especially with old buildings and this was the situation here. However, because we had plans to work from, it made the process much easier and I am sure you will agree that they have done a fantastic job project managing it and we have thoroughly enjoyed working with them to create their dream living space.

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Kitchens and triangular thinking.

The ’work triangle’ is something that clients can often come across when thinking of designing their new kitchen. It seeks to describe the perfect relationship between the sink, cooker, and refrigerator.  It has always been said that this triangle should be quite compact to allow the cook to access all crucial parts of the kitchen without the need to walk far when preparing meals. Even though the basic idea still applies, it needs a few updates since our kitchens have become more complex, involving much more equipment; microwave, multiple ovens, and separate hob. Some even include a built-in coffee machine. Despite the dishwasher not having a part in food preparation, many of you will surely admit that often you find yourself looking for the one knife you need, and find it in the dishwasher, used to prepare a meal earlier that day. The conclusion we can often come to when thinking about these aspects is “I need a bigger kitchen”, but that could make it an impractical one in terms of how far you’d have to walk to get a meal prepared. Kitchen preparation space is often sacrificed for the sake of fitting everything into a smaller space, but when you’re cooking fresh meals enough space to prepare it in is paramount.

The layout of a kitchen can be described with one of the following terms; island, galley, bay or L shaped.
Galley kitchens are usually only on one side, sometimes two but this makes it much more compact as well as shorter.
Islands are very popular in many modern kitchens which is, in my opinion, due to the aesthetics of them rather than their practicality. They can work quite well, but only if you accept that one side will be for guests to look at; for presentation only as if you tried to store things on all sides, you’d get your daily cardio in by constantly running around it for the different utensils etc.
L shaped kitchen layouts can work out okay but can sometimes be too spread out.
Bay kitchens are, in my view, the best in terms of practicality, they’re also sometimes referred to as peninsula kitchens.

Here at Building Tectonics, when we design a kitchen we always show a kitchen layout, but by no means is that the permanent design; this is just to show that at least one suitable layout can be accommodated. The layout is often adopted by the client, even if it’s not accepted as the final kitchen design, at least we know a sensible kitchen configuration fit into the available space. I’ve been to a few houses where the architect hasn’t paid as much attention to detail and as a result, the cooker has ended up miles away from the rest of the kitchen. If you’re designing a kitchen space please don’t accept a space that doesn’t achieve the basic function of cooking. If the space isn’t working then call in a company like Building Tectonics to advise you on how you could alter or extend the space to get a more functional kitchen.

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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After interior kitchen with dining space.

House remodel in Woburn Sands.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Garden Room in Bletchley.

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

The exterior was intended to be simple, unostentatious and blend in with the existing building.

The clients are delighted with the results as it gives them everything they required.