How to Spring Clean Your Home to Bring it Back to Life

Spring is in the air; the clocks go forward at the end of this month; and we are all dreaming of longer sunny days and hoping that the winter we never had doesn’t suddenly appear with a vengeance.

When the sun comes out; our thoughts normally turn to starting to tidy up the garden, planting bulbs and cutting the grass for the first time since the Autumn. But what about the house?

Having an untidy house is very distracting and the constant need to tidy can get in the way of you being productive – therefore, a great big declutter and spring clean could be the answer! This is your chance to prepare your home ready for those long lazy summer days; when you don’t want to be wasting time on cleaning but instead be enjoying quality time with family and friends.

It’s also a great opportunity to learn to love your house again, to get it looking its best and make the most of your space to decide if it still works for you or you need to improve it in some way. This could be from adding additional space in the form of a conservatory, extension or loft conversion, re-jigging your existing space to make it work more efficiently for you; or even making the decision to move to a new house. Spring and Summer are prime moving times and this is when the housing market springs into action, so now is the time to get your home looking great should you decide to put it on the market (and it also means less clutter to move).

But where do you even start? This is often the hardest part as you look at your house in despair and have absolutely no idea where to even begin tackling it…

Tackle it room-by-room
To stop you getting overwhelmed, try approaching your house room-by-room as this is the most effective way to clean your home. Draw up room checklists; so, you can focus on the parts of your home that have been neglected all winter.

Organise and clear the clutter
Now is a great opportunity to organise your belongings and get rid of clutter you don’t need; to make the cleaning process a lot easier. Start by sorting your belongings into three categories -rubbish, give it away/sell it or put it away. But don’t throw it all away as many of your old belongings will still have a good sale value; so you could either use a selling site like Shpock, Facebook or eBay or have a garage or car boot sale.

Don’t throw away old bed linen and towels; as you can either donate them to homeless shelters or refuges or to animal homes to help those in need. Alternatively, keep items like old sheets for protecting furniture and carpets/floors when you need to redecorate.

Get cleaning!
Once you have worked through all your clutter you can begin cleaning; so ensure you have all the products and tools you need like bin bags, dusters, sponges, hoover, mop and bucket and multi-purpose cleaning products. Avoid buying countless different cleaning products as you are better off with one good all-purpose cleaner and microfiber cloths – otherwise you will have yet more clutter. Remember to work in well-ventilated rooms when using any cleaning chemicals and wear protective clothing if needed; especially when it comes to the dreaded oven!

Get the whole family involved
If the state of your house is freaking you out; get the whole family involved as that will make it quicker and even the most unwilling helper can make a big difference to the task in hand. Put on some music or offer a family reward as an incentive to get the work done.

Tackle the seasonal jobs
There are some jobs that only need doing seasonally but don’t always get done at the end of the summer e.g. outdoor chores like cleaning BBQ’s, patios, and even windows; but if you tackle them now you will be ready when the summer comes.

Try to establish new cleaning habits
To make spring cleaning easier the next time around; it helps to establish new on-going cleaning habits; as simple 15-minute clean-up routines and decluttering every few days can make it a lot easier to keep your home clean and tidy all year long.

We hope this has helped you get ready to attack the decluttering and spring-cleaning and learn to love your home again. Happy Spring-cleaning!

Spotlight on the Team – Mantas Mackonis

Mantas Mackonis – Architectural Surveyor

Mantas started working at Building Tectonics straight after he finished Sixth Form nearly 3 years ago. After working in retail for a short period, but not knowing what he wanted to do career wise, he was put in touch with Tony who gave him the opportunity to work with him and the team.

Originally Tony hired him to try and teach him how to measure a house; as whilst everyone in the office can use the software to draw, no one could actually measure a house apart from Tony. Therefore, this was an area that the team needed additional help with.

His role at Building Tectonics is as an Architectural Surveyor so he basically goes out to the clients houses and obtains all the required measurements, then comes back to the office and draws all the measurements on the system ready for the team to work on potentials schemes.

Three things that inspire Mantas:

The End Goal – The biggest thing that keeps me going is the end goal; as in this industry things can get tough but when you think about the future and how much of a difference you can make on people’s lives, that’s what really motivates me.

Happiness – I love that look on someone’s face when they are smiling, their eyes are bright and their body language is open and jovial – that full-on happiness is inspiring to see. It’s infectious and it’s awesome.

Dreams – Everyone should have dreams that they work towards in their life. Seeing people go after their dreams is inspiring, and it makes me work harder to achieve mine.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai; purely as it is the world’s tallest building. It’s mind-blowing to think about how tall it actually is, and this magnificent centrepiece of Downtown Dubai stands at 828.9 metres high. The task of creating the world’s tallest man-made structure was awarded to the Chicago office of American architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP. It’s crazy to think what the future holds and if there will ever be a taller building…

New Year, New Home (Without Having To Move)

It’s that time of year when all you see online are countless blogs talking about New Year, New You and how to get the body of your dreams whilst improving your health. Whilst we obviously aren’t going down that route; as we are architects and not fitness experts, we do instead want to simply say the words ‘New Home’…

To most people when you say the words ‘New Home’ they automatically think of upping sticks and moving house to get their dream home; but you don’t need to take such a drastic step to achieve a new home.

Many houses even if they were only built in the last 20-30 years can quickly start to look tired and in need of an update; let alone the houses built in the decades prior to this. However, what many people don’t realise is that the solution is often sitting right under their nose in their current home, which with a little love and care and a change in its interior layout or exterior look could indeed become their dream home for a lot less than the cost and hassle of moving home.

With the cost of homes still rising and more people struggling to either get on the housing ladder or make the next step up to their dream home, more people than ever are looking at what they can do with their current house to make it work better and more efficiently for them. Everywhere you look scaffolding appears to be popping up; as lofts are converted and extensions are being added to make more space for ever growing families.

An alternative option though; either on its own or alongside an extension or loft conversion is simply to change the existing layout of your home to make the space work better for you. Many houses over the years as they have changed ownership have had extensions added without any real thought for what is really needed and how the house would flow. This ranges from kitchens with extensions added on to make a kitchen/breakfast room or a utility room; through to houses with conservatories and sun rooms just stuck on. Some houses often end up with a big dark corridor going down the middle of the house with countless rooms going off it which leaves all the rooms disconnected from each other.

If a previous homeowner ended up with elderly relatives living with them at some stage, they may have even changed a downstairs room into a bedroom ending up with a layout that just does not flow. Another scenario is houses that have previously been rental properties; meaning many of the general communal areas were changed to bedrooms with extra extensions and bathrooms resulting in a house that just does not work for an average family.

The upstairs of a house can often be no better as often when a 2-storey extension has been built, it can mean space has been taken off one of the existing bedrooms for a corridor to access the new bedroom; or even worse you access the new bedroom through one of the existing bedrooms which is a nightmare scenario.

Whilst people envisage changing the layout of their house to be a massive upheaval it is often not as difficult as they think and can provide them with a house that meets their needs; rather than moving again and still not finding their ideal house or layout. It is essential in the first instance to speak to an architect to get some possible ideas for what could work and to help identify areas such as load bearing walls before you go any further.

If it’s the exterior of your house that is making you want to move, this is also easily rectified by updating it from a tired and dated exterior to give it a modern ‘wow factor’ look that not only makes it look like a brand-new house but also adds value to your property.

With over 30 years’ experience of re-designing, altering and extending houses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; Building Tectonics endeavour to exceed the aspirations and desires of our clients, and do this by generating innovative and intelligent ideas that often achieve much more than the original brief. Our Chief Designer, Tony has extensive knowledge of what works design and build wise and often finds solutions to issues that builders may have with a client’s design thereby, finding a compromise that both parties are happy with.

If you are thinking now is the time to evaluate your home to see if you can improve it; please contact us to arrange a time to meet with you and conduct a feasibility study to find out what your initials needs are. From there we will come up with some initial schemes to make your home layout work more efficiently for you and your family.

Building Tectonics always aims to leave you with a house that is designed for a modern family lifestyle and even if your requirements are just a simple home extension or a loft /garage conversion, you too could benefit from our expertise and experience.

Spotlight on the Team – Josh Lockwood

Josh Lockwood – Design Technologist

Josh originally started with Building Tectonics 6 years ago on a week’s work experience; and after being made a job offer, he never left. However, as he had only just started his Sixth Form study, it was a tough decision as he was doing well at school but unsure what he wanted to do for a job. He realised the work experience suited his skill set, accepted the offer and has never looked back. After joining, he decided to attend college once a week to continue his education and achieved the grades needed to enrol at university. He is now in his 5th out of 6 years at university (due to being part-time), and will become qualified in 2020.

Having started off drawing surveys onto the computer by reading the measurements taken from Tony’s survey notes, it wasn’t long before Josh was trying his hand at producing schemes and submitting Planning Applications. As our Design Technologist, he prepares the Building Regulations drawings and has constant communication with our clients along with dealing with party wall issues, sewer build-overs and occasionally working on 3D models to help clients visualise proposals and buy into an idea.

Three things that inspire Josh:

Making a difference in people’s lives – I take great joy and pleasure out of helping people get what they want and achieve their goals and by designing extensions, I am fulfilling that passion. One day I hope to take it to the next level and design bigger and grander buildings or ideally, should my career prospects take me down the right path, work on redeveloping towns and cities to make a difference to whole communities.

Self-Improvement – There is always room for improvement and every day alters the way in which I view the world and myself, even if only slightly. Learning from other people, past mistakes and precedents keeps pushing me to strive for more.

Invention and Innovation – I thoroughly enjoy seeing new ideas come to life whether that be in terms of Architecture, Technology, Science, Music, or Sport. I have the utmost respect for talented people as it baffles me how people can create or achieve such things as mere human beings. Seeing the progression of various concepts throughout the decades to see how ideas have evolved over time is satisfying.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
There are lots of architectural marvels that I could list such as: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (still under construction), Milan Cathedral, and for more modern examples, The Scalpel in London (recently completed) and Aldar HQ in Abu Dhabi.

However, the one that has stood out the most and been with me the longest has to be the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which was designed by Frank Gehry. I’ve covered this in a previous University blog, but in essence, not only was the design controversially wonderful at the time, it has also sparked regeneration in Bilbao. In an age where grand Cathedrals are rarely built, and clusters of skyscrapers are the new way to identify cities, Frank Gehry had tried something different and ambitious which has paid off massively. It has proven hard to replicate such an iconic building elsewhere as the recipe for success isn’t quite right for other projects, whereas the Guggenheim was somewhat of a perfect storm.

A lofty price to pay.

We are sometimes asked to resolve the problems homeowners have been left with following some building work. It nearly always involves loft conversions and the story is often similar to this:

Woman sees ad in a newspaper advertising loft conversions. She meets a builder, who seems credible and knowledgeable, he says he can convert the loft for about £10,000. He says she won’t have to worry about a thing as he will arrange all the building consents needed and will not require any money until the work is finished. No plans are provided, but the work proceeds apace. The day comes when the stairs go in and a short time later the client is invited to take a look. Wow, is often the first reaction, because out of a dark, inaccessible space that was only ever seen from the top of a ladder, a bright spacious new room has been created with its ‘interesting’ geometry for walls and windows that flood the room with light. That is probably the pinnacle of the experience for many, as the interesting geometry becomes a challenge when you try to position the furniture or even getting it up there. The sun blazes in and you are surprised by just how effective the sun can be at melting chocolate at 10am in the morning. Of course, the little design issues can be reconciled with the knowledge that you have a new bedroom or study space at a relatively low cost. Then the Building Inspector knocks on the door and it transpires that no application was made, no stage inspections took place, let alone a formal approval. A list of queries from the Local Building Control is received in the post some days later and the builder has disappeared off the radar.

Sometimes the issues can be resolved for a few thousand pounds, but occasionally the only advice that can be given is to remove the stairs and forget the new room and the money. How do you avoid the above? Get it designed before the work starts so you know what you’re getting, and choose a builder that has been recommended by an independent credible source. Loft conversions seldom cost less than £18,000 and often more. A good thorough design process can keep the costs down and make the on site a bit more efficient.

Velux and Dormer Windows

Following the subject of loft conversions from last week’s blog post, we thought we’d discuss a particular aspect which clients need to think about when getting a loft conversion, and having a room in the loft space. Should you get a skylight or a dormer window installed?

Velux being built into roof

Skylights

You can buy various types of skylights, or velux windows, in a wide variety of designs. They’re angled towards the sky which means that they allow much more light into a room than you might get with a dormer window because, unlike a dormer window, there are no extra walls or a roof to exclude any light from entering the room (but sometimes a velux can let too much light into the space). Although if you’re putting an extra bedroom in the loft space, you may want to think about the noise of the heavy rain hitting a skylight during the night as well as how much light it will allow. Velux windows are usually cheaper than a dormer, and usually don’t need planning dependant on the size of the window, the external aesthetics and a few other points. If you have young children around then a velux might be safer than a dormer window because it is higher and therefore not as easily accessible to young curious minds.

Dormer window being built.

Dormer

One of the major positives of having dormer windows installed is that they maximise headroom in the loft space. Dependent on the surroundings your property has around it, it may also facilitate a nice view out of the window. As stated earlier, one of the downfalls of the dormer window is the lower amount of light being allowed into the space as you would get by having a skylight. Dormer windows are usually more expensive than skylight windows, and most also require planning permission as they alter the exterior of the house.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, if you’re currently trying to make this decision and are unsure about which to go for, then why not ask your designer/architect for their opinion?

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Loft conversions in small spaces.

Okay, so loft conversions are the most difficult work we do but even so, some people, honestly. I have just crawled, yes crawled around a roof space whilst a client shouted up at me through the loft hatch “see there’s plenty of space!”.  Well, the customer is always right and this client was rather short but even so, we would not be able to get Building Regulation Approval for this loft conversion. Still, they desperately need another bedroom and I have a couple of ideas.

I hate being defeated though. Building Tectonics prides itself on being inventive and coming up with ideas. That’s what we do and I believe that is what sets us apart from most of our competitors. We don’t just draw, we design. And in this context, design means we listen to what the client wants, look at what they currently have, and come up with ideas that meet all of the relevant criteria. It’s sometimes very hard to do this. One criteria often overlooked by design companies is the building process, in particular; how does the builder get the steel work usually required into the loft. We try to make this as easy as possible but it must not jeopardize the end results. It’s about lifestyle not “linestyle”.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Living like a bird

As pigeons and doves were an important food source throughout history, dovecotes were erected to house the birds. These were kept for their eggs and meat and owning a dovecote was a sign of privilege – for this reason many stately homes and manor houses have dovecotes on their lands.

willington dovecote

In the Bedford area, Ickwell Bury’s dovecote survived the fire that burnt down the original Georgian mansion and is renowned for its revolving mechanism that allowed ease of access to the nests. The vast outstanding 16th century stone dovecote at Willington is all that remains from the Tudor structure. With two rooms and space for 1,500 nesting birds, the dovecote would have provided about 20,000 chicks each year. It’s now owned by the National Trust and a great spot for bird watching.

Lofts are like dovecotes, small loft spaces underneath pitched roofs can be transformed into cozy spaces, it’s like sleeping in a bird’s nest. Living in Bedford, you may dream up the concept of converting your loft into a bedroom. It’s a great idea, the ideal opportunity to create a fun room and the most cost-effective way to add extra living space to a home without building over the garden, unlike most extensions. The new room within the roof can benefit from sunlight for much of the day, make the most of any views and can have tremendous character due to the interesting roof shape.

When it comes to designing your loft conversion, it’s key to choose a designer such as an architectural technologist who will discuss your requirements, measure your house, produce some workable schemes for you to consider, deal with planning permission if required and building regulations approval from Bedford Council and recommends builders for competitive tenders.

See loft conversion case studies at www.building-tectonics.co.uk and if you live in Bedford, you may want to think of creating a dovecote and feel snug and privileged.

Written by Emmanuelle Clement – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Your ‘escape hub’.

We were asked by our clients,to produce a scheme converting a loft space in a Victorian house into a space that could be used in many different ways for their growing family. The existing house, although spacious and really quite beautiful, lacked additional space very often desired by a family so that someone can escape the hubbub of family life. This may be to watch TV, to go somewhere and really concentrate on a specific task which needs doing, even just to make a mess. A loft conversion can achieve so much. Furthermore, attic rooms, due to their geometry, create that snug intimate feeling and also because this new room is about as far from the front door, and the annoyances of the world as possible, they can become your personal escape hub.

MAA loft interior

 

Our clients were also very keen to have a comfortable stairway up into the loft, one which would fit furniture up there with ease, unlike these narrow barely-able-to-fit-an-office-chair staircases we often see with a loft conversion. Building Tectonics have designed many different loft conversions, and so we know just how hard it can be. There are many factors to think about with these types of projects, e.g. structure, headroom, a satisfactory layout of the room, buildability and building regulations. It’s rather tempting to just accept the fact the stairs take up whatever space is left over. But you shouldn’t have to do that in our view, we work very hard to create the best stairway into the loft space which meets the requirements of the client, and goes well with the conversion itself.

study-playroom-in-your-loft_edited-1

I had also suggested to my client that they may wish to visit the Sir John Soan Museum in London which shows lots of interesting ways in which space can be used. My clients really took this to heart, and inspired by a visit, have created a really wonderful room with niches that add character.

Building Tectonics are very pleased to have been of service and would like to thank our clients for allowing to use this as an exemplar of a loft conversion.

Study-play-or-TV-Room-A-typical-loft-conversion_edited-1

 

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Lofty spaces.

A loft conversion can often be the answer to a growing families needs. It can provide that extra bedroom or study space, or a dedicated room for a hobby you may be interested in, but don’t have the space to pursue. They can also be a good source for natural lighting from several different directions, as they can have skylights and dorm windows built in, helping you to save some money on those pesky electricity bills.

These types of conversions are very demanding from a design point of view and need to be thought out very thoroughly prior to commencement.

This is an example of a loft conversion we worked on for a client.

These are the “before” pictures.

Before inside         Beforeoutside

And the “after”…

After outside  After inside

 

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.