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.

Open Plan Living comes into its own at Christmas

Christmas is traditionally the time when families, often scattered around the country, come together to catch-up and spend time together whilst enjoying a lavish Christmas meal. This is when open-plan living can really come into its own; as the space lends itself to many layout options and more importantly allows for a big (or extended) table to be the centrepiece of the celebrations with everyone gathered around it.

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 (generally the older generations) 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 space has an 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.

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; but they can 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.

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.

The kitchen is still the heart of the home and it’s really important for many families especially as the children grow older, to try and sit down together once or twice a week (depending on parents work times) around the table and catch-up on what’s been happening to everyone that week.

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 have considered making changes to your property to have an open plan living/dining area to give you more flexibility; please do contact Building Tectonics Ltd to see what we can suggest to make your space work more efficiently for you.

We would like to wish all our clients (past, present and future) a wonderful and prosperous Christmas and New Year!

Rear Extension in Great Holm

We had worked with these clients before, and having successfully remodelled their previous house they had decided that it was time to move on. The house that they consequently bought was much larger, but the layout didn’t work for them. When there is so much to be done in the way of re-decorating it can stress some people out, but not these clients. If you can figure out the points that are wrong with the architecture of the house and how to rectify them it’s worth doing, even if it’s a smaller ‘facelift’. Working out how to solve these problems is our job, and we can always find a way.

In the end, the changes made to the layout turned out to be quite modest; relocating the kitchen plus the addition of a garden room at the back has made all the difference. Sadly, the planning authorities had vetoed the external changes we had proposed which is unusual, but it happens sometimes.

Although most of our clients get a kitchen designer in, we always show a working kitchen layout on our schemes (plans), because it’s important for us to show a space that functions well as a kitchen. In this particular case our clients are very much into their food and cooking; so we worked together with them and ended up with a design that is not only practical but looks good too. During this design process, the clients were always thinking about their decor and where it would go, we love what they’ve done with the space provided.

We’re pleased to say that our clients are very happy with the outcome, and we were happy to assist.

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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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3 reasons for and against open plan homes.

If you follow our blog, you may have noticed that we have recently published a post including photos of an open plan ground floor for a building in Milton Keynes, which the client has separated into different living areas.

There is an ongoing difference in opinion in the open plan vs. separated rooms argument. So we will explore some of the pros and cons of both, but this will be in no way a definitive list, there may be many other points which we have not touched upon in this post. Feel free to add any thoughts and opinions in the comments.

We come across a lot of clients who say that they would like an open plan home to live in, and they like the architectural plans on paper. But later on down the line some realise that while they like the idea of an open plan home, it is more idealistic and not as practical as they initially thought for their household.

Reasons for calling the open plan homes ‘the idealistic view’ vary, but below are just a few of those reasons.

Open plan homes are a great way to make cooking and cleaning a more social activity. It allows people to converse with each other whilst doing different things in separate areas of the house. One person could be cleaning in the kitchen and having a conversation with someone else in the living room without the need to shout through rooms. When you have a closed plan home and you are in a different room to everyone else, you can sometimes feel a bit secluded if you are on your own.

They can also be much better for watching children whilst getting other things done, rather than juggling rooms to keep an eye on kids whilst getting chores done. If you need to watch your children in the living room, but need to hoover the dining room at the same time, then you have to juggle a bit in a closed plan home. In an open floor plan, you can just look across the house to see if everything is okay. Although bear in mind, if you can see them, they can see you too!

Open plan homes are a great way to allow light into your home as any architect will tell you. Due to the lack of walls, there is only furniture to obstruct the light which is travelling into your home. You can even use dividers rather than walls to separate the area into areas, still open plan but with its own areas. An example of a divider could be a bookcase in the place of a wall.

So an open plan floor sounds good, but here are some of the realities to think about if you are considering an open plan home.

Is your family messy? If the answer to this is yes, and you don’t like people seeing your mess, then I’m afraid to say that an open plan home may not be for you. One of the best things about open plan is also one of its biggest downfalls; anyone who comes into your home can see everything as soon as they step through the front door in an open plan home. This can be troublesome if you or your family have left anything lying around in the living room, as it can be spotted immediately when you have anyone around. For example if you leave any pots, pans or dishes in the kitchen whilst you have dinner, everyone at the dinner table will see it, there aren’t any walls to temporarily hide the mess their meal created.

Are your family loud? If again, the answer is yes then maybe you should rethink this idea of an open floor plan. Noise travels, so when you’re trying to quietly get on with work in your home office, or get some homework done in the study area, people watching a movie on the other side of the house will be a huge distraction because you will hear every word being said, every explosion and every step. Imagine if you’re trying to have a private conversation on the phone, we would usually go into a separate room and shut the door. If you’re in an open plan home then you can forget that because there are no rooms to go into, or doors to shut unless you fancy taking a walk outside which is not always ideal.

Although open plan homes are good for easily having conversations from different areas of the house, some of us like to have a bit of ‘me time’ included in our days. We like to have a space we can go to and just relax, hang out and do our own thing with no distractions. It’s difficult to have that in an open plan home. If you are keen on art, and have a lot to hang up then be sure to get a large house if you’re opting for open plan. The wall space is substantially low compared to closed plan.

What are your thoughts? Which would you choose?

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.