It’s not all about daylight, especially after dark

Natural light, sunlight, daylight… when was I last approached by a client keen to optimise their artificial lighting? I’m not sure I have been. Yet, artificial light is equally important, and there is great scope for creativity. Rarely does it get the same attention as the burning ball of fire in the sky but do give it some thought, for the evenings, or anytime past 3 o’clock and early morning mid winter!

Set the tone

Smart bulbs tie together the colour of lamps, pendants and cabinet lighting with copper hues

Lighting can make or break a space. Perhaps even more than furnishings the lighting anchors the feel of the space, the mood – warm or cold, bright or soft, utilitarian or cosy. Colour temperature sets the tone of the space, makes you feel calm and relaxed, or focused. Not to mention you can get some killer light fittings, which with their own sculptural beauty are a focal point and an opportunity for you to turn your extension into an art gallery of sorts.

Pendants, popular, good over an island if it’s fixed but do take care if you use them over dining table if you’re likely to move it at all. You’ll probably need some other lighting too if the design of your pendants focuses light downward rather than being omni directional. Task lighting is useful but there will always be times when you will need a good light level over the whole space.

Pendants look great day and night, defining zones, with wall lights enhancing artwork beyond

Take care that your lighting scheme is informed by your furniture layout but make it versatile enough, zoned for different uses. Ceiling lights are a no-brainer in kitchens and utility areas, whilst wall lights or floor lamps may be preferred for living spaces. When it comes to fittings shop savvy, if you love something invest but remember light fittings are easy enough to change. Go and look at what you’re buying in person if you can – the world wide web has never ending options but be sure to consider the dimensions of what you’re ordering so that they don’t look out of place.

Practicalities

How your lights are wired on different circuits and switch positions is also worth considering. Do you want to be able to switch from more than one position (the typical hall/landing scenario), do you want some lights on and others off at certain times? It’s becoming less important as the use of smart lighting becomes more mainstream but don’t overlook it entirely.

Often it seems to soon to be sitting down with your plans, before you’ve even got your building, to be talking about lighting. Although getting something on your drawings to reflect your intentions, even if it’s not the final design will go a long way to getting your electrical costs tied down. Electrical works are often priced on a per point basis so making your intentions known will ensure the tender accurately reflects your aspirations and not someone else’s assumptions.

Light up the dark

External lighting is often forgotten but will bring your extension to life in the evening. Be that some wall lights you can sit out with late on a summers evening, feature garden lighting to steps and planting or simply a light so you can see to out the bins out. Think through how you’ll use your home and capture those scenarios.

Get your artificial lighting right and your extension will be fabulous and functional, day and night.

10 Common Mistakes Families make when Extending their Homes and How to Avoid them

As I started to write this I thought I’d struggle to come up with ten, but it was frighteningly easy to identify where things can go wrong if you let them…

1. Considering an extension in isolation

I’m a firm believer in the importance of your whole home working together, that the layout and flow through the spaces allows for your family to live without inconvenience. As someone who lives with their fridge in the garage (what were the previous owners thinking!) I can tell you that designing to overcome the functionality issues is always a priority over fancy finishes. Fear not – relocating the fridge is high on my agenda for my own renovation!

2. Stretching your budget too thin

Don’t be over ambitious, if you want to get to the end and still be able to furnish your home then set a budget and work within it. Remember you will have other costs on top of the build – professional fees, applications etc so budget some of your cash for that too.

3. Rushing the design process

It’s really important that you invest the time in getting your brief and proposals right. Communication is important, if you don’t understand something mention it early on. Can’t visualise it? Ask for a 3d sketch. It’s easy for architects to forget that house plans can seem like a foreign language to the lay person. Imagine trying to read a set of instructions in Greek, you’d likely need a translator, and if the translation didn’t make any sense you’d ask for it to be rephrased. Don’t hurry on confused, seek clarity.

4. Trying to outwit the tenders to save money

If you get 3 or 4 quotes that are all within a few thousand quid, then whether you like it or not – that is likely the cost of doing the work. Proceeding with an anomalously low tender in order to make savings is usually a misguided decision. You may well find the difference creeping back into the project via “extras”, especially if you don’t heed point 6.

5. Opting for a contractor who can start right now

With a few exceptions which we’ll come onto, any contractor worth his salt will be booked up. There’s a reason for this, they’re busy because they come recommended and they’re good at what they do. The exception? Perhaps they’ve had a job fall through, but still be wary and as always seek references. Aligning your ideal timescale with a contractor’s availability is not an easy feat but being realistic with your expectation of how soon you’re going to be able to get cracking will help.

6. Opting to manage your own build to save money on professional services

Now, it doesn’t always end in tears if you go it alone but keeping your architect involved throughout the build will undoubtedly save you a lot of time and hassle. Especially when it comes to figuring out monies due, whether adequate progress is being made, if it’s being built correctly, and it will protect your investment in design, see point 7. In my experience the outcomes are nearly always improved and relationships less strained.

7. Being persuaded to make design changes during the build

I cannot say this loud enough – don’t make changes on site without fully considering the implications – you’ve invested time and love in the design process, don’t spoil it now! I once had a builder tell a client that the property wasn’t deserving of the sleek product we had specified. It was something we had researched in detail along with the client to really bring a wow factor, not gold plated (that option was written off, rightly so!) but it was special and not beyond affordable. Subsequently they convinced the client to select something cheaper and no doubt easier to procure or install. Stick to your guns – don’t sit back at the end looking at your clunky version of what could have been.

8. Starting on site before you have all of your approvals in place

Not just your Planning Permission but your Building Regulations approval too. It’s far easier to change things on paper than in real life. Ensure that the details (especially any that relate to regulations) are figured out before you start, otherwise you’ll risk the time delays and cost uplift of rectifying it when it’s eventually picked up by the Building Control Inspector. You might also need a Party Wall Award or a Build Over Agreement, among other things. Starting your build without your paperwork in place is a sure fire way to elevate the heart rate once you realise that your work could be stopped whilst you sort things out.

9. Thinking your home insurance will cover it

It’s important to establish who is insuring what – be that your existing building, contents, the “works” etc. Depending on your chosen Building Contract (don’t proceed without one), you might even need a Joint Names insurance policy. Check, and double check, with your insurers that between you and your builders everything is covered. Insurance is a complex matter so be sure to seek specialist advice. You’d not be the first to think it’ll all be ok – only to find yourself rushing around in a mad panic after a fire/flood has destroyed your building work – to discover no one can make a claim. These things do happen, don’t take the risk.

10. Doing your own decorating

Ok, I was scraping the barrel for a point 10. but there is some truth in this one too. Whilst you don’t need to be Caravaggio to wield a roller, you do need some proficiency if you want it to look any good. I’ve seen many a pristine plastered wall marred by badly applied paint running into blobby drips. In the grand scheme of things decorating isn’t costly, so leave it to someone who is actually good at it!

If you’re just beginning to think about an extension project why not join my facebook group Easy Project Planning for your Family Home Extension where you can find out more.