2021 – all the drama, all the ideas, all the connections

If I had a plan for this year it went out the window as soon as BoJo closed the schools in January. So here it is, a disjointed run down of 2021, all the drama, all the ideas, all the connections.

  1. January, February, March – working late nights and weekends amidst home-schooling “fun”, the less said about the first part of the year the better!
  1. Spring and freedom finally came around and with it the opportunity to visit some of those lockdown projects I’d missed out on in 2020: Extending an Edwardian Semi, 1930’s home extension: A Place to Eat, Lessons learned on a lockdown build
  1. I blogged for EntreArchitect, the brainchild of Mark R LePage and now a 7000+ strong community of architects worldwide: How to Scale without Growing
  1. Summer saw me busy with builds, supporting clients with their projects under construction. Site meetings scheduled between camping trips and seeing friends who we’d missed out on the year before. With supply chains as unsettled as the weather patterns, delays were inevitable but we got there in the end!
  1. Always looking for the next challenge I settled on a personal one and decided to train for a half marathon, it gave me a focus away from business….work life balance and all that. I ran a 10 miler a few weeks later, once you know you can, you can!
  1. I set some boundaries around meetings, keeping several days free to actually get work done. You make the rules, you break the rules.
  1. I ventured a new offering, my “Briefing and Beginnings workshop” giving families the chance to explore the opportunities and potential of their home with me for a couple of hours.
  1. I made a guest appearance on EntreArchitect’s Context and Clarity daily discussion with Jeff Echols who has hosted the hourly slot daily since the pandemic began and for which many people are grateful.
  1. The beginning of the school year brought back regular working hours and saw me launch a new toolkit of resources for those embarking on, or even midway through their home extension project.  
  1. I wrote 133 social media posts, 19 emails and 9 blogs about things people ask me all the time including: 5 steps to keeping your home renovation costs under control, Do you need more space or just different space? and 5 top tips for a successful extension project
  1. I got to know some of our local builders better and worked with them to deliver projects, in a relatively orderly fashion.
  1. I reconnected with my US based mastermind group, there are some great people out there doing some super interesting things.
  1. I read 14 books, mostly on audible and I have finally got back to fiction with my book club! Here’s what’s been on my reading list:
  • How to break up with your phone, Catherine Price
  • Hope in Hell, Jonathon Porritt
  • The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters
  • The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
  • The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks
  • The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, Kate Bradbury
  • Company of One, Paul Jarvis
  • The No Spend Year, Michelle McGagh
  • How to Listen, Katie Columbus
  • Running: Cheaper Than Therapy, Chas Newkey-Burden
  • They Ask You Answer, Marcus Sheridan
  • Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss, Tahl Raz
  • Cumulative Advantage, Mark Schaefer
  • Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker
  • Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
  1. I embraced an integrated approach to projects with Michael Aubrey Partnership. I wrote a blog about that too: You don’t just need an architect, you need a home extension team
  1. I negotiated with planners, coordinated others, obtained consents.
  1. I did some online learning, attended events and continued on my Carbonlite Retrofit course with the AECB  
  1. And among all that I drew some houses…because that’s what architects do, isn’t it?

If you got to the end of my brain spill, thanks for reading.

2022 here we come, it’s got to be more straightforward than that!

Do you need more space or just different space?

When it comes to creating your dream home, it’s often assumed you’ll extend to achieve that, yet there are so many different avenues you could go down to turn your everyday house into a fab family home.

You might be surprised to hear this, but extending isn’t always the answer. If your house is quite large, or has already been extended, you might have some redundant rooms or spaces, so adding more space isn’t a magic bullet. In fact, assuming you’ve decided to stay put and not move house, your existing property might have everything you need.

Instead of adding new rooms, you could remodel your layout and create larger spaces with structural alterations. 

Or perhaps reconfiguring the layout by swapping the use of some spaces will unlock the functionality you desire. 

But with so many options to consider, how do you figure out what’s right for you and your home?

The importance of briefing

I believe the key to getting it right is not to rush it. Take your time and start by defining the problem, not the solution. This sounds like common sense, but it is so easy to jump straight into solution mode. 

Consider how you use your home, what you like about it, and crucially what’s not working for you at the moment. Take the opportunity to fix those things that bug you, as well as including all those things you want in your dream home. 

Once you have a clear idea of your brief, the right solution will be a lot easier to figure out. When it’s your own home you can get stuck ruminating over the same old solutions and it often takes an outsider to help you unlock what’s most important to you before you can move things forward. 

Along with talking with your family to consider what your needs are, an architect could help by asking some probing questions that you might not have considered before. They will also be very likely to have encountered similar problems with previous clients, so they’ll be able to suggest innovative solutions based on their experience. 

The pitfalls of extending your home

Whilst it’s lovely and in some ways easier to build an extension, the last thing I want is for clients to spend all their time in the new extension and leave the rest of their home unoccupied!

That’s why it’s so important to consider all of the options available, and be sure that you’re making the right choice for you and your home. 

Houses that are already extended are likely to become very dark in the middle if you make them even larger. Take care to avoid simply moving your living areas into a new zone, leaving the middle of the house gloomy and redundant. 

So, if you’ve decided against extending, what else could you do instead?

Be resourceful with the space that you have

Instead of adding an extension, can you reconfigure your existing home to work harder for you and your family? If so, there are so many added benefits to renovating rather than extending.

Whilst renovation can be just as costly as extending, alterations usually require less material so this can be a sustainable choice if you’re concerned about minimising your impact on the environment. Maintaining the same building footprint also has the benefit of avoiding any loss of garden space. 

However, there’s a lot to consider with renovation, so taking the time to come up with a holistic plan for your whole home will always give you the best outcome by far. If you skip this step, you risk having to rework the same areas five or ten years down the line, undoing work and wasting money.

It’s easy to get stuck in the analysis paralysis state, where you don’t know what to do, so you don’t do anything. This is another part of the project where working with an architect is a great way to keep things moving in the right direction. 

Clients often come to me uncertain of how to move forward with homes that are lived (albeit languishing), in a slight state of disrepair. As an architect and problem solver, I love to take the time over this initial briefing to ensure I understand how you live. That way, I can help you to decide if you need more space or just different space.

Finding the solution that’s right for your home

For many renovation projects that I work on, the client will come to me with ideas of what they want, sometimes they even have a solution. I like to challenge that thinking to make sure we’re getting to the nub of the problem, so that I know they’re going to be really happy with the end result. 

Consider this: Do you actually all sit down to breakfast together? Do you have hobbies with large equipment that clutters the hall? Where do you sit to put your shoes on? 

We all have a tendency to think that everyone lives in a similar way to ourselves, but I’ve seen how the same type of house can be occupied in many different ways. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating your dream home so doing what someone else did might not be right for you. 

Instead, taking the time to create a comprehensive plan that considers all of your needs and bugbears means you’ll always end up with a home that you love. 

Choose your next steps with confidence

If you’d like to feel more confident with your renovation, take a look at my toolkit which includes resources to help develop your project brief right, and to help keep your project on track as it progresses.

It’s called From Brief to Budget to Build, and contains some of the super useful stuff I use with my clients in a handy resource bundle. 

In there you’ll find workbook style questions to help you delve into your motivations, priorities and aspirations for your project, a budget planner that considers the costs likely to be involved in your project, and a template to capture the fixtures and finishes details for accurate pricing, and much more. 

Click here to find out more. 

Lessons learned on a lockdown build

Rear of the house before
Rear of the house afterwards

A tired three-bed semi with outbuildings in the garden, and a shabby extension to the rear, this house was in need of some serious TLC. As a growing family, they wanted to create larger bedrooms, more living space and a more open layout that really flowed.

While the project was a success, they faced several challenges throughout. The most significant of these was keeping on top of the implications that various decisions had on total cost. As well as the time and input required for the project when going it alone with the builder.

The client brief

To fulfill the ambition for a larger family home, we planned single and two storey extensions, utilising the footprint of the existing garage to get the most out of the plot. The extended section of the house would include a playroom which can double as a fourth bedroom when required. 

Converting the existing kitchen to a utility room and shower room, we moved the kitchen to the back of the house. And by maintaining side windows and roof lights we were able to keep the central spaces well lit. The new kitchen dining space opens up to the garden and so does the playroom, for an indoor/outdoor feel on warm days.

With a  keen eye for detail and interiors, they have furnished the home with some lovely touches.

The implications of going it alone 

With a lockdown build and a baby on the way, there were a few things which the client admits could’ve gone better to keep her stress levels under control. No matter how well you plan, there are almost always some on-the-spot decisions to be made. On this build, the costs and implications of each decision did not always become apparent until later down the line. 

Without anyone to help, they lost track of these variations as the project progressed and were often surprised to discover them later. Keeping your architect involved or appointing a project manager to monitor those cost implications can help mitigate this. 

Lessons learned in hindsight

Managing your own project takes up a lot of time. They simply hadn’t realised how much attention they would need to give the project and ended up  being far more involved in the running of the project than they had expected to be.

Acknowledging that the never ending decision-making was one of the most stressful aspects of the process, the client explained that if they did it again they would certainly look to keep their architect involved throughout the build.

The completed extension has truly lived up to the client’s brief and provides the spaces they need for their young family. They’re really pleased with the way the house flows, and that the extension integrates well with the existing rooms, feeling like a whole house rather than the extension simply bolted on. A big chunk of the budget was put towards the kitchen, which is a particular favourite of theirs now that it’s completed. 

Project completed Autumn 2020 by PDM Construction Ltd
Suppliers: Kitchen – Mobalpa

Are you ready to extend your home?

There’s a lot to consider when you’re changing  your home. Is extending even right for you and your house?

If you’re looking for clarity on what’s involved in the process and how to get started, you can use my Project Planner to help find the next step… 

Click here for your free copy