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Blog

A collection of insights and opinions about all things home improvement-related, design ideas plus some personal reflections.

a house extension and patio

Builder of the month: Neil McDonald of ENMAC Ltd

“Once I’m on a job I treat it like I’m working on my own home.” Meet Neil McDonald, a builder with a personal touch and an eye for detail. From the start of our conversation, I hear a man who’s justifiably proud of the excellent work he delivers and still

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July's Newsletter & this Week’s Links

Designing Tomorrow. This month, we dive into government planning reforms, the complexities of party wall agreements with expert Giles Lewis, and transformative home redesigns in Old Portsmouth and Parkstone. Don’t miss our monthly features: ‘Builder of the Month’ spotlighting Neil McDonald and ‘Wines of the Month’ from Wines by the

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Two terrace houses

Don’t be a party pooper: all about the Party Wall Act

This week I’ve been talking to Giles Lewis, an independent Chartered Surveyor based in Salisbury, Wiltshire. We had an enlightening talk about party wall matters. And before you switch off – if you’re planning some work on your home, the next two minutes of reading may well save you a

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

On the Road to Freedom. I got upset with speed cameras this week. I may have got caught. Have to wait and see. I need one of those driving safety courses anyway. It’s been about five years. It got me thinking about speed, freedom and technology. Speed kills. But if

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Independence Day. It’s Independence Day next week. Like the movie of the same name, I’m hoping the aliens come down and do us all a massive favour. Well, me at least. I shouldn’t speak for everyone. In my dreams, the aliens in their galactic cruiser will hover over Westminster and

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

To Rennes and Back. How is it that French cities are so good? Rennes, a city that may not be on the typical tourist map or in the top ten French cities by population, is a hidden gem. It may not boast a grand cathedral like Rouen, but it offers

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A bathroom with pink freestanding bath and green tiles

2024 design trends

We asked interior designer, Emma Kelsall, about what we’re choosing for our homes the most in 2024.     The home office is not going away. Whilst many people have returned to the workplace, a lot of people still work from home or are hybrid working and, post-lockdown, many people

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Ascension, by Michael Moore

June’s Newsletter and this week’s links

This month Carl is sharing another design video, this time remodelling a house in Cumbria, while I’m mixing up some 2024 design trends with art and builders – not a natural pairing I admit, but let’s go with it. Speaking of pairings, Lucy and I agree that the sparkling wine

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bedroom conversion by DH Builders

Builder of the month – DH Builders Ltd

“It’s not just about the job, it’s about the relationship with the client. Communication is key and it makes for happy clients and a happy life.”  Meet Dominic Hearne, builder – dad – teacher. Former teacher, that is. The man who spent almost a decade teaching engineering and carpentry to

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Design for the Weekend: A Trip to the Lakes

Welcome back to my home redesign series! This week, I’m tackling a stone-built home in Kendal with a quirky layout and charming features. This house presents a unique opportunity to create a bright, open-plan living space that is both functional and inviting. Upon first glance, the house’s current layout is

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How can you increase your property’s value in 2024?

If you’re considering selling your property or looking to enhance its value for the future, now is the time to explore practical strategies to elevate its appeal. With the UK’s property market expected to remain competitive in 2024, increasing your property’s value will be beneficial to attract buyer attention and

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Design for the Weekend Bonus Episode

You Won’t Believe This Genius Fix for Awkward House Layouts! Welcome back to my home redesign series! In this episode, I tackle a unique challenge: an end-of-terrace house with a less-than-ideal layout. Imagine having your TV right next to the toilet—it’s a design disaster! Join me as I explore simple

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Design for the Weekend

Transforming a Cramped Terrace House: Smart Layout Solutions. Welcome back to my home redesign series! In this episode, I tackle a challenging terrace house layout with practical and innovative design solutions. The goal is to reconfigure the space to create a functional and inviting home without extending the property. One

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Introducing Ralph. I’ve made two videos this week. They are pretty easy to do now that I have the lights and camera mount bolted over my desk, along with the correct software running smoothly. Every time I make one, I think, ‘I could make one a day,’ but then Wednesday

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Design for the Weekend

Unlock Hidden Potential: Transforming an End-of-Terrace House with Brilliant Design Ideas. Welcome back to our home redesign series! In this episode, we explore innovative ways to transform a charming end-of-terrace house. With a three-bedroom layout and an attic conversion, this house holds incredible potential, and we’re here to unlock it.

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Not So Smart. I was just going to give a short introduction to this week’s Design for the Weekend video. But a single word in the AI-generated title reminded me of a thought I had earlier in the week, so we’ll start with that. To generate the description and title

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Design for the Weekend

Redesigning a Classic Terraced House: Key Ideas and Insights. Welcome to my latest project! Today, I’m tackling the redesign of a classic terraced house. These homes are often long and thin, presenting unique challenges and opportunities for improvement. This house has a few common issues that can be fixed without

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Design For The Weekend. Welcome to the first in a new series of weekly emails. TFTW has become DFTW: Design for the Weekend. I had the idea last year to redesign properties I found on Rightmove and film the process, and so, finally, here it is—a first draft for review

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Fair Rising, Steep

Featured company – Westcott Construction Ltd

“It’s been said that I never take the easy option. I like to think that I thrive on a challenge!” Meet Jeremy Westcott of Westcott Construction Ltd, a title which he’s the first to admit is a bit of a misnomer these days. The company has been gradually transitioning from

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May’s newsletter & this week’s links

This month Carl and I are sharing some personal reflections on topics close to both of our hearts. I’ve also been speaking to a chap from one of the companies Carl has been collaborating with for a number of years. He was very transparent (sorry – we’re talking about glazing

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Thinking about renovating your home? Me too!

Anyone else finding it overwhelming? I hear you! Embarking on a home renovation is exciting and daunting in equal measure. I speak from personal experience. My own plans, brewing since before lockdown, have still not come to fruition, thanks to a combination of rising costs, external influences beyond my control

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

The Last One. Well, here we are, at what seems both a finale and a fresh start—the last entry of “Thoughts for the Weekend.” Reflecting on the stories woven through these past forty-eight posts, I’ve ventured across a landscape dotted with architectural musings, personal anecdotes, and the odd grumble about

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Becoming an Architect. This week, I was talking to someone about careers and why or how we pick something to do for the rest of our lives. I got lucky, I knew what I wanted to do when I was thirteen. But there are a few people, experiences and objects

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Allergy Denier. I am six weeks away from a year of writing a weekly article. Most weeks have been pretty easy, but the odd week, like this one, tests my resolve. Not helped by the energy and motivation drain of a bad cough and the associated green flem. I may

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open-plan done well

The home trend people still love… and why

Usually, home trends come and go, but a style that began around 20 years ago – open plan – shows no sign of abating in 2024. What arrived as a beacon of modernity and functionality is now almost pervasive – an interior style desired by homeowners and on many homebuyers’

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Carl Leroy-Smith

April’s newsletter & this week’s links

We held our first Property Drop-in evening this week, which went well. There was some good wine and conversation — so much so that I’ve lost my voice and have had to rely on a Stephen Hawking app to speak to people. During the evening, I presented current build and

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A kitchen extension by Huxley Developments

Builder of the month – April – Huxley Developments

The best bit about what I do? When our clients say to us, we love this! Meet Rafe Philpot, owner of Huxley Developments Ltd. What started as a child’s passion for Lego is now a successful construction company operating across Portsmouth, Hampshire and the South Coast. When I spoke to

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Rethinking Architectural Values: Beyond Design to Assurance

After sharing a version of this discussion on LinkedIn, I’m posting it here to give you insight into the architectural profession’s evolving role in today’s risk-conscious world. Is architecture merely about aesthetics, or does it have a more substantial role? Introduction In the April 2024 issue of the Royal Institute

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Decaff Dreaming. This week, I’ve left it late. Overslept. I woke at 4 am. It was too early to start work, but I wasn’t sleepy, so I put on a podcast and listened to an interview with a chap called Whitley Strieber. He regularly slept with an alien in the

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Southsea property drop-in event 16 April 204

Southsea property drop-in event 16 April 2024

Thinking of renovating your home or starting a project?  Drop-in for a chat with a professional between 5- 9pm on 16th April 2024. BOOK YOUR PLACE: propertydropin.eventbrite.com Location: Tiled, 45 Marmion Road Southsea PO52AT. Pop in for 20 minutes or stay the whole evening but you must book your spot: 

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Running Through Time: A Journey to Less is More. I love running around a place I don’t know; it is a reason to stay fit. I saw an interview with Lance Armstrong the other day. He doesn’t have any events to train for nowadays. So, he is training to “be

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

It Won’t Be Long, Yeah, Yeah. I’ve been busy this week. Listening to podcasts while building 3D VR models and drawing electrical layouts. Grocery shopping, reading books on tax dodgers and a garden in Dungeness, plus a bit of Four in a Bed and chatting with a new AI app

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Carl discussing the finished results with the owners

Unlocking the hidden potential of your family home

Why redesigning with an architect might be your best move Have you ever found yourself wondering why that perfectly adequate home you’ve lived in for several years now feels too small? Do you gaze around your family home, wondering why it isn’t working? There’s quite a bit of space but

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March’s Newsletter & This Week’s Links

Asset Distribution. I’ve been reading Gary Stevenson’s book The Trading Game this week. It’s just out and a jolly good story. I’m nearly finished, and, along with his various YouTube videos (see last week’s links), it is a thought-provoking body of work. The basic premise is that the rich are asset-stripping governments

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Designing your home for better well-being

The role of the interior designer You might think the role of an interior designer is to ‘dress’ a room and make it look pretty. Or that their job is knowing how to arrange a room beautifully. Of course, we do these things, but they are a minor part of

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Golf n’ Around. Here we go, Here we go, Here we go again… This week feels like it’s gone by quicker than most, perhaps sped up by my self-imposed dry March, or maybe due to a peculiar time slip, a sudden shift in space and time. Perhaps it’s both, coupled

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

The Image of a City. I spent last weekend ‘stoatin’ aboot’ Edinburgh with Rhondda—32,742 steps of ‘stoatin’ aboot’ to be precise. It’s Rhondda’s hometown and my first visit. I ran to the beach (5km), ate overpriced steak, went to an engagement party, danced till 3 am in a basement, and argued

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

At the Laundrette. Stepping into the laundrette on Monday with an over-full load, I entered not just a place of washing and drying but a realm where every spin cycle mirrored the complexities of society itself—a lesson in diversity, resilience, and simple yet strange human connections. Yeah, really. It is a

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February's Newsletter & This Week’s Links

Power to the Pebbles. My eyes are closed. The little cottage window’s open. It’s 6.46 am, and all seems still and quiet. Outside, every five seconds, billions of smooth pebbles are dragged and deposited. Moved. The sound of absolute power is enchanting. Soothing. It never ceases and appears repetitive and

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Kevin and Alana of Now Build it

Builder of the month: Now Build It

Communication and transparency equal trust. Meet Alana and Kevin, the team behind Now Build It, a firm of building contractors operating in Portsmouth and the surrounding area. I had a chat with them earlier this week. They offer a bespoke, high-quality and fully costed building service that puts the customer

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

The Temperature’s Rising. Gotta start TFTW early this week. When you read this, I’ll be a year older and down-west, sitting in a sauna, regenerating myself by jiggling my heat shock proteins. The cellular protection and repair afforded by this protocol will counter my ageing. The whisky over the same

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Clean Air Zone Provokes High Rage Zone. This morning, I came down the creaky stairs, wondering what to write for this weekly column. Most weeks, I have something in mind; on weeks like these, thoughts nudge me not to bother; ‘it won’t matter if you don’t do it today. Just

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Let’s be Superhuman. I’m going for the numbered list format this week: 1. I said last summer that I wouldn’t mention AI again. Well, all that’s changed these past few weeks. I’ve been deep in ChatGPT and discovered other versions that generate high-quality images directly from my hand-drawn sketches. 2.

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a house in Southsea

The UK Housing Market in 2024

The movers and shakers A Q&A with Neil Maxwell, Director at Fry & Kent estate agents in Southsea, since he updated us on the situation back in September 2023. Q According to most news outlets, house prices will fall again in 2024: eg the FT The Times and Forbes. Meanwhile,

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A Kuchenhaus kitchen

Planning a new kitchen? Read this first

We want every customer to have the best kitchen for them at a price they can afford. The words of John Le Masurier of kitchen company, Kutchenhaus, whom I met at their Petersfield Showroom earlier this week. Deciding where to buy a new kitchen is a minefield. When there are

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A modern, open-plan living kitchen

January’s Newsletter & This Week’s Links

New Year, New Designs & the Sun’s Out. Happy New Year to all of you! As John Lennon said, “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.” I’m excited to embark on this journey through 2024. I know it will be ‘a good one’, filled with fun, creativity, and

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Sparkling Rocket Man. As I settle into my Swiss-made chair, the sea’s rhythmic waves offer a soothing backdrop to my thoughts. My new smart hover-awning, a marvel of modern technology, shields us from the relentless afternoon sun. Unbearably hot until I got this new gadget last week, the terrace is

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

In Search of Home: A Journey Through Memory & Place. Where we are born – does it shape us, or is it just a point on a map? Recently, working on Charles Dickens’s former house in his birthplace, I’ve been reflecting on this. Cities often celebrate their famous sons and

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Cycling to Stonehenge: A Solstice Ride into the New Year. On 22 December 2017, under the cloak of night, Oliver and I joined a group of 30 on a cycling journey to Stonehenge. Leaving Southsea at 1 am, we pedalled through the darkness, a silent pact of adventure uniting us.

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Half the World Away. OK, I’ve put this off too long. Roldan is sitting on the other side of the world, waiting for me so he can post this – sorry, Roldan. I’m two hours past the publishing deadline: two Remy Martins and five mince pies into the last working

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December Newsletter

This week is the monthly newsletter; of course, we have a festive version for you. Lisa has done a great job, I hope you enjoy reading it. I’ve been getting all festive by trying mince pies from every shop. I can report that Iceland makes the best based on price

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Loft Crag Cumbria

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Eudaimonia. I’m on my knees in a field somewhere deep in the Pyrenees. It’s a late Sunday afternoon in July 2018, blue sky and hot – about 33C. Not much is open in France on a Sunday. Even if it were where I find myself after nine hours of riding

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Tech Testing. I have been testing a few new gadgets around the home lately: some successful, some a total waste of time: 1. I have recently installed a Mill electric central heating system. Compared to a wet heating system, the installation is cheap and easy. A few screws in the

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Featured builder: Damien Gartside – expert tiler

“I was always really good at art. I got an A* in school. Hopefully my customers give me the same rating.” Meet Damien Gartside, expert-tiler; Yorkshireman; dad. His expertise may in part be due to the fact he started tiling when he was just 14, when his mum’s partner started

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Sweat & Mush. I’m dragging myself out of a sweat-infused mess this morning to pull together a few words. It seems that Covid is still a thing. I’ll keep it brief as a week of doing not much means there is much to do. 1. What they say is true.

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November Newsletter

Pre-Love. It’s funny how time flies when you’re having fun. This is the twenty-fourth time I have sat down to write something for our weekly email. It feels like I’ve written double that amount, but that’s how it feels when you do something new you enjoy, make a new friend

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Feature on Tiled – a boutique tile stockist in Southsea

Where to find distinctive tiles in Southsea Taking a stroll through Southsea this week, I popped into one of its more recent additions and had a warm welcome from Helen of Tiled, a boutique tile shop on Marmion Road, Southsea. Why boutique? Because this charming shop is no tile warehouse where

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Anthropological Non-avoidance. Here we go again. The alarm goes off at 0541 hrs, and by 0550 hrs, I’ve commuted to my desk, mug of Earl Grey in hand. It’s Friday morning. I wiggle my mouse and wake up Mac—type R********7. Slide over to a blank desktop to remove distractions from emails

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Sometimes we canter. I am struggling to make sense of it all this week. There were multiple red flags at the beginning of the week, but after braving the storm, I got the green light, and it turned out rather fine. 1. In case you missed it, a major incident

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

I Drove All Night. I am sitting at my new desk, trying to open my heart. The goal: not be a closed book. It’s a difficult process. I’ve made very little headway since recommencing this journey fifteen minutes ago. I can feel my heart beating. A bit too hard. I’m

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Darren Millard

Builder of the month – October 2023

Darren Millard of Millard Installations “When I started the business, I said yes to everything. These days it’s a bit different!” Meet Darren Millard, a builder 20 years in the making who takes tremendous pride in his work and likes to inject a little personality into his construction. “I enjoy

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Sailing west

October Newsletter

We are sailing west. This week, I’ve been marked as a no-show by some very rude Belgians. Taught 600 students to draw by hand, sailed to the Isle of Wight and back. Plus, I produced design options, submitted several planning applications, and solved technical building issues. It’s been a busy

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Isn’t it pretty to think so. You find me on board a Boeing 747-400. I’m stuck in the toilet as I plummet to earth. This bird is rattling and creaking. The G-force is crippling. I’m pegged back against the wall. We are clearly out of control, and as the pilot,

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Build, Destroy & Reflect. This week marks the start of term at the University of Southampton. For a few weeks, I am Sir, occasionally Professor, until they work out it’s okay to go with Carl. Those who persist with the whole ‘Sir’ thing are sometimes reminded to use my proper title:

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

System Building. I am leaving it to the wire this week. Roldan will be up late today getting this article into Pipedrive, so it’s ready to send out this afternoon. He is eight hours ahead in the Philippines. Employing assistants in far corners of the world has been an interesting

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mage: Peter surveying the lie of the land near Builth Wells, Wales (meanwhile, I make him a coffee)

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Know Your Place. I found out yesterday that a friend has died. Sadly, I had lost touch with him in recent years. He is the fourth person I have to report the death of this year. In 2009, we did what Peter called ‘Consultancy Camping’ in empty shops, a ‘new

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September Newsletter

A whole month has passed. Schools are back, but the summer is still here. I’ve spent the past week at a couple of completed projects, filming and talking to past clients about how much their new homes have transformed their lives. How they really love coming home and drinking Hambledon

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A Wasou Design bath

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Drowning In Trends. Britain’s home improvement fad kills thousands. Don’t worry you’ve not arrived at The Mail Online. But it’s a fact that three times more Japanese die in the bath than in car accidents. And what’s big over there is now big over here. I’ve seen ninety-one homeowners interested

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Eternalism

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Eternalism. ​I’ve discovered I’m likely deep in the Block Universe and quite excited about it. It turns out that time has already been determined. All of the universe: past, present and future exists as a block. I’ve spent the past week or so wondering what one does if there is

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Image credit: Disney

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Get Back. This week I am struggling with what to write. The crisis of confidence that I had a feeling would come when I started thinking too hard about this Thoughts for the Weekend (TFTW) gig has hit. Since it started, I have had weekly emails from clients saying how

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Image credit: Marie Anna Baráková

August Newsletter

What’s the point in me filing these weekly articles? Good question. Judging by the number of emails I get each week, quite a few people enjoy reading them and clicking on the weekly links. That’s the point for me, and if I continue to get a few weekly emails, I’ll

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Personal Recommendations. I have been thinking about the value of personal recommendations. Where trust and quality are more important than impersonal quantity. Where one good personal recommendation trumps five hundred Trip Advisor reviews. And then I remembered Ian and Margaret and their pre-internet ways. I was designing a completely new

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Leaf Blowers. Don’t Suck. I have spent some time contemplating the merits of leaf blowers this past week. And following recent disconnected observations of leaf-blowing operatives, Ernest Hemingway and a passage from Ecclesiastes, I’m ready to buy my own. A daily ritual of blowing the same dry particles around the

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Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Nighthawks. Who wakes early and feels anxious? How could the places where we live help us deal with these feelings?  Maybe they are just feelings; sit with them, and they will pass. Perhaps I should meditate for 10 minutes, focus on my breathing, be aware of these thoughts and let them

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image showing the straight line between Portsmouth and Woolacombe

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Apophenia. I’ve been thinking about iron age forts and ley lines this week, after a mission to try and find King Arthur and Merlin at Camelot. I am pleased to report that Merlin is alive and well. According to the 16th Century historian and poet, John Leland, the Iron Age

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Feeding a duck with my breakfast

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Caen, Paris, Zurich. Whilst sat by the lake, sheltering from the rain and feeding the ducks my breakfast, here are a few thoughts from the week: When one of the country’s largest taxi firms can’t get you a pre-booked taxi on time on a quiet Sunday morning, then can’t give any

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Little boy looking out of the window

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Back To The Future. This week, I attended a conference about technology within the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Dull, I hear you say, but before you turn off, I did discover a few things that might be interesting to us folks who aren’t tech geeks: 1) Conference pears were

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Portmeirion. Photo credit: visitmidwales.co.uk

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

My Town. I was in my new favourite shop, Southsea Local, this week getting a coffee and some supplies for a summer lunch when the chap behind the counter said: “You’re an architect, aren’t you? You might know my dad.” I’ll save going into names here, but yes, it turns

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

The Longest Day. It was D-Day anniversary recently (June 6 1944, to save you from disappearing off to Wikipedia); I was reminded that it was almost ten years ago that I designed and built Southsea’s D-Day 75 Memorial sculpture with my friend Oliver. I have recently designed a memorial for

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

Dr iPhone. I like to walk around barefoot. Given a chance, I’d always walk barefoot – but one has to act normal sometimes! This hot weather’s got me in no-shoe mode and thinking about last summer: A shoeless trek through Avignon in the scorching midday heat, looking for a phone

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Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

The First One. This morning I have been to the hospital for another (lost count!) x-ray on my wrist. I don’t have to go back, which is good news. It’s been a tough three months where just keeping going has been a major challenge. As someone who needs physical activity

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