You’re reading this because you have a plan to change your home. You want to improve it. Maybe you need more space, want to change the layout or are thinking about extending.
Do you need more light? Perhaps you have a couple of small, dark rooms
that you want to transform into a light-filled open-plan space
that your family can enjoy being in together.
Whatever home improvement you have in mind, there are some simple steps to take your idea to realisation.
Here’s my 10-point plan:
Understand the problem
You don’t need to solve the problem, that’s the architect’s genius zone. But you do need to be able to articulate it. So:
- Write down a design brief. This can be very simple and very short and can include a diagram or two. But it helps frame your thoughts, and it can help a couple agree on what they want. If you disagree, that’s fine. Write both versions!
- Establish a budget. Very few people can write a blank cheque, so being realistic from the outset about what you want or can spend is crucial. It’s a key constraint in developing a solution to your problems. I work to a budget and never forget that it’s your money funding the build.
- Use Pinterest, magazines and websites to research the types of things you like, and don’t like. Create a little journal of these. It can steer the vision. Have an idea of the furniture you would like to include in the space. Don’t worry too much about the budget for this one, dream a little!
Find an architect or designer
Find someone you feel comfortable with and who has a portfolio of work and an approach that you like. You want someone who will listen
and offer several solutions to your problem. You don’t want a design for their dream home or one they did before. I can recommend someone if you are struggling with this one 😉
Carl produced five different design options and a design specification. The one I chose was brilliant because it was the simplest but also the most radical – and which I would never have thought of. – Jonathan Bridges, Portsmouth
This creates accurate digital floor plans
and elevations for your architect or designer to start the design work. Usually, your architect will arrange this important step. I do.
Consider several design options
You are going to spend at least the cost of a new car, so it’s important to consider different solutions to solving the problem. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve created a design the homeowner hasn’t even thought of. After all, I’ve had 30 plus years of designing home solutions
and this might be your first.
Refine the design
A proper design process is more than seeing a drawing and making a comment and that’s it, job done. I teach architectural and engineering design at the University of Southampton. What I teach is a process, not a style. A good design process responds to the client’s problem and involves several stages of feedback and refinement. It can take time, but it saves money further down line.
When building work starts, it’s too late, or too expensive, to change your mind.
You want a design process that means you’ve been through all the what-ifs, discarded the bad ideas and baked in the good stuff. My Virtual reality service
(yes really!) will also help you see the design before making a commitment. It’s like a test drive.
You will almost certainly need building regulations approval,
Obtain your consents
and you may need planning permission
depending on the type of work you have in mind.
These applications require detailed forms, submitted with drawings, reports and building specifications. If you are building close to or on a boundary you may also need to deal with the Party Wall Act. Hint: some architects will take care of all this for you.
Find a great builder
It can be a headache, especially when all the good ones are busy. We all hear the cowboy builder stories. Finding a builder
that you feel you can trust is tricky. The best source is people you know who have used a builder and are happy with their work.
Use your architect or designer. I have a list of local builders who I’ve worked with for years
and who I trust enough to happily recommend. The best approach is to find three or four, meet with them to get quotes and chat about their approach. Look at their previous work. Have they done what you want before? Then you can compare and make a decision based on all of this and, importantly, whether you like them.
Get a contract drawn up
This is really important in my book. It will state, in simple terms, what the builder will do, how much it will cost and how long it will take. And crucially, it will set dates for payment. The last thing you need is a builder asking for £15,000 tomorrow. A contract gives both of you a plan. At the very least, make sure you have a quote from the builder
in writing with details of what’s included in the cost.
9. The Build
The final, messy step. There’s no easy way to deal with having building work in your house, but organise the house and family as best you can and be prepared for some disruption.
I’ve had building work done on my own home, and it’s stressful, even when you know what’s going on. Maybe it’s more stressful because I know too much! – Carl
I recommend that you (a) find a way to live with some degree of mess and chaos (or move out if you have the option) (b) keep paying the builder according to the contract and (c) remember that, when they’ve finished, it’s going to be amazing!
Sit back, relax and enjoy
Buy that fancy lamp you’ve had your eye on or those new cushions. Appreciate your home – re-designed.
That’s it, you’ve transformed your house into your dream home.
You’ll love coming home.