Design Matters.

During half term, my daughter and I took the train to London for a last minute overnight break. She studies A level photography and we both love exploring, on foot and love buildings and differing architectural designs.

In day to day life it’s easy to ‘miss’ or under appreciate the value of ‘good design’ or indeed to ‘ignore’ the impact of a total lack of well considered building design.

When experiencing a new environment, for us at least, the impact of all design and architecture is immediate, visually.

From the moment we disembarked at King’s Cross Station, it hits you in the face, the stunning vaulted, white steel, industrial station ceiling structure and lighting.                                                      

The historic Grade 1 Listed, brick St Pancras Chambers formerly The Midland Grand Hotel designed by the late architect Sir Gilbert Scott, and the tiled interior of the underground system, it’s all about design and architecture!

We walked for 2 days, snapping photos and taking in the differing architectural styles, the juxtaposition of so many of London’s older, historical buildings, built from stone and brick, dwarfed by and right next to huge, multi storey, glass and steel structures, and it works!

The National Planning Policy Framework from The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, updated in July 2018 states that:

‘Planning Policies and decisions should ensure that development:

  • Will function well and add to the overall quality of the area, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development;
  • Are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping;
  • Are sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation or change (such as increased densities).
  • Establish or maintain a strong sense of place, using the arrangement of streets, spaces, building types and materials to create attractive, welcoming and distinctive places to live, work and visit;
  • Optimise the potential of the site to accommodate and sustain an appropriate amount and mix of development (including green and other public space) and support local facilities and transport networks;
  • Create places that are safe, inclusive and accessible and which promote health and well-being, with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users and where crime and disorder, and the fear of crime, do not undermine the quality of life or community cohesion and resilience…’

This is as important in Norfolk as anywhere else, it’s vital in hamlets, villages, towns and cities, to preserve our historic buildings and set up dwellings and settlements, schools, offices and environments for a sustainable future for generations to come.

Design matters, on extensions, conversions, new builds and in alterations to property. That’s the reason for the planning process.

Contact us, to discuss your plans and to chat about how we can help ease you through the procedure.

Holiday Home Design

During a very recent family holiday on Lanzarote, I was prompted to think about the differing standards of both the apartment we were then staying in (with the really lovely view below of the Charco San Gines) and various other homes we had previously rented on the island.

Generally we choose not to stay ‘in resort’, opting instead for small villages or the city of Arrecife, where ‘the people’ work, live and genuinely seem to enjoy life. For us it’s more authentic, although our 17 year old kids may have a different view!

We usually opt for smaller homes, always looking for owners that seem to care for their properties and guests (we ran holiday homes here in Norfolk for over 10 years, so are a little fussy). There is though usually a compromise.
If the owners are fab, then those compromises can stem right back to the DESIGN and PLANNING stage…

The latest apartment for example, with the great view, 14 meter balcony and perfect location had these niggles, totally unnecessarily in our humble opinion:

We had a spacious open plan kitchen, diner, sitting room with French doors. YET just two double plug sockets, one behind the TV and one in the kitchen! Try straightening your hair from the kitchen, on tiptoes, legs in the splits position and neck craned to see into the mirror 3 meters away on the wall! Also attempt the charging of 4 mobile devices, an ipad and 3 laptops (children studying A Levels), whilst boiling the kettle and whisking up fresh pancakes for four, need I go on… Easily solved at the DESIGN & PLANNING stage.
The second bedroom was a dark, V shaped room, with two single beds and no option for a second ‘couple’, yet in the open plan living area was a section at least 2m by 2.5m that was unusable and had been infilled by a random table that you couldn’t put chairs around. Why was this not in the bedroom? Easily solved at the DESIGN & PLANNING stage.

After that I could go on about a utility/boot room only accessible from the far side of the bathroom but won’t stretch your participation with this blog too far…
You get the gist of it.

If you are building a second home in Norfolk, for your own use and potentially for paying guests, or if you are buying a home and intend to use it for holiday letting, think about how your clients will move about in and use the place, at the DESIGN and PLANNING stage. It may just help your lettings and increase repeat bookings…
We are seeing an increasing percentage of our work come from both homeowners and local property developers who are making internal changes to second homes in Norfolk. We’re drawing plans for those alterations and they are being passed to builders to price from and to Building Control if Building Regulations are needed.

Other clients are adding Floor Plans produced by us to their own websites for prospective guests information prior to booking.

Much of the time planning permission is not required for internal work, (this changes with Listed Buildings). Permitted development rights may cover your work, but if not, a Householder Planning Application fee to the local authority will be £206, with a £20 Planning Portal service charge. Building Regulations will most likely be relevant.

Do get in touch to discuss your needs, we cover Norfolk and can schedule an onsite chat to speak in person.

Self Build Homes

So, you may be reading this and considering a self build?

Are you thinking you are mad? Or do the family? Has it been a ‘niggling’ dream for some years?

There are a myriad of articles online and on paper on the subject, but, having done this ourselves, no, we don’t think you are mad and done right, you and your family could be living in exactly the sort of property you desire with the knowledge that you did it yourselves. It’s a good feeling!

You will though, need a strong constitution, the will to succeed and to endure…

Here are just a few of the things you will need to start thinking about in earnest.

Funds: where are these going to come from? Do your research before you find a building plot or piece of land. Self build mortgages are a challenge to secure, and cash flow is vital both before and during a build…

Land: are you being gifted a piece of land, have you found somewhere, are you getting daily updates from pre-set searches on one of the online property portals, have you listed with local estate agents on the ground and made it clear you are actively looking for land? Has the land got permission to build on or not?

Where will you live during the build? We chose a static caravan on site. It was cost effective and increased site security. Our children loved it and took it as an extended camping holiday, we put the majority of our possessions into storage and lived ‘back to basics’. You may wish to rent or be in the position where you stay in your current home or with friends or family, it’s a discussion that needs to be had, early on.

Stamp duty: check out your position with an estate agent or solicitor.

Self Build Insurance Policy: Including but not limited to; a structural warranty, public liability, fire, theft, storm damage and unfinished work cover.

VAT- get advice on this. Keep every receipt and record every payment made, when you finish you can claim for a refund for much of the materials used on the build. This refund can be like a breath of fresh air when you complete!

In our experience, being realistic will help you enormously, both with land, the size of your designs, internal fittings and fixtures and being honest about your budget, whether that be generous or modest.

Think about the sort of home you want and need, come to us once you have your land and lets put some ideas down together. We will put plans onto CAD drawings, we can discuss planning permissions, and submit an application. Once you have your plans drawn, try not to make unnecessary changes.

Do keep in mind, self builders reputedly now account for almost 10% of private new build homes in the UK, so you most definitely are not alone!

Think about home ‘design’ from the word go…

Gable End with Flemish BondWhen thinking of building a home as a ‘self build’ or adding an extension, look around your immediate area, is there a predominance of a particular style or of certain materials, brick, render, chalk, carstone, flint?

The gable end on this home, was considered well before the home was built, Flemish Bond brickwork, False Window and additional detail with clay roof tiles, blend the home more immediately into it’s environment.

We draw plans for submission to local authority for Planning Application Approval, and produce drawings for Building Regulations that can be used to give to builders for quotes…