Before you can get an idea of the cost and scope of the work to be done, you need a drawing of the layout – based on where the walls, doors, and windows go. How much of the next part is done by you, and how much is done by an architect or builder, will depend on how much you want to spend and how much you want to be involved.
Whatever you decide, the success of the final outcome is directly related to how well the layout works for you and anyone else that lives in the house with you. If you have a young family, your priorities will be much different than if you are recently retired or single. So take the time to consider how you use your home and what spaces you need.
Define what you want
Start by listing what works – and doesn’t work – in your current setup. Maybe you hate how there is nowhere to store your child’s toys, or the way the rooms are closed off, or how dark and gloomy one area of the home feels. One way to do this is print out a copy of the image of your layout that came with the estate agent listing for your house when you bought it, and jot down notes on each room. Even if you’re not doing anything structural to every room, you want to consider the whole house as part of the bits that you are changing.
Find Examples and Inspiration
If you’re struggling to visualise what a space might be like, try visiting some show homes, or talking to your fellow course members on our forum, or friends that have different styles of layouts that you are considering. Take inspiration from house listings on somewhere like The Modern House – these are all design-led homes where real thought and craftsmanship have gone into the layout and interior design, so you can find aspects of these homes that really speak to you, and keep a record of those. You can also use filters on Houzz to get inspiration from locations near you, and styles similar to your house and tastes. Clicking ‘more on this project’ will give more context into the flow of the rooms which goes back to helping you visualise the possibilities in your home.
“Get multiple designs done – from different places. Ask the experts, try and stay open-minded – even if you don’t like what someone’s come up with, it’s worth getting as many ideas as you can. And ask family and friends as well, get feedback on how different things work or don’t work for them in their homes. Don’t get fixated on the first idea, make sure it really is going to work – draw out a template of the island or footprint of what you’re considering.”
~Matthew Harper, The Instant Kitchen Company
Working with an Architect
If you are working with an architect, bring as much as possible into your first meeting to maximise your time with them. One way to keep costs down is to pay for a consultation instead of a full design service. Even a rough sketch can help guide the conversation and make sure that what they come up with is the best combination of their skills, experience, creativity – and your needs as a homeowner.
Still not sure whether an architect is for you? Here are some links to helpful articles:
Self Build- Why Use an Architect?
RIBA – downloadable PDF on working with an architect
Houzz – Why Should I Use an Architect?
Finding the right architect
Ask around from friends and neighbours, or use online sites like Houzz to find a short list of architects. Use the style you want as an initial reference to make sure your architect has experience in the type of look you want to achieve.
Many architects will offer an initial consultation, or flat fee services if you want to try out their services or have a lower-budget involvement. If you are going for a full-scale service, make sure you get a clear quote and understand how the relationship will work.
Look at Experience
“When looking over the company’s previous work, ask yourself whether any of it reflects your home. You want a professional that has plenty of experience in your kind of project and with your type of home. The more experience they have, the less likely they are to make mistakes.”
Consider the type and size of firm
This is another factor that will depend on your personal preference as well as the size of your project. You may want the personal service and likely smaller fees of a one or two-person architectural firm. Or it may be important to you to have a larger business with more capacity for the assurance that can provide. Whatever you decide, make sure you consider the pros and cons of the type of firm before you commit.
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