Home improvements? It could be time to use an architect

Original article by Plastik Architects


Maximizing Assets- Your Home:

Everyone is a developer these days - the extraordinary inflation of the property market in Britain over the last decade has seen to that; a few months ago, it would have seemed almost perverse for homeowners NOT to attempt to maximise their assets through the canny improvement and resale of their property.

Now, with the property market in an uncertain state, an increasing number of homeowners are considering enlarging their current properties rather than ‘trading up’. So it’s an ideal opportunity for homeowners to fashion a home ideally suited to their own needs. And yet, some would not even consider using the one professional trained to realise bespoke building solutions: an architect.

You only have to watch one of the many property and makeover programmes to understand why this is so – architects are mentioned so rarely that viewers would be forgiven for assuming that, when it comes to a successful domestic conversion, an architect is, at best, incidental and at worst, irrelevant; even in Grand Designs, the champion of bespoke projects, architects tend to be shadowy figures to whom only passing reference is made.

And yet, it is precisely in small domestic conversions that architects can add real value, not just through the increased market value but equally through the creation of genuinely bespoke spaces, which should be significantly more pleasurable to use than those planned solely with the input of a builder.


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The Value of an Architect:

For many, paying for a professional, who can deliver a high-quality product and a low risk process, would be money well spent. For others, not yet convinced that they would see a return on this investment, it’s worth remembering that any good architect will make a homeowner’s money go further. In the first instance, gaining planning permission for a high-quality design in itself can add significant value to a property. Then planning a home more efficiently, preparing cost plans and finding economic solution; thinking through all the construction issues, preparing the building contract, sourcing materials and of course site supervision.



Case Study:

The first of these projects was for a married couple with a three storey Victorian semidetached house in Tufnell Park. Sophie and Mazen, who had been introduced to me by their builder (a friend of mine who had worked on my flat), had no particular expectations of my design input, and envisaged me simply drawing up their ideas for the builder. However, it soon became clear that, when it came to the reorganisation of their kitchen wing, they were far from reaching unanimity about what they wanted.

Couples often have quite divergent ideas about what they want from their homes (!) and it can be challenging and stressful coming to a common agreement about the best way forward. Architects are the only professionals with expertise in all aspects of the building process (technical, legal, financial and aesthetic). An architect is, first and foremost, a guide, leading clients through the statutory, practical and financial implications of their aspirations so that they have a clear framework for making decisions. More importantly, an architect is a lateral thinker - rather than allowing a couple’s sometimes conflicting needs to lead to a standoff, an architect will seek a fresh solution, one which neither member of the couple had envisaged and which neatly meets both their needs.

And so it was in this instance. Sophie wished to preserve something of the character of the Victorian property while Mazen aspired to a more contemporary feel. Without an architect they may have reached a stalemate. Instead they got a harmonious design which perfectly reflected their individual personalities and priorities.


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