Why working with an architect isn’t always enough

December 5, 2018

When you decide to extend or re-model your home the first port of call for most people is to engage an architect to help them decide on the structure and draw up plans.  And yes, you absolutely do need those drawings to get through planning or get a permitted development certificate, as well as getting builders to provide quotes.  However, what if those drawings have focussed so much on the size and make-up of the structure that they haven’t even considered the internal flow and layout?


This is what our latest clients were faced with.  They’d been given drawings for a 2m side extension housing a utility room (with what they called “a 3-door situation”), a downstairs toilet and a kitchen in the cut off corner of the build.  They knew that this layout wouldn’t work for them but didn’t know what they needed to change to make it work. 


We’re so glad they found us at that point because what we were able to do was re-design the internal layout to better meet the way they want to live in their new home.  And although what we did wasn’t particularly ground-breaking, we were able to re-invigorate their excitement about the project, which had started to wane as they were getting bogged down in the architect’s plans.


Here are the key things we worked with the client to change, giving them the best use of space without having to extend the budget.


Size of the extension


Our clients had started to think that the only way to get the most out of the extension was to go from a 2m side extension to 3m, which they thought would enable them to:

  • Create a larger kitchen, which was the most important space that they wanted to get right

  • Provide more space for the utility room since the 3 doors in the plan was stopping them from having a lot of storage space in this area

  • Make the downstairs toilet feel like less of a walk-through

However, if the layout and flow was to the stay the same, all they would have ended up with is a larger version of the same problem.  We were determined to find a solution that could fit in the original 2m plan, or at least only need to go out to 2.5m at the most.


Position of the kitchen


The key to the success of this renovation was the kitchen.  Our clients are a lovely couple where the wife spends most of her time pottering in the kitchen but her husband wants to feel a part of it with her.  We knew we had to create a kitchen that would have enough space for all the pottering but have an island or breakfast bar area for people to sit and chat whilst she was there.


Having a kitchen in the cut off corner area of the extension just wasn’t going to provide that feel so we had to move it to the where the dining area was planned to be.  Moving it into this space along with knocking out the chimney breast and blocking up the original doorway allowed us to design a fantastic kitchen running along 2 long walls, with a sink looking out into the back garden and a large kitchen island with an overhanging breakfast bar.  It also meant that there was no need for kitchen wall units which our clients really didn’t want.


Given that the whole house is being totally refurbished before they move in including re-wiring and a new central heating system and pipework it wouldn’t significantly add to the cost of the build to move all the kitchen plumbing and wiring so this was a real ‘no brainer’ for them.


Access to the garden


Moving the kitchen into the dining space did mean that the bifold doors to the back garden that the architect had incorporated into the design had to go.  However, we didn’t think this was making the best use of the side garden (which is significantly bigger than the back garden) and the position of the sun at various times of the day.  So, we built bifold doors into the design on the side of the new extension.  This means that you walk out from the dining area into the larger side garden which will be landscaped and have fewer neighbours overlooking it.



Knocking the old pantry space down


In the original drawings the architect had kept the original pantry area which our clients had thought it would be a nice idea given the history of the building and that it would provide more kitchen storage space.  But, with the kitchen design amended it didn’t feel sensible to keep this in the design.  So, we decided it would be knocked down and it would be replaced with a bookcase or bespoke unit to house cook books and other bits and pieces.


Utility and downstairs toilet


The first thing to get rid of here was the “3-door situation”.  But with a requirement for side door access to the utility when coming in with muddy boots as well as access to the rest of the house this was going to be difficult.


The first thing to debate was the access from the toilet into the hallway – was this really needed?  If everyday access to the house was going to be through the side door then they would be able to pop to the loo on their way in.  And, if most of their time was going to be spent in the kitchen/dining/living area at the back of the house then they (and any guests they have over) would be most likely to access the downstairs toilet via the utility room anyway.  So, we could lose one of those pesky doors, hooray!


The next discussion was access from the utility to the downstairs toilet.  The position of the toilet and sink meant that in our original design we kept an open walkway through from the utility into the toilet area.  However, when talking through those plans, we were told that privacy when the grandchildren are over is quite important so we had to come up with an alternative.  We have a similar utility and toilet set-up in the basement of our own home and rather than going for a traditional door we’ve got a sliding door which saves on space and looks less cluttered, so that was the alternative.


In conclusion


Our clients loved all these ideas and the changes to the internal design will give them a far better layout, flow and importantly the lifestyle they’re looking for.  Interestingly, the outline of the extension is essentially the same as the architect had drawn up, but the use of space is far better.  Also, by working with us and choosing a 2m extension rather than a 3m version, we have saved them around £8,000 in build costs.  No wonder they are so pleased to have worked with us!


If you are thinking about renovating your home and need some help or inspiration, do get in touch with us here.  And don't forget to follow us via Instagram, Facebook and our upcoming blogs.




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