Makeovers and other fundamental changes to houses.

Makeover is the term we use to describe a certain type of project where a client does not just want to extend or change the internal layout but wants to do more. It may require a facelift improving kerb appeal for instance or the way the living space relates to the garden. Quite often extending or reorganizing the spaces is on the agenda too but it is an awareness that something more fundamental is required that is the key. It can stem from a desire to increase the value of a house for commercial gain or, as is more often the case, the clients like a location but just dislike the house as it stands. We even get clients who aspire to move to a location, give us a list of properties and ask us to appraise all of them. In this case we would start with trying to understand the clients needs in terms of accommodation and stylistic preferences. Some clients have started scrapbooks containing photos of houses they like before we first meet and this is very helpful. We are aware that some less prosaic clients miss out because they do not appreciate what we can do for them, and of course it is a courageous act to put such trust in another. I would always encourage those embarking on such a process to meet their intended architect or designer to see if there is a meeting of minds before engaging. Even then the client should be prepared to change designers if things are not working out and I describe a project below that came to us under similar circumstances. We were very pleased to be of assistance and as it happens things have turned out better than the clients expected.

Our clients already had plans prepared by others to demolish and re-build a very tired bungalow with the intention that they would live there. Once builders quotations had been received for the scheme it become clear that the project could not be economically justified. We were then commissioned to improve the existing building with a view to our client selling it. We looked at a number of ideas and based on what clients are generally asking for nowadays we developed a scheme that would, we thought, achieve the best returns. To achieve this you have to have regard to building costs the end value and the time taken to fruition. The end value will largely be governed by location, which of course we have no power over, but we can help with the design. We prepared a number of proposals and the client chose in my view the best of these. To call the adopted scheme a make-over is misleading and since I hate the term anyway, I would prefer to describe the proposal as an exercise in rebuilding, restoration, remodeling, regeneration, renovation, reorganization or even re-creation. Call it what you will, it has completely transformed the house into a chalet bungalow with two large bedrooms with ensuite in the rebuilt roof. The lounge is still the lounge but the fireplace has been rebuilt so that it does what was intended by the original architects but never really achieved – it provides a feature and a focal point within the room. There is another large third bedroom with ensuite on the ground floor for guests. But the real joy of this house is the journey from the entrance door through to the family room and kitchen. Most clients want a family room adjacent or part of the kitchen and if this space overlooks the garden then it is much the better for it. This space does not just overlook a garden but it overlooks a beautifully mature garden that has been tended and cared for by the occupants over the years.

The upshot to all of this is that our clients have now decided not to sell but to live in it themselves. Who can blame them. Our clients have done a fabulous job on the kitchen and, as I write this, they are grouting and polishing the granite floor tiles. It will look fabulous when it is finished and I would like to think they will enjoy this rebuilt, restored, remodeled, regenerated, renovated, reorganized recreated house as much as the new house that was never built. It is very satisfying to work on a project like this we are grateful to our clients for giving us the opportunity.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics.

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