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Allan Corfield27.4.2020

What are the benefits to a family of working with an architect when designing their home?

Tom Connor, Hester McQueen (Custom Build Homes), Jason Orme (Homebuilding & Renovating) and Allan discussed many interesting topics that will help self-builders to build houses that support their lifestyles. We picked several interesting questions and presented them on our blog.



Tom: ‘Allan, you know, we’ve talked over the last year or so about how do we turn individually designed housing in whatever form into a mass-market product. That’s kind of what we want to achieve. And I think anyone in the Custom and SelfBuild or just housing wants to see. How do you feel working with an architect will benefit people in terms of creating something that actually does work for them in times like this. Also, that improves their everyday life when we don’t have the restrictions.’

Allan: I think it’s vitally important that it’s not sticking just with architects, good architects and good designers. If you’re working with somebody to design a home for you. That’s the thing where what we are producing in the UK is poorly designed and poorly thermally efficient or not thermally efficient houses. We are not designing homes. The stuff that we do, Self Build and Custom. We have done 340 Self Builds now. They are designed to that person’s requirements. If those people that are sitting in their home right now. It’s perfectly designed for them, not for a mass generic household. And that’s a massive thing. 

If we can start bringing that to become the norm, we’re going to have better quality homes that people can use now, five years time, ten years time. So they’ve got a future home. They’ve got something that’s tailored to their requirements. A couple of examples of that. A lot of the stuff we do at the moment is, for the last couple of years, it’s been an open plan, kitchen-living, dining. If that’s the only space you have, you’ll be hating it. Because you need somewhere to escape. You have to have that dynamic.

So in the house that we’re currently in, it’s four-bed house. One of the bedrooms up until a year ago when we had our newest child was a home office. But we wanted to retain a spare bedroom for family members to come. So that’s now a spare bedroom. So I am working in a conservatory and I’ve had to move up here into the bedroom because it was too loud so I can do calls. Part of it is great. We’ve got separate spaces we can use, but they’re not fit for all of the different things that we now need to do because the dynamic of how we’re using houses is changing because we’re in it more. If this house had been designed from first principles, we would have had a specific office that was designed for both myself and my wife Emma’s requirements.

Tom: When you first speak to customers, then on a Custom Build development or someone looking to build their own home. What are the types of questions that you are asking for? From a home buying perspective, people go on Rightmove and they look up a number of bedrooms, where they want to live and they look what’s on the market. Whereas when you work with an architect, I get the feeling that it’s much more of a personal ‘how do you live your life’ set of questions. And then the design comes from there. Tell us a little bit about that.’

Allan: ‘Yes. We were very guilty of maybe five or six years ago having a very prescriptive brief that we asked: room sizes, different amount of rooms. What do you want to do? But now we tailor it completely differently.

We ask: ‘what are the four or five things you do as a family now? What are your main activities?’ Prime example, in the house that we have got, I travel a lot very early in the morning. So you’ve got a master bedroom, dressing room and an en suite. I can go from the en suite back into the dressing room and straight back into the hallway. I don’t have to come back to the bedroom. So I’ve done that through thinking about how we need to live. So I don’t need to go back in and wake my wife up for a second time.

If you go through this process of thinking ‘how do you live?’, It can be as simple as the kids are coming home from primary school now, ‘what do we do at 15:30 or 16 o’clock?’ We all sit around and make dinner around an island unit in the kitchen. ‘Are we outdoor people?’. A lot of our clients, the younger ones are more outdoor, so they want a double garage that they can drive in, wash the bikes down, that is connected into a wet/dirty utility room with a shower in it. So you can hose the bikes down, come in, hose the kids down and put the laundry straight into a washing machine. But these are things that you get from designing a home for you.

There are several questions you can ask people about: ‘how they live now?’, ‘how they will live in five years?’ and ‘how they might live in 10 years?’. It’s really important that we’re designing homes for now, but also for how the future will develop? ‘Is your family multi-generational?’. Again, if we’re all stuck in lockdown with other members of the family, how do we actually do these things? So that’s what you get when you’re designing a home.’

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