Perhaps what was once a playroom could now be better served as a study, and a double garage could be put to use as separate accommodation for independent teenagers or parents-in-law that may one day move in. Laurence Holder, Head of Octagon Bespoke – which designs, builds and extensively renovates luxury homes in London and the Home Counties – shares his top tips for how you can start planning a home project – whether that’s building from scratch, or transforming your current home to better suit your needs.
Evaluate your needs
Whether your children have grown up and you could do with a bigger kitchen for mealtimes, or you are coming up to retirement age and need to make your townhouse more accessible, working out what you need from your property is a natural starting point. Now is a good time to have conversations with your family, discussing and exploring what your priorities are – and evaluating how you really use your home on a day-to-day basis.
Research architects and designers
Choosing who will deliver your project is one of the most important decisions in any home renovation or self-build project. Reputation, reliability, build quality and business longevity are all worth considering.
Similarly, look at a developer’s portfolio of work. It’s important to see if you like their range of design interpretations and whether they have had experience delivering similar projects. Some developers may be able to deliver a wide range of styles, whilst others may focus or specialise in one type of build.
What may start as a small project may grow into something much larger, and you may well continue to use the same suppliers for many years to come, so picking the right team is crucial.
Look into planning permission
While; of course, not the case for a new-build home, not all renovations and extensions require planning permission – a number of home improvements fall under Permitted Development (PD). Have a look at your local council website to explore their policies, as this can affect the timelines of any project.
For larger works, or if you’re renovating a listed property, working with an experienced architect who’s familiar with your neighbourhood could save both time and money. They will likely understand the local requirements – what the local authority planning department are likely to sign off, and what they will say no to.
Investigate potential plots
If you’re looking to start a project from scratch, then searching for a plot to build on is a good place to start, unless you’re; of course, demolishing your current home. Finding a plot, which usually includes buying the existing dwelling on it, can be difficult to do as a private individual. Typically, estate agents and developers will work in partnership to bring plot opportunities to the market.
Sometimes the old-fashioned ways are pretty effective. If you have fallen in love with a particular road or hamlet, do a direct mail drop into people’s letterboxes – draft a nice letter expressing your interest should they ever decide to sell up. The advantages of a private (chain-free) transaction with no agent’s fees can be very alluring to both buyer and seller.
The alternative is via the builder/developer you want to build your made-to-measure home, who could well have acquired a plot already that would meet your requirements, or have the ideal plot already on their books.
Though visits have to be carefully managed at present, that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to companies you may want to work with, and it could be advantageous to have a head start with planning once face-to-face meetings can recommence. Suppliers may well be able to provide approximate costs per square metre, or provide introductions to specialist contractors, should your plans include a swimming pool, home cinema or other specialist installations.
One of the most important factors in a home project is building a positive, trusting relationship with those managing your project – a personal relationship makes a big difference and can make the whole process run much smoother from start to finish. Feeling inspired about your next project? Octagon Bespoke undertakes projects from £1m. For more information, visit the company’s website.