how it came about
By a chance mention on Facebook in 2017 Irvine Jones Design Ltd and Simon and Jennifer Warburton became acquainted (not forgetting the children, of course, Beth & Issac).
They had already appointed a designer, from the Birmingham area, to apply for planning permission for a large two story extension, proposing to enlarge both the first floor bedroom and ground floor living accommodation.
Simon was wanting to know, close to planning permission being granted, what the next steps were and how much it was going to cost.
Following our appointment for our very successful ‘Needs & Options Review’ stage, we highlighted that the budget limitations discussed and the proposal that was already in with the planning department was, unfortunately, inconsistent. We advised that the current application should be withdrawn prior to determination, to protect the fee already paid, and that a new revised scheme, better reflecting budgetary constraints, should be submitted.
A further appointment was made between Irvine Jones Design Ltd and Simon and Jennifer for full services provision from planning stage all the way through to the construction and completion stages.
Following further meetings and discussions the scaled-down scheme needs were pin-pointed by Simon & Jennifer.
The first floor addition was an unnecessary extra, not an absolute need, and so the focus shifted to the ground floor.
The existing spaces were cramped and disjointed. An existing unused music/play room was accessed directly off the living room, and with the children growing older, had surpassed its useful life and had become more of a storage space than anything else.
The kitchen was very tight and falling apart. It was a ‘galley’ style, linear space, terminating in a dated and ‘poky’ extension (with a leak), housing a dining table (just) and access to the garden and a doorway to a cold office and laundry space in a crudely converted garage.
On a number of occasions, probably more than I can count, Simon and Jennifer vocalised, ‘we just need a new kitchen and more living space!’. Of course, what you have to remember is, they had already been through the design stage of the project, prematurely, before any meaningful research was carried out (our Needs & Options Stage) which led to a scheme which was out of line with their requirements and so, understandably, they were frustrated and wanting to have the changes made, soon!
Irvine Jones Design figured, with a bit of planning and spatial configuration on the drawing board, that with a bit of extension and a small amount of reconfiguring the existing redundant spaces, Simon and Jennifer could have what they wanted, and more.
What we discovered, through the Needs & Options Review and detailed design stage, was that if the old play/music room was opened up to the new extension space, the majority of the existing kitchen space could be used as a ground floor shower and toilet. Additionally, on the side of the shower/toilet space a small utility room, just big enough for tumble dryer/washing machine stack and a laundry basket, could be located opening out into the new extension/kitchen area. The old garage space could be re-converted with a new vaulted roof, with one wall removed entirely to finish with a large open plan kitchen, dining and living area.
We were also able to squeeze in a storage wall, to be used in part as a desk/office space and in part a storage cupboard. This was located between the existing living room, and the new living area, which was once the play/music room. This location not only worked well with the living space but also provides, when closed up, an additional sound barrier between the two living spaces.
We think it’s important to provide storage, where we can, unless the client wishes to fit cupboards themselves, after the project has completed. The beauty of providing storage space, or storage walls, at the detailed design stage is that it can be properly planned in, using space in the most efficient way, that relates usefully to any adjoining spaces.
As well as the new storage wall in the hallway, the existing WC room was converted into a cloaks cupboard which will provide useful coats and shoe storage, just inside the front door.
Throughout the whole of the detailed design stage Simon and Jennifer expressed it was important to get as much natural daylight into the spaces and avoid dark areas, especially the living space in the main house, located in between the hallway and the new extension.
We achieved this, initially, by introducing large roof lights both into the flat roof on the new extension, and both sides of the old garage, now the kitchen’s dual-pitched vaulted roof.
Furthermore, we introduced three large window openings onto the garden and provided a four-metre width bi-fold door opening, to terminate onto the external decking space.
The extensive glazing areas give the space a real feeling of openness as well as an overwhelming feeling of connectedness with the outside. By having such a large amount of glazing, Simon and Jennifer have benefited from other things, not just daylight. They can stand the clothes drier in front of the windows which naturally dries the clothes and they also benefit from direct sunlight penetrating the space, on one side in the morning and the other side in the evening. This contributes further to the feeling of connectedness with the outside. With being strategic about the location of the fabric apertures, holding the large pieces of glazing, you reserve some wall space for things like pictures to be hung and cupboards to be pushed up against, not forgetting an area for the ceiling light, extensively detailed ‘floating ceiling’ perimeter channel and kitchen up lighter channel, to be washed over the walls when the stars are in the sky.
Simon, specifically, is an avid ‘techy’. He loves his technology and was keen to see this implemented within the design of the space so that things like the lights, TV, sound system etc. could be automated and voice-controlled using the WiFi network and smart devices. Through the specification and working closely on-site with the builder and his electrical sub-contractor, the technology was integrated early on in the design of the scheme.
Overall, for us at Irvine Jones Design, the scheme was a huge success and achieved the goals set out in the design brief with some fantastic results. We learnt a lot from a very understanding and patient client who, and I’m sure they won’t mind us saying this, learnt a lot from us too. I can hear Simon saying now “it’s not just drawings you do”.
With the trust that they invested in us from the beginning, they not only learnt a lot about, albeit on a small scale, construction projects, but also the vital role that the architect plays in construction, realising and achieving, often, skyward aspirations.
We know that Simon, Jennifer and the kids are really happy with the results of the scheme.
“It’s...testament to your hard work and patience with us and whole project.
We are incredibly grateful to you for making our home into the space we desperately wanted and needed.” Jennifer Warburton.
In turn, we are very grateful to the Warburton family for giving us the opportunity to work with them jointly, as a team, on their home. Without a client that possesses such tenacity for project proceedings, often projects can fall foul of difficulties leading to negative outcomes. In this instance, this was not the case. Instead, the family have ended up with a scheme that has fulfilled their objectives and more.
“We all [the whole family] spend most of the time in here now [the new living space extension]. We hardly use the living room” Simon Warburton.