Louisa, one of the partners of Spacemaker Architects, is learning first hand what it’s like to renovate and reconfigure a property.
In spring 2015 my partner and I purchased our first house, a 1930s two bedroom mid-terrace house in Canterbury. The house had not been well looked after by the previous tenant and although the house had no serious or structural issues it required a full renovation.
My partner is also an architect and as you can imagine we had lots of ideas but knew we had to sequence the works because of budget and time constraints. Our first priority was to get the house into a habitable state and it became apparent very quickly that it was going to be much easier to do most of the work whilst we were not living there. Luckily my parents live locally and were ‘happy’ for us to live there while we renovated the house. We worked evenings and weekends (to the dismay of our student neighbours!), with the help of my extended family of volunteers. Some helped clean and strip wallpaper, some, who have specific trades, plastered, rewired electrics and fitted bathrooms, all under the guidance of my dad, a mechanic- come jack of all trades, without whom we probably would still be scratching our heads.
This is a really useful project as not only is providing me with somewhere I want to live it will also inform the work I do for clients in the future. I already knew that sequencing the works is the most important thing to get right and this project has reinforced that (at times we have got it wrong!). Having helped to undertake the practical building work, including replacing windows and working out problems with plumbing and drainage has given me more sympathy for builders too as everything always takes longer than you expect. It has also been interesting to reflect on how we’ve reached agreement about design decisions, for example; how to cantilever a sink and whether to expose a brick fireplace and have a wood burner fitted.
We moved into the house in June 2015, it was still a building site but we had to make do. Slowly the house is taking shape and most of it is habitable but the rear dining room, kitchen and garden remain unfinished. Although the kitchen is usable we plan to relocate it and possibly build an extension using our permitted development rights. This will require a party wall agreement to be put in place between us and our neighbours. There is still a lot to do to to the main part of the house over the summer months before we extend. Living in the house has helped us consider what extra space we really need (I definitely need a utility room!) and the actual money and time required, so we are very glad that we did not extend straight away.
I hope you’ll revisit my blog in a few months to find out about our progress and if you have any renovation stories please do share them.