By Abi Amor

5 tips for briefing an architect

What does every project start with? The obvious answer would be a brief, but in reality, it starts with the desire to change, to fix or create something special (often a combination of all three). The brief is a powerful tool to help you express those feelings into something tangible. As designers of luxury homes, we’ve helped our fair share of clients develop their briefs. So, we wanted to share with you our top 5 tips to writing a brief that ensures you achieve that dream home you’re looking for.

Budget

Budget is one of the most important things to consider when developing your brief. Having a good idea of how much you want to invest in your project before you start will put you on the path to success. It will give your architect boundaries within which to design, making your journey more comfortable. Here are some things to consider when working out your budget:

  • Keep it real: When figuring out how much money you would like to invest, be honest and realistic. Frank discussions with your architect regarding money will become a common and important occurrence as your project develops, so it’s best to start out with an honest view on what you can afford.
  • Breaking down the costs: Whether you’re planning to refurbish your existing house, or you want to build a new house, you can broadly put your costs into the following categories: a) the cost of the construction in addition to your design fees, b) the cost of hiring consultants. Both must be included in your overall budget.
  • VAT terminology: VAT can make a significant difference to the overall expense of a building project and we could write a completely separate article on this subject (in fact we will!). But for now, the most important thing you should know is that sums within the construction industry are always expressed excluding VAT. This applies to both the construction and consultant costs. So unless your project qualifies for a VAT refund  then don’t forget to factor in 20% on all costs.
  • Have a contingency plan: We always endeavour to ensure projects run smoothly, but there can be unforeseen costs. Budgeting between 5-10% of your construction budget to cover any unexpected discoveries during the build stage will put your project in good stead and your mind at ease.

How do you want to live?

We don’t give much thought to our daily routine, we simply live it. But as creatures of habit, we become painfully aware when our living spaces are poorly re-arranged and the routine is disrupted. Our jobs as architects and designers is to truly understand how you experience your living space and what requirements you have, from the daily habits to your dreams. Our mission is to represent you in the design. To give you a head start, these are the key things we focus on:

  • Day to day: Is the kitchen the heart of the home for you? Or perhaps you’re not a fan of cooking so the living areas take centre stage? Are you happy with 2 bedrooms because the kids are all grown up and don’t need their own room any more or do you need more bedrooms because you have a large young family and you also envisage having people to stay often?
  • Habits: Is it important that you have breakfast basked in morning light looking out towards the view of the river, putting you in a good mood to start the day? Or is your vision more geared towards beautiful dinner parties bathed in evening light, feeling the warmth of the setting sun as you dine outside with your family and friends?
  • Hobbies: Are you a collector of fine wines and need a beautifully chilled walk-in wine cellar? Perhaps you’re a family of music lovers and your 15-year-old daughter needs a room perfectly suited acoustically so she can practice her violin without disturbing the rest of the household? Or exercise is your priority and you need a home gym where you can train for your burgeoning amateur cycling career?
  • Dreams and long-term planning: Do you want an indoor/outdoor feel to your spaces? Would you like the transition between the inside and the outside to feel seamless so that when you slide open the large glazed doors to the patio, the garden feels like it’s part of the inside of the house? Are you beginning to think about the long-term and how your use of the house may change in 10-20 years?
Elegant sideboard interior design dining room
Fully glazed double height hallway new build home interior design

Time frame

We all know that time is money, but it is important not to lose money by attempting to save time. When we talk about time, we consider first your time and then the time the project will take to build.

  • Your time: Are you expecting a new and much-awaited addition to your family? Will your children be going away to university in a few months? Working around and accommodating such key events in your life is our priority. Please do not shy away from sharing them with us and we will let you know how to best combine the timing of the project with your needs.
  • Project time: From our first meeting together to the day you have the keys to your new home, there may be months. The duration of the build depends on a variety of factors from the complexity of works to the actual building in question. To help you navigate the many stages of building your home we have developed the HG Way, which consists of 8 stages of working with us. You may want to carry out some of these side by side to save yourself time, but it is important for us to evaluate together the risks this may carry for you and the project.

Sustainability & Energy Efficiency

Green and energy technologies have become commonplace in recent years, and they carry a benefit for you and your home as well as the planet. Whether you feel strongly about the impact your project will have on the environment or you are interested in maximising the efficiency of your new home, we are happy to explore a multitude of options with you and find the right mix of technologies and materials for you.

  • Materials: Your sustainability choices aren’t only restricted to the technology installed in your home, the materials and their application can have a significant impact on how warm or cold the building will feel. These materials will also have a less harmful impact on your health and the environment throughout their life-cycle. If you know what materials you’d like to use or are interested in exploring your options, we can tailor a selection for your build.
  • Technology: Would you like to use alternative energy and heat sources? Are you interested in making your home more independent from the main grid? There’s a multitude of exciting ways of integrating smart and green technologies with contemporary and even traditional designs. Please let us know if you have a specific vision in mind or you’d like to discover what’s out there.

Developing your Design Language

What do designers mean when they say ‘design language’? Whether we are aware of it or not, every single one of us has their own unique design language, it encapsulates everything you naturally lean towards. Do you prefer your home to have a sleeker contemporary feel? Or would you rather have quirky and eclectic details throughout your home? Understanding how you want your home to look like is what we call developing your design language. You may, however, not have an exact vision of what you would like your home to look like – don’t worry this is why we are here. Throughout the design process, we will explore with you a variety of options and really finetune the design to represent you and your design language.

We can imagine how excited you may be to embark on this journey and if you would like to get ahead, we recommend creating a board on Pinterest or simply saving reference images of what you like! Using visual tools like these is not only fun but it’s a great step towards expressing your design language.

Luxury timber clad london home extension
Modern glazed new build country home

How can we help you?

As leading high-end residential architects with vast experience of creating wonderful living spaces across London, Surrey, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire  and the Cotswolds we are eager to use our expertise to design the home that perfectly meets your needs and aspirations. We’d love to help you plan your project. Find out more about how we work or get in touch for an initial conversation to chat through your ideas.