8 Easy Ways to Achieve Architectural ‘Wow’

All too often self-built and renovated homes end up as bland as off-the-shelf developer houses. Charlie reveals some simple ideas to make yours special.

Designing a house is a complicated business. There are an almost incalculable number of decisions and variables that shape the design process and, therefore, your home. Well-designed unique homes are desirable, lovely to live in and ultimately more valuable than off-the-shelf alternatives. But all too often self-builders and those carrying out major renovations end up – thanks to constraints of space and budget, a designer with limited ‘vision’ or simply timidity about anything out of the ordinary – with a bland home too.

To avoid being sucked into bland you need a good design early on — and you need to stick to it. I believe there are a few straightforward ideas that will help you (and your designer) create a home that punches well above its weight.

Stairs Need Space

Don’t simply shoehorn the staircase in. They can be mean, narrow and tucked away (as per developer homes) or have drama and excitement. Stairs are always an expense but with some clever design and not a lot of extra money you can transform stairs from a perfunctory necessity into a show-stopper. I tend to put stairs in a double-height space to accentuate the connection between levels and therefore creating additional interest.

Raise the Ceiling

One of the things that sets the bland mood in a new developer house is measly ceiling heights. Almost invariably 2.4m, and in many cases less, such ceiling heights create a slight feeling of claustrophobia and give wider, longer rooms an unsettling letterbox feel. The increasing invasion of downlights, smoke detectors, air ducts and speakers that litter ceilings only increase this top-heavy feel. The good news is that high ceilings make small rooms feel generous and are an absolute must for large spaces. Big rooms with 2.4m ceilings feel squat. You can easily attain that feeling of grandeur by designing ceiling heights of at least 2.7m and preferably 2.9m. The extra materials used will add cost to the build but it’s worth it for a luxurious feeling of space.

A Dressing Room

A master bedroom suite increasingly helps define a home’s value — the people using these rooms are paying for the house, after all. Dressing rooms are a real luxury and don’t have to use much extra space — a bedroom with less clutter can be smaller and still feel spacious.

A Larger Hallway

The impression you get when first entering a building sets the tone of a home. There is nothing worse than cramming into a small hall when you arrive at a house, so always be generous with your entrance. You only have to try and shuffle your family/friends in and out the door with bags, coats, dogs and wellies a few times before you understand how crucial the hall is.

A Big Front Door

As a central part of the arrival experience, the front door is always worth spending time and money on to get right. Much like the hall, it sets the tone. Go wide and go tall.

Position Windows from Inside Out

Far too often windows are placed to look symmetrical and neat on an elevation. The real function of windows is to create views and bring in light — not as a decoration for the exterior. I tend to start by placing windows from the inside out and then try to make the elevation work.

No More Tiny Doors

Why do people stick to bland standard-sized doors when a large door blank and an extra set of hinges cost just a few extra pounds? Don’t just go wider, go taller as it draws the eye up, accentuating height and space.

Double Height

There is huge pressure on self-builders and renovators – especially with the growing trend in valuing houses using floor area – to do away with double-height spaces. This is a mistake — double heights don’t waste space, they make space. In many ways it is the perception of space rather than a measurement that defines how a home feels. I use every opportunity to connect the different levels in a building, with views and light creating interesting shapes, light effects and a dynamic experience.

  • 23/01/2023Concept Interiors Sketches play an important role in our early design process. They provide loose options for a client and have an informal feel that helps to form the direction of the design. These sketches are for an exciting project we’re working
  • 09/01/2023Winter Visit A team visit to a local site to check progress on building works. The project is nearing completion so we look forward to a full reveal in a few months. This timber framed extension has an overhanging copper roof and
  • 25/12/2022Merry Christmas! From all of us at CLD.
  • 05/12/2022New completed project Another recently completed project has been photographed and is now live on the website. Read more here about our approach and the integration of landscape and architectural designs.
  • 18/11/2022Grade II Listed Cottage A 3D model for a single storey kitchen link extension to connect a Grade II Listed cottage and an outbuilding. We will work up a few options like these as part of the initial design process before settling on an
  • 04/11/2022New completed project One of a few of our completed projects that we’ve had photographed recently. Situated on the edge of an ancient woodland  in Oxfordshire. Click this link to read more.
  • 21/10/2022New additions to the website! We’ve been working with our photographer over the summer and are proud to publish some new projects on the website! Watch this space as we reveal some of our latest designs, and click this link to read more about one of
  • 01/10/2022“… a Pruesplosion” Our Gloucestershire Farmhouse project was featured in the FT How To Spend It magazine this Saturday 1st October! Click this link to read the article online, and this link to read more about our design concept and approach. Photography: Fred Howarth
  • 05/09/2022Concept Sketches Concept sketches are developed early on in the design process to quickly generate, test and present ideas to the client. They will be included in a ‘Book 1’ feasibility study which we undertake at the start of every project. We
  • 10/08/2022Planning granted for Wiltshire house We have recently received planning permission for this house extension in Wiltshire. The existing Edwardian house had been subjected to a series of piecemeal additions which required updating to improve the living spaces and the energy efficiency of the house.
|