Home Improvements – Ask the Expert – Des Ewing

As published in Ireland’s Homes Interiors & Living Magazine, May 2018…

Current trends and what clients want:

  • Many older properties have layouts which just don’t suit modern living, with a maze of smaller, separate rooms, linked by dark corridors, with small hallways and long narrow landings all commonplace. So it is no wonder that many renovators choose to remodel these internal spaces to create a freer flowing, open layout. Doing this means removing walls, which in some cases is a simple job. However, when the wall is load-bearing and plays a significant role in the structural integrity of the rest of the house, then it can be a little more complicated.
  • The main criteria clients ask for is space and a better use of it. They want a higher quality specification finish with much more integrated joinery items. Something that is often requested is a better connection with the garden and external areas, with maybe a covered space with outdoor heaters and smaller suntrap patio. External garden lighting is necessary to make the space look as good as possible in the evening and clients are spending an increasing amount of semi-mature planting which is now more readily available at a reasonable cost.
  • Nowadays people and especially children have so much paraphernalia that adequate storage is essential. American ‘mud rooms’, which are attractive storage areas accessed via the back door, are a recent import but go down very well in N. Ireland.
  • Clients are currently tending to stay away from natural stone and instead are using larger format tiles which look like stone but are cheaper and more durable.
  • The days of the safe-tones of grey house appear to be fading with colour and texture making a comeback. Traditional favourites of salvage terracotta and terrazzo are becoming more and more prevalent again.

 

Tips:

It is important not to view a renovation project as a chance to live out your house dreams unfettered. A series of extensions and renovations that not only towers over the original but takes away all its character will look wrong in scale and not work as a house. In such a scenario it would be better to consider a new build — indeed many renovation design schemes become so grand that the homeowners conclude it might be wiser to knock it down and start again (saving 20% on the VAT).

A well thought-out schedule of works is absolutely vital to the success and smooth running of any renovation project. Without one the whole process can become chaotic, with tradespeople overlapping and many jobs that could have been carried out at the same time to save on costs being done separately. A schedule basically lists what work needs to be done to the house to get it complete, and in what order. Everything should be included, right down to the tiniest detail.

A significant number of renovation and extension projects won’t need planning permission at all. These include internal improvements that don’t affect the external look of the building and extensions of a small scale. These are classed as Permitted Development and you can guidance on what works fall under this category on your local planning authority website https://www.planningni.gov.uk/pps07_addendum_annexb_permitted – in N. Ireland. Other larger scale renovations will require planning approval in the usual way. It is essential to take into account any designations that might exist where you live, e.g. Conservation Areas, Areas of Townscape Character or Outstanding Natural Beauty as these could really impact your plans and your need for Planning Approval. If your home is listed or is a protected structure, you will require Listed Building Consent as well as Planning Permission.

One of the easiest ways to ruin your house whilst actually trying to improve it, is by getting the windows wrong — wrong materials, wrong proportions, wrong position, wrong furniture, wrong glazing. If you are renovating a house that has the original windows still in place – likely to be timber or metal – then do all you can to rescue them before you even consider replacing. Avoid replacing period windows with plastic versions — they will never look truly authentic in a period context. Draught and noise problems can be improved by fitting sashes with new seals and secondary glazing is also an option. In some extreme cases the cost of repair work does not practically make sense and you may need to consider sympathetic, matching replacements.

When opening up internal spaces, changes in floor level often have to be taken into account and are common in older properties. Bear this in mind when considering knocking two rooms into one as getting the floors level will add to costs.

Extensions:

A good design starts in many cases with a good survey of what you’ve got and what state it is in. There’s no point in building an elaborate extension if you are going to have to carry out disruptive work to the drains beneath the floor later on, for instance. So take stock, and get a surveyor in as part of the early design process.

Ground conditions, site access, location and proximity of services, design and size — all have a big impact on what the cost of your extension will be and for this reason, it is difficult to give an exact idea of costs. However, extensions always tend to be more expensive that people think so keep it simple and small.

All extensions require Building Control Approval. Building Regs. are there to ensure that minimum design and construction standards are achieved and cover things such as fire safety, insulation, drainage and access.

Extensions can be in keeping or in stark contrast to the original house — either can be a success as long as it is well designed and considers the original building. Pay attention to the issues around the changing roofline, and of course ensure that the materials (particularly claddings, coverings and windows) have coherence to them as a whole house, rather than treating the extension as completely separate.  Consider include plenty of glazing in the form of aluminium or timber windows or folding sliding doors. Letting more light into the space you have by means of larger windows and particularly roof lights can make spaces feel larger and happier and don’t cost much for the return.

Design-wise, it often makes more sense to build a contrasting extension that proudly shouts about its status as a new addition, yet complements and draws out the best elements of the existing building. Sometimes adding large extensions can be to the detriment of the remaining space as it can block light making the spaces less pleasant. In N. Ireland successful residential architecture is about natural light and proportion, making it elegant and beautiful. Clients often worry about how to overcome privacy issues yet still get light into their extensions. There are lots of great alternatives to traditional windows. Banks of rooflights, roof lanterns, glazed doors (both internal and external), rows of windows set just below ceiling level and above the eye level or alternative types of privacy glazing are all possible solutions.

Matching extensions are arguably much more difficult – and often expensive – to get right compared to contemporary extensions, making an extension appear as though it has always been there takes skill and attention to detail. In order for this style of extension to work, not only must the materials you use match the originals as closely as possible (using reclaimed or local materials is key), but you should also aim to copy the main design elements. These include the roof pitch and details such as the brick bond and even the mortar colour. Windows are also massively important, in terms of materials, style and size — make sure their proportions are in keeping with the rest of the house too. Matching bricks for many is the most difficult challenge but also essential to a ‘period’ extension’s success and don’t forget to match the mortar.

One of the most popular, least disruptive and cost-effective ways of adding another room to a house is to convert the existing loft. Much of the mess and disruption associated with other extensions can be contained with a loft conversion, with rubbish often going straight out through a waste shoot. The only form of major disruption comes with the fitting of the new staircase on the floor below. A straightforward loft conversion, carried out by builders or a loft conversion specialist, should only take around four to five weeks. The main area which can incur extra cost and time is the plumbing and electrics. Most loft conversions fall under Permitted Development rights however you will require Building Control Approval. Building Regulations state that if the loft is to be converted into a bedroom, playroom, study or bathroom, there must be a permanent staircase.

Using underused spaces like garages and formal dining rooms is an economical way to add useable space at little cost. If your home comes with an integral garage, you might find that the space is better served as additional living accommodation than for the storage of bikes and tools -as they are never used for cars! Integral garages are usually located near utilities and can be extended into as pantries or enlarged kitchens.  Work does not tend to need planning permission but will need Building Control Approval — there are also some fire safety issues to consider. One of the key tasks is to level the floors (garages have to be at least 100mm lower than the dwelling’s usual level) and can usually be made up by adding a damp-proof membrane if required and sufficient floor insulation. As your existing garage wall will likely have single leaf construction, you will need to apply a compound or waterproofing breather membrane to the walls, along with insulation which can be hidden behind plasterboard as part of an inner leaf.

 

Sourcing an Architect:

The scale of your project may be such that the services of an Architect are just not needed, but if you are extending or carrying out major remodelling work, you should not underestimate what an Architect could bring to the table. They have the experience and expertise to get the very most from your space and your budget and could well offer ideas and solutions beyond what you had considered possible. They will also have connections with local tradespeople and may have a relationship with the local planners — as well as some knowledge of what they are and aren’t willing to accept. They will also be able to submit your plans and advise you on any red tape surrounding your application. A lot of an Architects job is to not get it wrong -to help the client avoid making mistakes and wasting money.

Selecting an Architect is difficult as you don’t really know if you will work well together until you get started. Go for one that loves to do residential work and is enthusiastic about the project. Experience is important but hard work is essential. It is always beneficial to go on the recommendations of others, particularly if you are impressed with their completed projects however a useful starting place maybe to contact your local professional body for architects, so either the RSUA or RIAI to search for registered architects in your area. Here you will find all the necessary contact details and websites to help you create a shortlist of possibilities.  Prior to commencing any project, it is imperative to understand the need to perhaps also employ other consultants such as a Structural Engineer or Quantity Surveyor to work alongside the Architect to ensure the works are carried out as proficiently as possible and to budget. The number of other consultants recommended will vary depending on the scale of the project and the inclusion of any specialist items but it is something to be wary of and consider from an early stage.

 

Des Ewing

 

Cool & Contemporary Living

This ultra trendy high specification home enjoys a top location in Belfast’s popular Stranmillis area. Built in 2011, it was designed by leading local architect Des Ewing to provide stylish living for professionals and families.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Front Elevation

Inside is around 2,600sq ft of beautifully finished, contemporary accommodation laid out over four floors.

Ground Floor Plan

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan (Entrance Level)

Third Floor Plan

There are four bedrooms, master with en suite shower room and built-in wardrobes, an open plan kitchen/living/dining area, a large lounge, a snug, family bathroom, utility, ground floor cloakroom and two walk in store rooms. Oversized contemporary black framed glazing is a main feature throughout the property.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Rear Elevation

This modern home has also been fitted with smart technology and has a ‘whole house’ audio/video system from Elan G which can be controlled with an iPad.

Smart Home Technology

It delivers a variety of audio and video sources such as satellite, TV, CCTV, radio, digital music etc to 10 zones around the home without the need for cabling or devices. All of the rooms are fitted with ceiling speakers and the main zones are fitted with surround sound. The home control system is linked to the alarm, CCTV and garden lighting and can be further expanded if desired.

You know you have arrived somewhere special immediately as the property enjoys a private setting behind electric gates.

Impressive solid wood double entrance doors open into the hallway.

Entrance Hallway

Oak driftwood flooring and a solid balustrade formed from plaster and painted white with a stainless steel handrail is the first of many contemporary designer features.

There is a ground floor cloakroom with bespoke storage units and WC. A utility room is fitted to match the main kitchen by Springfarm Joinery with stainless steel sink and plumbing for a washing machine and tumble dryer.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Kitchen

The bright kitchen/living/dining room opens via large sliding glass doors onto a glass balcony overlooking the beautiful back garden. White units and bespoke wall cladding by Springfarm Joinery are topped with Mistral Winter Drift worktops. All the appliances are included and there is a Miele fridge/freezer, microwave, oven and glass extractor plus a Bosch gas hob and dishwasher.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Dining / Living Area

More oak driftwood flooring keeps the space sleek and contemporary and there is even a space created for your flat screen TV.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Lounge

The main lounge is a vast open space with a lovely Gazco bespoke fireplace and contemporary glass sliding doors opening onto the back garden. This great space is also finished with oak driftwood flooring.

There is also a cosy snug or study which leads into a large walk in storage room.

The bedrooms are all bright, spacious and contemporary in finish and styling. The master has more of those fabulous floor to ceiling sliding glass doors which opens onto a contemporary glass balcony.

Cool and modern living in Belfast.

Master Bedroom

It also has bespoke built in storage by Springfarm Joinery and a ready-made space for your TV. The en suite is accessed via an oversized sliding door which makes another design feature and inside is a shower, wash hand basin, large mirror with shelf, a chrome towel rail and more attractive storage built by Springfarm Joinery.

The family bathroom is a decadent space with part tiled walls and ceramic tiled floor and as well as a bath, there is a shower cubicle, chrome towel rail and another oversized mirror with projecting shelf surround.

Outside is a delight with a large, private back garden which has been extensively landscaped and sculpted by award-winning landscape designer Kevin Cooper. It offers a wonderful private oasis for outdoor entertaining and features multiple terraces, a reflecting pool, greenhouse and wood fire pizza oven.

Landscaped Gardens

This property is currently on the market, so for more information on cool & contemporary living click here.

New Surrey Home gets an Amazing Traditional Look – Homify Article

Location, location, location – that saying certainly rings true when it comes to property, and today’s little discovery once again proves that.

The project? The creation of a traditional Arts and Crafts-style home for clients who, after living in modern houses for several years, decided to build much more character into their new home. Thus, enter the professionals over at Des Ewing Residential Architects and task them to create something traditional, yet at the same time take advantage of some more modern and simple lines.

Work in progressA

As we can see, it’s all systems go for the conjuring of this stunning new family home. And even though it’s not complete yet, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see the traditional look of the house-to-be.

As many natural materials were used as possible, including cobbles, handmade roof tiles, lime render, and timber flooring.

That view

1

Shifting our perspective ever so slightly allows us a fantastic look at that even more fantastic view. How strikingly do the greens and blues of Mother Nature complement the neutral and earthy tones of the traditional house?

The vision: Front façade

2

We might not be psychic, but we have extremely professional contacts, and they’ve provided us with a futuristic vision of what the finished house will look like – thus, feast your eyes on this 3D rendering!

Don’t you think it looks like a house straight out of a fairytale? As we can see (and heard from the designers in charge), this house majors more on taste and style than glamour. As you walk around it, each corner will provide you with an interesting and surprising perspective.

The vision: Rear façade

3

The rear of the house is equally enticing, providing both a royal and lush look thanks to the expertly-made house and the dream-like garden surrounding it.

Let’s have a look at some more images, shall we?

4

5

This discovery reminds us of another little gem we recently encountered: England’s smallest castle.

This article was featured on HOMIFY. Written by JOHANNES VAN GRAAN

Homify – Elegant single-family house!

Great article on one of projects on Homify! Although written in German, don’t let that stop you reading it! Below you can see the translated version.

Today we gave you the project of our English architecture expert Des Ewing Residential Architects which you could also imagine very well in Germany. The clients wanted a house that exudes classic elegance while still providing the comfort, design and energy efficiency of a modern home. We’ll show you the impressive result.

Exterior Terrace

16

The outside area and the environment should play an important role in the design. That is why the architects decided to create generous window areas to, ensure fantastic views and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors, as well as numerous possibilities to use the outer space. In addition to two spacious terraces, there is the beautifully landscaped garden, a generous driveway and a balcony at the back of the upper floor.

The Entrance

12

We change our viewpoint a bit and now we see the driveway to the right of the house, which leads to the imposing entrance area. The front door is flanked by elegant columns and protected from wind and weather by a canopy. On closer inspection, we can see that the building was built on a hillside site, which falls rather steeply backwards.

Golf course

14

And so it looks on the back of the family house. From here the inhabitants can enjoy spectacular views into the valley thanks to the large windows. Here, in a raised position, a second terrace was laid out dedicated to the passionate hobby of the clients: An artificial golf course in small format invites you to relax in the fresh air. There is also another balcony, through which glass walls a magnificent view of the surroundings.

Kitchen

13

The interior of the house reflects 100% the exterior: here too, a harmonious, balanced blend of modern design and classic elegance was set. Here we see the open kitchen, which, with its handle-less fronts, the large island in the middle and the high-tech equipment makes a thoroughly stylised impression and lacks nothing in terms of comfort and function. Details such as the huge orchid pot, the round chandelier and the art collection of the clients lend the house a personal, stylish, luxurious touch.

Living room

11

Finally, let’s take a look into the living room, which is classically elegant and comfortably furnished and is flooded with natural light thanks to large windows on several sides.

– written by Sabine Neumann

Houzz Ideabook – How to use Victorian inspired tiles in a modern home!

Check out this feature on Houzz – How to use Victorian inspired tiles in a modern home!

Oct 10 051

 

You can find the full project on our website.

It was also featured in the Spring/Summer edition of Beautiful Irish Interiors!

IMG_3978

For the full article click here.

Luxury property show ft Des Ewing.

Make sure you get your hands on this year’s “Luxury Property Show ” magazine. Des Ewing and a range of his luxury, award winning properties from around the country have been featured multiple times through out this year’s issue. It features information about the birth of the company and explains how the business has got to where it is now.

A MUST READ!

luxury property show magazine advert