Category Archives: Renovations

Engaging an architect

Let’s suppose you have the need to expand your house. The family is growing, the kids need a separate rumpus area or separate bedrooms, bring in some morning sun, hide the neighbour’s backyard or you just want to improve your home’s day to day functionality. What are the steps to realizing your dream?

Some people head straight to a builder but the first thing he is going to say is that he needs drawings before he can provide any indication of cost. He could recommend a draftsman who could whip up a layout and your builder could then complete your project in quick time. You might have spent $300,000 but who in that process has given serious consideration to your current and future needs as well as providing a sustainable, climatically-responsive dwelling with enduring aesthetic longevity that you will enjoy living in every day into your older age. Have you spent your hard-earned dollars effectively?

Many builders are not so interested in design – apart from where it can make construction simpler (and their building designers / draftsmen often do a part-time, compliance-oriented course over a couple of years). There is no design focus in starting with a builder as first contact.

Another consideration is that most people only carry out one major building project in their lives – so there is little to compare their major spend with. So to avoid any lingering doubts over the rest of your time in your house, I am suggesting you take a leap of faith and engage an architect as your first contact.

Architects are registered professionals who have undertaken a full time, 3-year undergraduate degree and then a 2-year masters degree, with the focus on ‘design’. This is followed by a further minimum 2 years working as a graduate architect before they do further study to become registered as an architect.

Good design adds value to your investment – and to your life. Architects pride themselves on being 3-dimensional problem solvers who can work with you to assess your family home limitations; discuss your short, medium and long term needs; interpret your dreams and desires and transform these into a workable design; and can be responsive to considered staged transformation – saving you serious money and avoiding re-work in the future.

Living in a well-designed, thoughtful, climatically- responsive home environment will lift your spirits every day!

If you look at the different home magazines, you may see the difference between builders’ project homes and architect-designed projects. But I understand that some people are nervous about engaging with an architect. Let me assure you, that first and foremost we want to look after you as our client. Even though you may know very little of the building process, you will be treated with respect and carefully guided through the long process from first meeting to handing over the keys of the finished project.

All you need for a first contact with an architect is to present the ‘problem’. The architect will soon work through your needs and after a while create the ‘brief’ – the goals of the project – that you will both agree on to move forward.

It is helpful to know your genuine financial limitations, but many people approach it by wanting to see what a ‘full and final’ solution might cost and work towards that – even if it means ‘staging’ the project. If you can see a benefit in a design that will allow you to stay longer in your home and enjoy it more, you may wish to go the extra mile. In any case, if there is a finite budget, your architect will work to that.

In the next blog I will cover how the progression of the project to the design phase occurs and then onward to documentation and delivering the finished product.

Give me a call anytime on 38466800 or 0407374261.

Integrating a home extension seamlessly

When you have a special home, with special features but space is tight and an extension needs to be considered, it is important to consider using an architect to ensure the extension is integrated within the original design rather than looking ‘tacked on’. Good architecture can only be created with a supportive client. And every now and again a client walks in with a project that you know can’t help but be successful.

An example of clients with the desire to use good design to achieve this result are those who own a rare 1930s Art Deco era featured house. They had worked with a well-known Brisbane architect for previous renovations, but approached me to finish the final phase of renovations. Their very special property – on elevated Hamilton Hill site- has sweeping views to the east overlooking the Brisbane River out to the Moreton Bay islands.

My clients wanted a new sunroom specifically to take advantage of the view. I designed a semicircular, steel-framed, fully glazed sunroom which offers 180-degree uninterrupted views. Exterior columns beyond the glass wall support a new overhanging open roof deck which provides a deep shading soffit to the new sunroom below.

The new steel framed windows (sourced from Sydney) match original windows of the house and offer very little visual interruption to the view. The result is a light, bright, airy sunroom, with breath-taking views, day or night, to city, river and bay. The design is timeless and the extension contributes to the continuity of the house.

So if you are thinking of additions to your home, consider the added value that a well-designed, fully integrated extension will ultimately add to the major investment that a home is these days.

The History of 194 Gladstone Rd

194 Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill – she started life as as a Butcher’s Shop in 1956

My wife Sue and I bought a small (seemingly) commercial building on busy Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill, in 2002. We had been looking to move up from my home-based architecture practice and from the casual rooms that Sue rented in different suburbs for a while. One day Sue came home and said to me that she just noticed a small building on Gladstone Road for sale. We enquired and found it had been on the market for quite a while. We must have driven past this place a hundred times before we noticed that it was for sale. Suddenly in a traffic jam, Sue looked sideways, saw it, fell in love with it and demanded it.

We bought it without hesitation ($182,000 in 2002), fitted it out for both our practices and moved in our shared work accommodation. It felt great to be (thinking we were) investing in our financial future (real estate) and developing our practices to the next levels. It was a great move. Gladstone Road has high exposure, and even though Sue’s practice relies more on referrals than walk-ins, it gave her a credible foundation for her practice. My practice did benefit from the exposure. We did OK…..put three children through private schools and kept them in ‘clubbing’ money through university (but thankfully they all paid for their own tuition).

We both worked there in our practices for 13 years. Yes, we did (and still do) spend 24/7 in each other’s company – many marvel at that. We would still be there perhaps at our stand-alone building if our eldest daughter hadn’t married and delivered their first baby boy……. roughly 2000 km away in Melbourne in 2015. We naturally wanted lots of contact with our new grandson. For me it was not hard to take time to visit Melbourne, but Sue’s practice relies on reliability for the patients and for the doctors to refer on patients. So for the first time in her over 20 years as a physio she needed to arrange locums to help cover while she was visiting Melbourne. This went very well and Sue really enjoyed the experience of others working with her – so much that she decided to expand.

This couldn’t happen in our Gladstone Road property, so we looked for another building in the locality. At this same time, the house next door went on the market. I could see it’s potential as an expanded physio practice for Sue and had design ideas for the building to preserve its Queenslander style, while modernising it and certainly soundproofing it. We arranged to have a pre-lodgement meeting with the Brisbane City Council as the house was zoned residential, but the Council were adamant that they wanted the house to remain a house and so our plans were dashed for that site. Sue was disappointed and went for a drive through West End and Highgate Hill looking at other properties for sale and on the way back came across a shop for sale in Hampstead Road – which again she fell in love with.

47 Hampstead Road, Highgate Hill – this too was the local Butchers Shop!

We bought in Hampstead Road again without hesitation, fitted it out and both moved in – again sharing the accommodation for both our practices. Gladstone Road was retained, re-fitted and continued in its new role as part of Sue’s practice for fitness classes, yoga and dance sessions. From being a sole practitioner, Sue went to employing 12 people in a matter of months. Fortunately, she had the patient supply to manage this and her practice continues to grow. Sue’s classes continued for three years, but the workload for Sue became unmanageable and we decided to close the classes and sell Gladstone Road.

We placed the Gladstone Road property on the market in October 2018 and had visions of a quick sale. We did have several offers (which weren’t all suitable) and three contracts which did not go through for lack of finance (following the Banking Royal Commission, lending was tricky to get). The property attracted significant interest (we did have around 50 enquiries in its 5 months on the market) but its biggest detraction, for commercial buyers, is its ‘character residential’ zoning. While Sue and I moved straight in following the purchase in 2002 and used it commercially, based on ‘continued commercial use’ (since 1956), we couldn’t find anyone with enough insight to do the same. We had ‘commercial’ buyer interest, but the ‘residential’ zone worried those and we had ‘residential’ buyer interest (it is in the Brisbane State High catchment) but its ‘butcher’s shop’ appearance worried those lacking ‘vision’.

It had been a very frustrating few months………