Helping Hands

So we had the land, and an outline idea of what we wanted to create.  What we needed now were the professionals and experts who could actually bring it all to life.

The two most important players, in our view, were the architect and the builders.

Choosing an architect is a tough one.  At the risk of being too repetitive, we had seen many of the problems on Grand Designs projects caused by the architect.  The reasons ranged from lack of competence through poor instructions to arrogance.  So we were determined to find the right architect.

We had some recommendations, and we spent a lot of time on Google, and even, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know, researching some of the architects who had been on Grand Designs.

We tend to take the same approach when appointing any professional, in many respects you take the technical competence as a given, and it then largely comes down to personal relationship, personality and impressions.  Do you like the individual?  Can you get on with them?  Will you work well together? Do they share your sense of humour?  Do they even have a sense of humour? Are they interested in your opinion? What have they actually done before – how much is action and how much is talk?

In the end, after all the research, we only met two firms of architects.

The first had been highly recommended, had done work for friends and was reputed to be a real expert in the area and with planning.  So we went to see him.  Somehow we didn’t hit it off. It started when we went to his office, at his house.  There were some scrappy cars in the driveway, peeling paint and a bell that didn’t work.  Bad first impressions.  Like a workman who turns up in a battered van.  Or a hairdresser with bad hair.  Not confidence building.  Then he proceeded to disparage our ideas and tell us what we should build.  Next, he told us how he was very aggressive with the planners and forced them to agree with him.  Not really our style.  Lastly, he didn’t really know how to operate his computer so couldn’t show us photos of previous projects.  Quick decision for both of us. We had to keep looking.

We did finally find an architect – a firm of two actually – who seemed great, and we’re now working with them.  We’re quite proud of how we found them.  While searching for a property to buy, during one of our frequent nights of internet surfing, we saw a house for sale. A really ugly, 1930’s house!  Ugly on the outside, but stunning on the inside. Remodelled, modernised, crisp and clean, the interior was exactly what we had in mind.  It’s easy to be somewhat sceptical about the genuine usefulness of most of what is on the internet, but every now and again it proves that it really can be useful, and not just a way to waste time or learn facts you never needed to know. So, we started to investigate.  Once we had worked out the address of the house, we found the relevant local authority, went on to the planning website, found the submitted plans – on which were clearly printed the name and address of the architects.  Result!!!  Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out!

So Karin got in touch, we met them, looked at dozens of photos, spoke a lot about houses, and design – and of course Kevin and Grand Designs – got some references, really hit it off and appointed them.  And so far, we’ve continued to be highly impressed and have never looked back.

As an aside, we have decided at this time not to disclose the identities of our professionals.  Once the project is finished, and a complete success, if they agree, we will do.  If not, better not…..  So let’s call our architects, Frank and Lloyd, after you know who….


We relied here on recommendations.  We ended up going to tender with 5 building firms, having met them, seen what they had built and established that we were like minded.  Two didn’t bid in the end, for different reasons.  One, used to working with Russians in Central London it turned out, bid 50% above the other two. One, was close on price, we really liked them and their work, but they wouldn’t go sufficiently open book.  One met all our criteria and we went with him.  Let’s call him Bob…..

One thing we have established in this whole process is that everyone has advice.  On everything.  While we were in the process of choosing a builder, we were told how to think about the quotes and the ultimate cost.  We were told to get 3 quotes, add them together, and that would be the cost of the build in the end.  We think that was a joke.  We certainly hope it was.  So far it seems to be, but then again, Karin hasn’t shared the spreadsheet recently…..

2 thoughts on “Helping Hands

  1. “We were told to get 3 quotes, add them together, and that would be the cost of the build in the end. We think that was a joke.” No, it wasn’t a joke, but it did make me chuckle. Looking forward to some photos soon.


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