Hiring a design professional might seem daunting, even excessive, but achieving the outcome of your dreams can be worth the investment and ensure costly mistakes are avoided, writes Carol O’Callaghan
IT’S much easier to move a line on a drawing than move a wall later. That’s according to architect Lizette Conneely of Conneely Wessels Architects, while discussing the value of bringing in a professional when redesigning at home
Recruiting an architect or an interior designer for a small project might seem like an unnecessary expense when you have a great builder who can translate exactly what you want into reality, leaving the rest of your budget available to put into the fabric of the project and the pricey kitchen or furniture you’ve hankered after for ages.
But anyone who ever dithered about hiring a design professional and eventually decided to go with one will know the value and unexpected benefits.
“Good design is an investment in your property,” Lizette explains, “It saves you money in the long run. It can make a space feel bigger by implementing architectural devices such as manipulating the natural daylight into a space and framing and maximising the views; interconnection of rooms, and flexibility in use of different spaces.”
Irish houses bring their own challenges, it seems, when renovating or extending, particularly those built in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Lizette.
“They consist of small cellular rooms which don’t meet modern-day requirements of open-plan living, and they need re-imagining. Depending on clients’ needs, we generally design different types of spaces, such as open-plan kitchen, dining, living spaces that are bright, spacious and connected to the outside, but also more snug, inward-looking spaces for winter living that offer cosy and comfortable convivial living spaces with the current “Hygge” trend.
“We also focus on designing multi-functional spaces that can work harder for our clients and add value to any house. For example, with clever use of joinery design, a room can be used either as an office or a guest bedroom.”
Since the advent of television programmes about home renovations, reconfigurations of existing space have become a hit — especially where there’s no room to extend. “They’re a great way to improve the flow of the house by re-organising spaces to maximise daylight, orientation, room adjacencies and interconnecting spaces.
“When we are working with small spaces every centimetre counts. Layout improvements include storage design maximising usable space, incorporating storage design under the stairs, and even in the stair risers which can become drawers; storage under fitted window seats, touch click drawers under wash-hand basins, and overhead kitchen storage units that fold up and can stay open while you are cooking.”
Even things we might not routinely consider are picked up on by the design-trained eye, Lizette explains. “Location of the stairs can impinge on usable space. It’s generally located in the middle of the house but by relocating it to the side or rear, it frees up a lot of space.”
Paul Carpenter, director and project architect at Cook Architects, highlights the importance of detail and taking time to consider what’s really needed.
“An architect offers an overview of the house and spends more time considering the detail. We see a lot of the mistake of adding on a conservatory with no consideration about how it interacts with the rest of the house. It’s looked at in isolation. The same with things like siting a stove. What’s left and right of it? An architect will think about these things. They’ll ask questions you haven’t asked before.
“Talk to a few before you start and see if you like their work, and talk to their previous clients.”
But for a novice, the extent to which an architect needs to be involved in a project is not always clear.
“People will sometimes come into the office for an hour to talk about a garage conversion or kitchen extension and just get advice and not project management,” Paul explains. “An experienced architect can read that pretty quickly.”
But what of the concerns a homeowner may have that the finished interior, including décor and furniture, might end up reflecting the taste of the architect and not their own?
Paul explains: “Some are more forceful than others, but better architects will show their clients what’s a good idea.
“There’s an element of trust here but I’ve never had our clients say something was a bad idea. They usually say, We would never have thought of that’.”