“I need to have moved in by this time next year.” So were the final instructions from our Client who had just bought a large Victorian Villa in Morningside that had recently closed its doors as a care home. No pressure there then! This slant on the brief really dictated how the project was set up, with many activities, usually followed through in a linear sequence, this time running concurrently. A scheme to convert, remodel and extend the building into a contemporary 7 bedroom house was quickly settled on and a Planning Application followed soon after. In went the Stage 1 Building Warrant to demolish a lift tower and rear extensions while the detailed design for Stage 2 continued at a frantic pace. A Cost Plan was pulled together based on the Planning Application drawings and a 2 Stage Tendering process was started. Our favourite local contractors were invited to submit tenders containing rates for all the relevant trades as well as be invited to an interview to discuss their capability and flexibility to meet the demanding programme.
We introduced our good friend Malcolm Duffin to the project team and then followed fortnightly design team meetings with the client to throw around ideas on the exciting stuff – kitchens, bathrooms, tiles, lights and the like. We even all took a jolly to 100% Design in London for inspiration. The design process on this project was the highlight for me. The client was really design savvy and wanted the project to really say something about who they were and an interior designer who you just can’t hold still. Our meetings were engaging, energetic, robust but always productive.
Once appointed, the contactor made a start on the demolition, strip out works as well as a re-roofing package and moved seamlessly onto the more interesting and challenging phase of putting the building back to together just as the Stage 2 Warrant was granted.
There were many design and construction challenges. A 13m clear span over a frameless glass sliding screen resulting in a beam just short of 1m deep which had to be hoisted over the house from the road. Using sprinklers to great effect to offset the need for fire doors and lobbies as would usually be required for a 3 storey house allowed open plan spaces, especially on the top floor. The coordination on site of high quality products and finishes that all needed to be positioned mm perfect.
There is quite an amusing story associated with this project. Being born on April 1st, I have been known to introduce unsuspecting folk to April Fools Day. During this project my birthday coincided with the installation date for a bespoke designed copper and white Corian bath. As this was for the Master En-suite on the first floor it had to be hoisted through an upper window. Below and through a large frameless glass cupola was a newly installed £100k Italian kitchen. That morning I emailed Malcolm Duffin to explain that the hoist cradle for the bath had snapped and the bath had fallen through the cupola not only destroying the bath and cupola but the kitchen units below and that he should call me immediately. It was my intention to come clean on that call and admit the April Fool joke. However, Malcolm was so devastated at the news that he didn’t have the stomach to call me back. Instead he spent the whole day sweating and stewing and working out how would explain such a catastrophe to the client. As I explained when we did finally speak that evening, “If you had only just called me back straightway as I asked Malcolm, you wouldn’t have just had such an awful day.”
Oh, and the client did move in just 12months after appointing us.
David Johnson, Director
Head of Architecture