Planning Your Perfect Interiors
I recently featured in the Listed Heritage Magazine published by The Listed Property Owners’ Club exclusively for members, covering the whole spectrum of heritage conservation issues.
My article focuses on working with a listed property but the same applies to any building. You need to make sure your personality is part of the decision making process. I hope you enjoy the article and if you would like to work together, please do get in touch.
When you own a listed property there can feel like an overwhelming number of factors to consider including
the condition of the building and whether it requires remedial work or a wholescale restoration programme,
what is appropriate for the building and the surrounding area,
planning and obtaining approval,
whether the building is fit for purpose and services your needs,
if the property is in a conservation area or a world heritage site,
and the list goes on…
Your most crucial role as a custodian is to protect the building for generations to come but when considering the above, plus any additional statements that may apply, there is one which needs to be added to the list. This one is often forgotten or overlooked in the pursuit of catering for the others that seem more important. The one I am referring to is - what do you want?
This then leads into establishing what you are trying to achieve through the changes you are looking to make which must go hand in hand with reflecting your personality.
You should be centric to the decisions that you make and that ultimately means that your likes and dislikes need to be considered and incorporated. This includes the location of a room due to its function, the décor and aesthetics and selection of materials. Yes, you need to work with the governing bodies, and they will have a say on what is appropriate, but not to the point where it does not feel like home. Yes, you are a custodian, it is still your home when all is said and done.
So often work is focused on making the building sound, watertight and warm, which of course is absolutely needed, but then the interiors can feel like a chore and something that can be “lived with”. Or you might feel that they need to be trapped in time or reflective of anything and everything but you.
Whilst this may feel true it need not be the case. Finding out about how your building was constructed, the people who lived there and how it evolved over time is not only needed when developing your planning application, but also valuable information to help shape design choices. Add to this the location of the building and its place in the surrounding area and whether it held any significance, and you have a wealth of information about the design styles that may have been incorporated over the course of your building’s history, even if they are no longer visible.
Spending time researching your property, even looking at the archives and census records, all helps build a picture and by having this information it means that you are making decisions that are authentic to the property.
You also need to be authentic to yourself. It is understood and accepted that the building will have evolved over time. Depending on its age there may not have been indoor washing facilities, a fully functioning kitchen, distinct bedrooms, central heating or electricity. This list goes on and as each generation has occupied it, changes have had to be made. The changes you are looking at making will be due to the property not fitting the way we live today and that is to be expected. Lifestyles and regulations change at an unrelenting speed and the associated costs can be just as frightening.
Taking stock of your building and getting to know it on a more personal level means that the changes you make will be sympathetic, realistic and as much as possible, future proofed, so that funds are spent wisely, thereby reducing the risk of needing to undertake rework.
There are so many sources of information in the modern era, including TV programmes which aim to inspire and entertain; however, these can often result in a copycat approach in design. They may even lead you to believe that trends matter and go as far as to suggest that by employing the services of an architect or interior designer you won’t be listened to and they will force their opinions and preferences on you.
Sadly, these statements can all be true but there are practices out there that will categorically say that trends do not matter. This is even more pertinent when you live in a traditional building and not a “new build box”. When it comes to design it should all be driven by a combination of factors, and these should be front and centre. It should be about you and the building followed by what is compliant, ultimately feasible and within your budget.
Once you have established what makes your property special, what features should be showcased and the design periods and styles that will have shaped your building it is then about you. What are you drawn towards? This could be one particular design period but often it is a combination of many. The colour palette and detailing of the Victorian period with the more geometric shapes of the Art Deco period for example. What materials, textures, fabrics and finishes spark joy and which do not? What is the function of the space? How will it evolve over time? What are your hobbies and interests and do you work from home? Do you have children, pets, overnight guests? All these factors are not directly of interest to the planning authority but they do matter. They all build a picture of what you need from the space, how you want it to perform and look but equally how you want it to feel. All too often it is easy to get caught up in the “musts” and “should” and lose sight on what is important to you. After all, you are the one living in the building, you are the one paying for it so shouldn’t it evolve and reflect you as it will have over the many years its previous occupants?