Grand Designs – Making Your Inspiration Meets Reality

Lisa Raynes

by Lisa Raynes

04/10/2016, in Main Blog

Nothing can change nation’s tastes in architecture and interior design like a well done TV property show. From Changing Rooms (remember the omnipresent MDF and purple walls?) to Ugly House to Lovely House, we take our inspirations in redesigning our homes straight from the ideas shown on our TV screens.

The latter programme, together with The House That 100K Built, is a child of Grand Designs – a reality fairy tale still going strong in its 17th year. With its personal stories, sweeping visions and spectacular results it thought us to dream – not necessarily about building a house from scratch, but about living in a better designed homes.

And that’s an undeniably good thing. The problems start when our dreams and knowledge gained from these TV tales need to meet reality.

Have you ever asked yourself how it’s possible that most of the projects featured in the make – over programmes tend to stick to deadlines and budgets, the builders are the nicest and most reliable people, and planning permissions are such a breeze that they’re hardly ever mentioned?

Here at Pride Road we put together a quick guide to a house building process that will help you to challenge the myths spread by the TV home shows, without shattering your dreams.

Choose an Expert

An audience of the home make- over shows has then the benefit of admiring projects by famous architects. We are made to believe that we too can commission our kitchen refurbishment to an award winning, well-known practice. It’s never mentioned though, that a lot of big architectural companies simply don’t do house extensions.

They usually work on big-scale projects and small jobs in the domestic residential market are neither their speciality nor worth their while.

While choosing an architect responsible for turning your house to a dream home, look for a practice that operates mainly in the residential sector. Ask to see their past projects, check their clients’ testimonials.

Mind the fee

You may not realise – and I can’t blame you – that the vast majority of residential architects featured in these programmes do not charge for their services. Appearing in a popular show is treated as a great way to advertise your company.

It may come as shock, but in reality architects do need to be paid for their work. After an initial free consultation a good architect will present you will a detailed plan of fees involved: from a concept design workshop to surveys and a tender. It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to hire an architect only for designing your new space or for overlooking the whole project. To learn more about residential home design costs, check out our pricing details.

TV shows are trying to prove that great architecture doesn’t need to cost the earth and you can redesign your home even on a tight budget. This is true but a detailed knowledge about the cost involved will help you to make decisions and manage your expectations.

The Planning Permission

Yes, you can apply for a planning permission yourself, provided that you have all the required plans and documentation. Going down this route requires a lot of preparation but could save you some money. Or it could lose you some.

Your architect should have the knowledge of planning regulations and experience of dealing with your local planning authority. Trusting an expert will be worth it in the long run – you minimise the risk of refusal and your project going back to the drawing board. Unlike in the TV shows, these things do happen. To learn more about planning permission, check out our guide.

Material World

In the TV world it is possible to build a massive home extension, change windows in the whole house, put up a cladding, fit in a new kitchen and even do some work on a garden for… 60K. Why? Because manufacturers offer big discounts to the producers of such programmes and sometimes waive their costs all together, bartering their goods for advertising. Never mind the aforementioned architect’s and planning fees.

Your only way to make sure how much exactly your project will cost is to hire a quantity surveyor. Your architects should be able to recommend you a trusted professional. And yes, the QS will charge you, but again – it will be well worth it at the end and it will save you money.

To save on materials you need to shop around but don’t be tempted to buy everything yourself. Your building contractor knows the market and as a tradesman can buy most things cheaper. Get to know the prices, demand all the receipts and ask different companies for quotes. Ask your architect and builders for advice as cutting corners on quality of materials may come back to bite you in the future.

The Magic of Deadline

To be fair: struggles with budget and deadlines often feature in the home make-over shows as even the gods of TV cannot fix all the obstacles that any building project will stumble upon.

On another hand, TV works to a different schedule than architecture. If a TV house project is running dangerously over the deadline, the producers may – and they often do – subsidise it, in order to have the desired finale.

You and your kitchen extension will not be so lucky. Projects do stretch, things do come up. As long as you’re prepared that a 3 months building work may take a month or two longer – you’ll be fine. An honest architect should be able to tell you how to manage your expectations and present you with a realistic time frame. Will it be all worth it? Absolutely.

Think of a building process as of a journey: it may be uncomfortable and difficult but you forget all about it once you arrive at your destination. Your dream home is waiting for you – just take the first step to get there.