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Our friends Ardesia Design share some tips with us on their best practices when designing a home for a client. A member of the BIID, Ardesia is a London-based interior design company led by Swiss interior designer Laurence Rouveure. The studio focuses on turning properties into homes through professional interior design and refurbishment services across Central London and Internationally.
Walking around London is a great exercise in considering the exterior appearance as often period properties are ruined by the addition of too many mismatched skylights, different styles of window frames and a patchwork of different extensions, roof terraces, and other modifications. No wonder borough councils are so strict!
Some rooms have a natural relationship with each other in terms of circulation, and ignoring this can lead to an impractical design that doesn't work. For example, it's clear that bedrooms should have private entrances through a hallway (you'd be surprised how many times I have seen bedrooms that you have to enter through kitchens or even through other bedrooms).
Using hallways improves circulation and minimises the amount of space needed purely for traveling from room to room. When designing open plan, it's useful to design a small lobby, hallway or even a corner of a room as an entrance into the house, as a 'buffer' before entering the main living space.
This is not the only reason for considering the outside - it's important to consider factors such as orientation, sun direction and views from the windows when choosing the layout of the interior - it's not always easy to add windows retrospectively so utilise those rooms with windows the best you can.
Often there is the urge from the client to over-design or crowd the space you are working with. Many clients we talk to in the Briefing stage want 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms both with showers and bathtubs, an open plan living room / kitchen with a separate family room, guest bedrooms and of course plenty of storage in every room (the list is endless) and only have 80sqm to work with.
Whist it's usually possible to 'fit everything in', we often advise our clients to perhaps forget the guest bedroom in favour of a more comfortably sized second bedroom with more storage, or to partition living spaces to create more private spaces rather than decreasing bedrooms size in favour of a separate family room, for example. A house with many bedrooms is not as good as a house with comfortably sized, balanced living spaces.
An open plan layout can be the most efficient way to utilise space. Instead of breaking space up into several individual rooms, a single, multi-functional room allows more of the space to be occupied and viewed, creating an airier atmosphere. Daylight can travel through the entirety of the space without being obscured by partition walls.
Well designed open plan space should be 'Zoned' - each function within the open space, such as living room, dining room and kitchen, should be clearly organised as a separate entity. A sitting area could be arranged around a fireplace or television, a dining area might be defined by a long pendant light and different ceiling or floor height and so on. Each zone should speak to each other, so the dining space and kitchen space should be adjacent and the floor material and general interior scheme should be unified throughout.
The number of bedrooms needs to correspond to the living space. This tip is similar to working with the space you have but relates specifically to the number of bedrooms because the number of bedrooms defines the number of people who will live in a property. For example, three double bedrooms with a 3x3m living space means 5-6 people will share the tiny living room, where you will barely fit a two seater sofa. Two double bedrooms and a 6x3m living space means 3-4 people can share the living space, where you will comfortably fit at least a 3-seater sofa and an armchair.
The quality of light entering a room can transform a space so the main rooms should be given priority in terms of location in relation to natural light. Where possible, light should enter from more than one direction and where windows aren't enough, consider installing roof lights. If privacy is an issue, it's better to have the window and use obscured glazing than to leave the window out.
High-level interior windows or interior glazed partitions can be used to allow light into windowless rooms. Priority should always be given to the living room, kitchen, main bedrooms, dining room, study/office, over less major rooms like bathrooms, dressing room, gym, playroom, cloak room etc...
Hallways, living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms are considered public space, where visitors are openly invited to and should feel comfortable and at home without feeling like they are invading the privacy of the occupants. Bedrooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, and dressing rooms are considered private space, where the occupants of the home make it clear that guests should not stray without invite. These definitions are obvious but it's important to consider them when deciding on the layout.
Guests should not have to cross through private space of the occupants to get to a bathroom, the family bathroom should not be accessible through a bedroom and a bathroom should not be located directly off a living room or kitchen, unless entirely unavoidable. Although having a bathtub in a master bedroom might be an acceptable combination of private spaces, this would not work in a guest bedroom and the toilet should most certainly always remain separate!
When renovating or extending a period property, it's important to keep in mind the age of the building and to remain true in some respects to the original architecture. However, that's not to say that when building an extension, one should always make it mimic the original - sometimes a 'copy' of the original looks fake and in bad taste, especially if some details are built incorrectly.
If you want to stick to the original style of the building, make sure you carefully study the period features, keep the size of the new build relative to the original (don't overpower the original architecture) and make sure you use the same materials, not cheap, modern imitations.
Another, more modern build route is to design something entirely separate from the original, such a glass cube extension. Whatever the style of the new addition, it should be quite simple so as not to look offensive or overpowering adjacent to the original.
A great house should always have a few features that let it stand out from the rest. With a large budget, adding wow factor is easy because anything is possible, such as frameless glass structures, cantilevering architecture, double-height spaces, elegant staircases and so on. However, on a modest budget, it takes more creativity to come up with a few clever design features that make a house special.
Some ideas could be floor to ceiling glazing, a statement staircase, vaulted ceiling or architectural lighting. Each of these could be done on any sized budget with a bit of planning and a creative choice of materials. For example, even a simple staircase with a unique choice of cladding material can become a feature that makes your house truly memorable.
The most important factor in any home is that it feels like home to the occupant. Whatever style of property or taste in interior decor you are working with, add something that makes it home - for example, objects from clients’ travels or family portraits. it would be helpful to decide these items early on with the client, so that you can help to place them in the best location, they could even influence the design!
To see more of Ardesia Design's work, visit their website
Note: All photography credits go to Alessandro Costa