We look back and 'tut tut' at these blunders with
a comfortable glow of self satisfaction that we would never make such obvious
design and development errors in our own projects - we have a far greater
sense of good taste haven't we?
Trends in the residential development world seem
to go in huge swings of about 7 to 10 year cycles and it is often not until
the end of one cycle we realise what the mistakes were which is usually triggered
by the complete abandonment of the previous trend or methodology for another
We surge from brass to chrome light fittings, UPVC
to aluminium and then back to real wood again for the windows. Carpets to
laminates back to real wood block flooring back to laminates again when the
real stuff shrinks, warps or splits.
The same is happening in the overall design and
refurbishment of whole homes inside and out. We used to be conservation mad
but now its total revamp of properties to something akin that we used to
aspire to in the 70's with simple glazed panels, uncomplicated detail and
The quest for the elusive and theoretically unique
contemporary look for the monied home owner is now the new bandwagon for
most property owners and developers trying to be that little bit different
and wanting to make a statement about their lifestyles.
Teenagers tend do the same thing but they have
piercings or a tattoos instead and it is only the more experienced in years
amongst us that realise they are acting more like sheep rather than the
individualists they are so desperate to attain.
Trying to define contemporary design is actually
very hard and even harder to achieve. One definition that I like is a look
that is clean, minimalist and unable to define as a year in which it was
constructed - in other words free of all obvious identifiers and trends that
would define its era. A design that would still retain its 'contemporary'
badge in 40 years time - this is why I think obtaining a true contemporary
design is so hard. The Oxford English dictionary defines contemporary as
something belonging to the same age which I think is not too dissimilar from
my definition of having a timeless feel.
So, am I against this new 'heard' mentality of
trying to achieve a contemporary design or lifestyle for a dwelling house?
Absolutely not! BUT there are qualifications. Firstly, nearly
all aspects of contemporary design and lifestyle is attainable through internal
design and alteration only. Those wishing to stamp their lifestyle choices
to the wider majority through the external envelope of a dwelling should
only consider this through either new build or carefully selected conversion
projects (eg a 1950's pumping station for example).
Regretfully, there is a 'bandwagon' mentality out
their at present that is also set on externally converting superb period
properties in sensitive areas into simplistic, boring and bland looking so
called 'contemporary' properties that have been stripped of their unique
softness, character and warmth that is totally out of place within their
unique setting - all for the sake of of gratifying the 'monied' ego's of
people pursuing the latest design trend in urban living.
Some of the design treatments these ill-informed
people are completing to their newly acquired homes consist of:-
1. Rendering over all the previous beautiful
clay facing bricks.
2. Removing 18th century plain clay tile
hanging for the dreaded 'smooth render' look.
3. Adjusting window and door openings to
inappropriate scale apertures with out of place joinery.
4. Adding galvanized steel or stainless
steel features for canopies or porches that jar with the very character of
the buildings heritage and stature.
The list goes on even to the point of them rendering
over beautiful feature brick dental coursings or projections that form an
intrinsic part of the local character all to attain that elusive 'contemporary'
rendered characterless design icon of so called modern living that the occupiers
wish to stamp upon the world to satisfy their own egos.
The damage they are creating to some of the most
beautiful parts of the UK heritage housing is criminal in my view and they
should be brought to book. Regretfully, the type of people who are doing
these odious external 'contemporary' conversions are the usual 'IT' brigade
with the usual 'more money than sense' attitude and the 'see it - want it
now' mentality - all because they can!
So the conclusion to my little rant on what is
going on to some of our more important suburbs is this:-
1. If you are seeking a 'contemporary' style
of living and dwelling, DO NOT materially alter the external
envelope of an existing dwelling - Most contemporary design living is achievable
through internal alterations ONLY.
2. If you are insistent on pleasing your
greater ego and require a design statement for the whole external world to
see then PLEASE only do this though new build projects where
the contemporary design is not compromised by an existing period property
and you are not 'murdering' a previously beautiful building that added value
to the local character and to the residents.
Two very simple rules that will ensure that your
latest residential development WILL NOT become a bad taste
mistake in 2015 - You have been warned!
Our 'Maximum Build
Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved when
developing a property.