2. Investigate the property’s exact status - planning permission will be crucial if you’re going to extend. Conservation area inclusion or any kind of listing may mean a lot more expense in terms of obtaining planning and major restrictions on material use.
3. Check for any structural defects, often betrayed by settlement cracks.
4. Note the position of the building relative to light when you plan interior spaces. It’s no use having fantastic floor-to-ceiling glazing in a kitchen-dining space if that view faces north, as it will mostly be in shadow from an internal vantage point.
5. The importance of original features will very much depend on the property’s original era. With a beautiful, stucco-fronted Regency townhouse, for example, removing original cornicing and fireplaces would seriously affect character.
6. When it comes to new interior detailing, try not to fall into the trap of pastiche. It’s too easy to copy details and it takes much more skill to enhance via a modern palette, whilst still remaining true to the original fabric.
7. Wherever possible, let that original fabric shine through, so you can see the intention of the original through or alongside any new insertions. If you’re determined to emulate period features - such as bathroom sinks and taps, for example - be careful to use properly-researched insertions and match materials you’re looking to harmonise with exactly.
8. Make clear decisions on what’s worth renovating and get costs in. Great floorboards or particularly beautiful period tiling are often worth the extra effort.
9. Try and group ‘wet areas’, such as kitchens and bathrooms, directly over one another for better plumbing solutions, so you don’t have to vandalise the existing building fabric in other areas to put in new piping.
10. To make modern interventions work at their best, space them out visually, rather than embedding details from different eras alongside one another. In a bedroom, for example, space a headboard away from a corniced or panelled wall. In a bathroom, favour a freestanding modern bath and create a built-in shower against a freestanding wall. Seek to create texture, theatre and contrast; think ‘installation’ rather than trying to bridge gaps.
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Neil Tomlinson is the founder of Neil Tomlinson Architects, based near the Borough Market in London, with an open and approachable attitude and dedicated to great service. Specialists in high-end residential architecture, both new-build and refurbishment, with special knowledge of historic properties.