Listed Building Specialist Architects in Surrey
Christopher David Design is a multidisciplinary studio of architects specialising in listed buildings in Surrey and throughout the South East. With our in-house team of architects, interior designers and landscape designers, we are ideally positioned to look holistically at all aspects of a listed property. This approach, and a close working relationship with our clients, allows us to establish a cohesive design vision that honours the property’s past and present.
Our aim as the architectural team for a listed building is to preserve and rejuvenate the original character of a property whilst introducing elegant, non-invasive modern upgrades. We listen closely to our clients to understand their needs and lifestyle, and their dreams for how they want to live in the property. Leveraging our trusted network of collaborators, we revive artisan techniques original to the home, whilst introducing appropriate and sympathetic enhancements. The result is a home that’s a celebration both of heritage and of modern living.
The Role of Architects Specialising in Listed Buildings
In practice, this means that special attention must be paid – even from the earliest stages of pre-purchase research – to fully understand the privileges and responsibilities associated with owning the property. The guidelines on what’s possible with a listed building can cover everything from skirting boards and door frames to windows, walls and garden features.
Key Terms & Considerations
Buildings achieve listed status for a number of reasons, usually due to a blend of factors. These include age, proximity to a conservation area (there are many in Surrey), the presence of unique or distinctive architectural features, as well as historical factors such as how well they represent a particular period or even the identity of past homeowners. Buildings can be anointed with Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 2* status depending on where they fall on this spectrum.
The building’s status will impact many aspects of the ownership of these important properties: maintenance, repairs, alterations and even insurance arrangements. Specialist skills, complex planning, detailed documentation and additional investment can often be required. At Christopher David Design, an important part of the services we offer as listed building architects is to support our clients with professional guidance as they navigate the unique privileges and responsibilities associated with their role.
Planning-permission & Listed Building Consent
Depending on the Grade of the listed building, there will be rules and regulations surrounding changes that can be made. Distinctive period characteristics such as small rooms, tiles, stonework, low beams and original windows are often considered part of the building’s original architectural character and therefore alterations usually are restricted. It’s essential to understand these parameters as part of evaluating the purchase of a heritage property.
It is possible to make changes to a listed building, but the proposals must be thoughtful, sensitive and justified to be successful. As listed building architects, we support our clients in preparing the various plans and documentation required to apply for planning permission including a site plan, location plan, heritage assessment and design and access statement.
We closely collaborate with the local council’s conservation officers throughout the design journey to obtain planning permission and listed building consent for exterior/interior repairs and alterations. The conservation officers will consider plans, advise on appropriate materials and techniques and assess the progress and results of the project.
The Possibilities Revealed by Listed Building Specialist Architects
This privileged position is particularly rewarding given the vast range of heritage architecture in Surrey and throughout our country. Listed buildings vary so much, and each client is distinctively individual, so two projects are ever the same.
Celebrating Original Character
If a listed building is of special architectural interest, that means it has a unique or distinctive architectural design, whether that’s the level of craftsmanship used in its construction, certain design elements or particular decoration. If a listed building is of special historical interest, that means it reflects one or more of the most important aspects of the U.K.’s culture, economy, and society.
When renovating, repairing or altering a listed building, recognising certain original features will be paramount. Such features include, but are not limited to, original window panes, thatched roofing, wooden beams, original tiles, and fireplaces. Exterior and environmental features can be considered as well, such as garden walls.
To respect and celebrate the original character of the building, we take a holistic approach to transforming the property. We aim to reintroduce the best aspects of the original building that may have been muted over time or by past, less sensitive, renovations.
Features that may have been neglected, but are intrinsically beautiful, such as staircases and fireplaces, can be sympathetically rejuvenated, achieving a modern, natural flow of spaces that reflect current living standards, whilst maintaining protected structural elements.
Explore original layouts whilst thoughtfully considering modern interventions such as additional bathrooms, reconfigured kitchens or enhanced lighting. Artisan techniques can be applied to refresh and elevate the property, whilst remaining true to the original building.
Exploring An Extension
It is possible to extend a listed building, so long as it’s done sensitively and appropriately. It’s often possible to begin pursuing planning permission early on in the process of purchasing a listed building.
Subservient extensions are typically the most favoured, with a lower roofline deferring to the original structure. However, this doesn’t mean the design of the extension must be an exact match to the original. In fact, the most successful designs clearly but cohesively contrast old and new. Often, this is realised as a light-filled contemporary design, incorporating locally sourced materials, that allows the heritage architecture to shine through.
Enhancing Kitchens & Bathrooms
Modernising and adding efficiency to the kitchen and bathrooms is the main priority for many listed building owners. Depending on the property’s history, some alteration to plumbing and ventilation may have been implemented, but it’s likely a period property will require some updates in this area for aesthetics, efficiency, or in some cases basic functionality.
Approvals for replacing dated fittings with more modern wiring or plumbing are generally readily forthcoming. But installations should still be reversible, and mindful of preserving elements such as original plaster and beams as well as using carefully chosen materials.
Considering Materials & Techniques
An essential aspect of renovating a listed building is meticulous attention to the materials and techniques used in the repairs and alterations. A heritage property that’s already been renovated to some degree will often offer more flexibility in this area; however, it’s still crucial to consider the original fabric and character of the building.
Many times, an essential aspect of a truly sympathetic restoration is responding to less successful works that have introduced contemporary elements that can be damaging in a heritage context, such as cement or aluminium.
This is where our relationships with skilled artisans and tradespeople, such as joiners and stonemasons, come into their own. It’s a true joy to not only refresh and elevate a listed building to modern standards, but also to restore and celebrate the integrity and character of the original structure.
The Process of Working with A Listed Building Architect
The heritage homes we create are not only aesthetically beautiful and historically sympathetic, but also feel luxuriously comfortable and welcoming to live in. Each environment perfectly caters to its context and to the client’s vision.
As architects, we begin any listed building project with a visit to the site so that we thoroughly understand it. With this, we can assess the impact of any previous changes and the status of heritage elements meriting preservation – engaging relevant consultants, evaluating possibilities and making considered recommendations.
When engaged as the architects for a listed building project, we lean on our signature in-depth interview process as much as, if not more so, than ever. Each building, each history, each context and each client is unique and we approach each project with this top of mind.
Naturally, along with site exploration, our process begins by exploring a client’s preferences and practical needs, inspirations and aspirations – how they live, and how they want to feel in their home. What home means to each client is highly personal; lifestyle is a form of individual, creative expression, including life in a listed building.
The deep level of understanding we aim for in these first conversations helps intuitively establish a creative vision – which will carry the project through from scope and concept sketches, to design and planning, to implementation and completion.
By establishing a strong foundation of rapport from the very beginning, and continuing to collaborate as the design develops, we refine the vision and deepen trust over time. With this considered design process, our listed building clients have an outcome that celebrates their life in the present, whilst celebrating the past and respecting the future.
At Christopher David Design, we offer a comprehensive architectural design service that’s ideal for listed buildings. With our in-house team of architects, interior designers and landscape designers, we are ideally positioned to look comprehensively at all aspects of a listed property and establish a cohesive design vision.
In addition to the building itself, owners of listed buildings are also responsible for maintaining the surrounding grounds and preserving any historical features found in the garden area. As such, planning permission also applies for corresponding landscaping improvements on a heritage property. Many listed buildings in Surrey and throughout the UK are in conservation areas, which requires additional consideration.
When looking cohesively at the property, we aim to create a fresh and flowing indoor-outdoor connection with the property’s environmental context.
An intuitive interior design scheme offers an opportunity to introduce contemporary comforts and luxuries with textures, colours, materials, fixtures and furnishings of an intuitive interior design scheme — all whilst being true to the original architectural heritage of the house.
For all the benefits of owning a listed building, some additional considerations are required when making plans to upgrade the property to modern standards, such as energy efficiency or flowing space. But with specialist advice from a conservationist, it is possible to create a more energy-efficient, modern home without compromising the character, integrity or fabric of the building.
Viewing the home as an entire system helps establish opportunities for improvements. This may mean simply introducing new openings rather than making an irreversible change such as knocking down a wall.
Issues such as damp proofing, insulation, windows, roofs, chimneys and ongoing maintenance require particular consideration. Historic glazing and lime mortar walls cannot simply be replaced with sealed windows and watertight concrete without sacrificing necessary airflow and breathability, but with the right advice significant improvements are possible.
Overall, the aim is to respect the original structure, allowing its authentic identity to shine through whilst breathing new life into its form and function.
Leveraging our trusted network of contractors, artisans and other experts allows us to revive the traditional techniques original to the home, whilst introducing appropriate and sympathetic modern upgrades. Stonemasons, plasterers, joiners as well as specialist electricians, plumbers and other skilled contractors are essential to an ideal outcome.
We also work with a range of consultant experts appropriate for the specific property type and historical context – conservation specialists, heritage consultants, ecologists and many others. Their knowledge is essential to appreciate the full range of possibilities and requirements of the property.
Meticulous, Responsive Project Management
The experience of renovating or altering a listed building is unique in each instance. At Christopher David Design, we apply a bespoke, individual approach to each project and property. Our clients are expertly guided through the timeline and process of making decisions throughout the project.
Sometimes, the situation can change along the way as discoveries are made during the building process. In a period property, consultation and documentation is required on the most holistic level and often, additionally, for the smallest of incremental tasks.
As listed building specialist architects, our role is to assess, coordinate and lead the design journey for all involved. We’re prepared to expect the unexpected and offer options, solutions and recommendations. Ultimately we all want to create an elegant outcome that suits the homeowners and supports the conservation of the property.