THAT CAUGHT OUR EYE
Client of the Month: Rajiv’s Quest to Build the Perfect Home Office
Rajiv’s home is St. John’s Wood has everything: work and living spaces on the ground floor, two basement floors for relaxation and leisure and upper floors dedicated to bedrooms. With the project now complete, we caught up with Rajiv to share how he and his wife came up with this adaptable, all-in-one new build.
What’s the story behind your new home?
Both my wife and I grew up in India. I moved to London in 1993, and worked in the financial sector. My wife worked for the same company, in New York, and moved to London in 1997, so we’ve been here a long time.
We’ve lived in St. John’s Wood for most of those years, except for a short spell in Hampstead. We love the area and bought our current house in 2005. The location was perfect, close to the high street and public transport, but it was an old house that had been poorly extended by several previous owners. We discovered a lot of issues when we started living there.
Initially, we thought that we needed a large-scale refurbishment, but we realised with the amount of expense and the time even a refurbishment project would take that we started to consider demolishing and rebuilding our current house.
That’s when we first met John Dyer-Grimes, through our designer, who helped us obtain planning permission to demolish and rebuild.
The house is in a conservation area. What were your expectations for being able to obtain permission for both a demolition and a double basement?
We had seen similar projects approved and completed in St. John’s Wood so we knew it was possible, but we didn’t know a whole lot more. That’s where it was useful to work with someone like John who understood the area’s planning policy and could help us through the process.
Why did you feel that a self build was the right option, rather than just selling your home and buying another?
It made sense, both from a financial and personal perspective, to build something new and get exactly what we wanted. If we sold our home, there was no guarantee we would find what we were looking for in the area we wanted to live in, or anything at all for a sensible price.
My wife and I don’t have children, we both have full time careers and we spend a lot of time working from home. We entertain a lot, we have a lot of family and friends and business partners visiting us, so we really wanted something that could accommodate everything in our lives without compromise.
More people than ever are choosing to work from home these days. What advice do you have for people who want to design a home that is both a living space and a work space?
We had three objectives for the design which would solve problems we had experienced working from home in our old house.
First, we wanted individual home offices so that we could work at the same time without disturbing each other.
In our previous home, we had a large room that my wife and I both shared. That was fine, except when one of us wanted to have a conference call, the other would have to go and sit somewhere else.
Now, with individual offices, we can both work from home at the same time without ever clashing. And thanks to the sliding doors in both, we can open the spaces back up when we want our offices to be a part of the rest of the ground floor.
Secondly, we wanted our offices as close to the entrance as possible for ease in receiving visitors and avoid them having to walk through the house. Now when you walk into our home, my office is directly to the left and my wife’s is to the right.
The flow of the house is also designed in such a way that no one has to pass through the offices to get anywhere else. We know if we close our doors, no one’s going to disturb us, which helps us focus.
Finally – and this may seem trivial, but it isn’t: you need to have industrial level technology, such as high speed broadband that has no dead spots, water pressure that is even throughout the house, electrics that can be easily controlled and so on.
And what were your objectives for the interior design?
We wanted a very restrained, minimal look and spent considerable time with our designer to go through options on finishes, look, feel, texture and so on. Although we have white walls and no radiators, thanks to underfloor heating, we also have a large collection of art, so we wanted to make art works visible rather than have other interior details being dominant. It resulted in a calm space.
We didn’t want to display everything at once, we want to be able to cycle our collection around to keep our display interesting. This meant that we had to consider where we would store our art just as much as where we would put it on show.
Adaptability was also important to us. Sliding doors allow us to shape the space to our needs. When we want separate rooms to entertain guests or enjoy some privacy, we close the doors, and when we want to create a contiguous open plan space, we open them up.
It was a very participative process between our architect and our designer and how the plans were ultimately translated into reality by our contractor.
Overall, it’s a very quiet, clean space, which is also important for business and us personally.
Finally, what advice do you have for people who are considering a similar large scale, new build development?
It’s a great but complex project. You must be sure you want to undertake it, because there is no stopping once you start.
Many stages of the project made us nervous, building a house will have periods where you’ll go through a lot of stress. You just have to be prepared for that.
Most of all, you need to have the right team that aren’t only good at what they do, but work well with each other. The last thing you want to have to do is a client is resolve conflicts within the team. It was helpful that our architect, our designer and the contractor had worked together on projects before.
We chose the team through a proper process. We sent our plans to four different architects and asked for their proposals for costs, timelines and their designs. As a total package, we felt that DGA were the right team to go with.
Whatever time you spend choosing the team is time well spent. If it takes a few months longer to get the right contractor and the right architect, that’s a few months well spent. It feels like a long time when you’re going through it, but a few months is nothing if you plan to live in a home for the rest of your life.