All the right elements
Composition Architects: All the right elements
We’re all reconsidering how we live in our homes after our recent confinement. Architect Jonathan Woodcock talks design, trends and making the most of your space
“I think the most unusual brief I’ve had is for a two-storey fish tank with basement stairs wrapping around it,” says Jonathan Woodcock, who’s spent the past 25 years working in and around London. “We looked at how it would be maintained and had to let the clients know they may need to hire a diver to clean it,” he smiles.
Detail, practicalities and making people’s home dreams come true are all in a day’s work for the Surbiton-based architect, who runs Composition Architects.
RANGE OF PROJECTS
Most of his work tends not to be as unusual as a giant fish tank but he’s designed hot tubs on roof terraces and home observatories among other things but – whatever the size of the project – it’s the challenge of giving people the home they really desire that he relishes.
“Nothing beats seeing people’s reaction when a project is complete.”
Home has taken on heightened importance in recent months and many of us are desperately wondering how we can make our space work better for us.
“I felt it myself,” says Jonathan. “We’re a family of four and suddenly it was quite focused and concentrated.
“Recent events have really focused people’s minds on how they use each space. I think it [Covid] will be a game changer for people’s perceptions of how they use their house.
“Working from home is just going to be, rightly or wrongly, the flexible way forward. I know a lot of people have put in sort of garden rooms in the back of their gardens to create that breakout space.”
If people were dreaming of more space in their home before lockdown, the need is certainly now more acute.
SOUTH WEST LONDON SPECIALIST
Having worked around South West London, Jonathan is pretty much an expert at loft and basement conversions as well as extension due to the area’s Victorian stock, but his client base also extends into Surrey – where living space tends to be the main requirement and the housing is much more diverse.
“The biggest bang for your buck is a loft extension but I’m finding that, for many clients, it’s not the bedrooms that are the issue but living space. The place where they spend their time day to day,” he explains.
He recommends anyone thinking about increasing their square footage to consider making any new space as flexible as possible, so your home can evolve with your needs.
“I get a lot of briefs for gyms, playrooms, teen hangouts. I’m working on an endless pool as part of a gym. I think there may be more demand for pools after the recent heatwave,” he adds with a laugh.
Sometimes it’s not just the huge structural project that can make a difference. “You might find knocking down one wall may change everything in the home. Or combining two spaces can be a gamechanger. We put in a huge picture window in one client’s home during a recent kitchen remodel and it changed the whole space.
“If you are having an extension at the back and using glass – think about taking it up a level, it will completely change the feel of it.
“It’s about outlook as well as light. We are working on a project at the moment with the glazing sloping upward so you can see more sky as well as garden.”
TREND: BROKEN PLAN
Another trend is broken plan: “It means you get to keep all the positive elements of open-plan, such as the light and space, but with break out areas for specific use.”
His own home in Kingston is designed in a zoned way and he says it made all the difference with his two teenagers during lockdown.
“The spaces are open to each other but might be zoned differently. To make the changes in those zones it might be a simple thing like a different floor finish or different lighting. We can take it to another level – a different area might be a one step down or it might have a low wall just to break it up a bit.
“Open plan is here to stay but it’s about how you break that up, so it doesn’t feel like one big homogeneous space, each zone has its own distinct flavour and character.”
WORKING WITH COMPOSITION ARCHITECTS
Jonathan was a director of a design and building construction company prior to setting up Composition Architects, so has a huge amount of experience across the whole build process from simple house refurbishments to new build houses. He’s just completed a development of ten apartments.
“Architects provide added value upfront. An early detailed plan will save you headaches later on. We are an experienced set of eyes as the job is going on,” explains Jonathan.
“A building project is a journey and I can be there every step of the way from the initial designs and getting consents in place, to tendering and managing the process on site. I draw all the strings together, if you like.”
He likes to get under the skin of his clients to really understand their needs and wants. “I ask a lot of questions and really listen; what do you want and need? I explore what is possible for the house; how the sun moves around, relationship with neighbours…and of course, the budget.
“I then tailor a fee proposal, with two or three ideas that push the boundaries to see how ambitious you want to be.”
He’s old school in his methods – sketching to scale as he talks to clients about possibilities. It’s a completely collaborative approach.
One of the projects he’s most proud of is a home in Wimbledon that blends contemporary and traditional across a full-width extension at the rear, reflecting how the space was used internally. The house was also extensively re-modelled, and bedrooms added. “The family were over the moon,” says Jonathan. “The satisfaction of seeing people in their dream home is a great part of the job.”
Find out more about Jonathan and Composition Architects