What’s a Quantity Surveyor & how to Value Engineer your project.

This week we talked to the seasoned Quantity Surveyor Millie Lucas about the role of a QS in a renovation or extension project and what lessons we can learn from her years in the construction industry.

We start by learning that we are all capable of making minor omissions in the project but they can have expensive consequences!  The devil is in the detail and never take something just on word alone.

Millie describes how the Quantity Surveyor is the ‘purse strings’ of a project and they are obligated to work to get the best value for their client during the ‘Buy It’ Stage. (see here for a link to a short podcast on the 5 stages of a home renovation or extension project).

We go through the reasonable level of information to receive from your contractors Quantity Surveyor and Millie reminds us if there is no programme then it is likely that the costs have not been calculated accurately. 

We discuss the use of Gumtree, Freecycle and NextDoor to sell ‘left over’ materials, but we also talk about how to avoid this in the first place!

Millie spills her secrets on getting the best price through shopping around, going straight to the manufacturer and if possible getting your contractor to purchase it, as they might well have much stronger buying power than you.  And watch out for those fancy showrooms as that fancy thick brochure and free drinks are being added onto the cost of your product!

We cover What Value Engineering is, which is an elegant way of saying cost saving.  Millie tells us there are 3 fundamental ways to Value Engineer: assess if there is a better cost method of installing the item, a different and lower priced product or a reduction in the finish to a cheaper specification.

BUT Millie reminds us that we need to have conversations with the people we are doing the project, your partner or other home users.  The value engineer options are easy to come up with but, unless you know what each uses ‘need to and nice to’s’ are for the home design, you might cut something which you later lead to regret. We are trying to design happiness, not anger and animosity!

And remember, if you find that the project value is simply more than you can afford, even after value engineering, it isn’t that your dream won’t happen, it is just postponed until you can save the funds.

To find an independent QS please visit the professional bodies RICS and CIOB, if in doubt call up and have a chat about your project.

If you have enjoyed this episode please rate, review and subscribe as it helps other home owners design their happiness. 

Designing and installing a green roof

This week we talk green and living roofs with Chris Bridgman of Bridgman & Bridgman landscapes.

We learn that the terms living roof and green roof can be used interchangeably as they are both a roof which has living plant on it.  Sometimes they are called brown roofs when they are really dry and the plants appear to have died back, but Chris reassures us that, when installed correctly, they always spring back, thats the nature of the wonderful alpine sedum used.

Abi was quite surprised to hear that a green roof can go up to a 45 degree pitch, so aren’t just something to consider if you are planning a flat roof extension.  He also gave us the weight loads to consider – something which is always worth considering at the planning and designing stages of your project so you can made the simple structural design adjustments to accommodate the green roof of your choice.

We learn about the plant types and their individual maintenance requirements.  There are no green roofs which require zero maintenance, but they are very simple to manage compared to a garden, just 2 – 4 times a year, depending on the type you have.

Chris goes through the cost benefits of a green roof including thermal, prevention of wear and tear, acoustic, aesthetic and potentially even adds value to your home*

*This was not scientifically tested – Abi and Chris agreed we’d prefer a green roof and see it as a sight of a quality build.

But the most important take away was for you to tell your architect and builder as early in the process as possible, that you would like to consider a green roof.

For more information see GRO, the UK trade body where there are Green Roof specialists who are working in your area 

For more information on Chris and his company, please visit his website Gardens in the Sky and follow him on Instagram and Twitter

If you have enjoyed this episode please rate, review and subscribe as it helps other home owners design their happiness. 

Commissioning and Installing an outdoor sculpture


This week we talk to Paul Vanstone about the process of preparing for, planning and commission outdoor art.  As a veteran marble sculptor who sells and installs his pieces globally – Paul has lots of advice to dispense.  

We recorded this podcast at his atelier so thanks for understanding about some of the background noise.

Paul gives us great advice about the confidence and trust in the artist to commission a piece.  He gives us examples of the process he goes through with clients and encourages the listeners to be involved in the process.

The three top tips for putting a sculpture outdoors are:

1) Selection of the space / Location – he uses different size cardboard cut outs (which he calls his Monty Python process) to try the pieces in different locations.  the different size pieces help to get the scale correct.

2) Ground work / base preparation – make the supportive ground structure bigger than the base of the piece.  When it finally comes in you might find it looks better a couple of feet to the left.  The additional footings are minimal in cost to give you that ability to adjust.

3) Plan the sculpture in conjunction with your gardener / landscape architect so the two work together -the sculpture should be put in when the garden is ready, which might be well before the plants go in, or at the point of landscaping because this is the best access moment. 

Paul talks about how to commission something new – if the exact piece you want isn’t available or you want something bespoke, the timescales for doing this and the communication during this process.

And finally we talk about budget – how you think about and talk about the cost of art.  This isn’t a comfortable conversation for everyone, but Paul is very honest about how and when you have those conversations and how the artist might be able to help you tweak the piece, it’s size or base material, to help bring the sculpture into your budget.

At this time of year Paul would normally be at the Royal Horticulture Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show – which has been cancelled due to Covid, but as his atelier is outdoors, he is still able to work and is open to customers.  

Paul can be contacted via his website https://www.paulvanstone.co.uk or on instagram @Paulvanstonesculptures

For more information on this podcast and other episodes please visit www.EDDPodcast.com and follow us on Instagram @EDDPodcast and Twitter @EDDPodcast  

If you have enjoyed this episode please rate, review and subscribe as it helps other home owners design their happiness. 

Architect vs Contractor vs Builder – a guide.

This week we talk (via Skype – sorry for the quality at times!) to Construction Professional Brigitte Clements, Managing partner of Loki-Architecture, an Architectural Development practice operating in the UK.

We cover the difference in the different jobs, Architect, Contractor and Builder, when there is cross over and what you get from each of them.

We discussed the importance of legal Party Wall agreements; more information can be found on the UK Government website  https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works   and look out for our future podcast with a legal expert on this and other potential property dispute matters!

We talk about help architects can offer at the research stage, but advised us to use your local authority planning portal to look at local planning and building regulation advice and also to see what has been approved and rejected locally.

Brigitte was very open about the way she charges.  If you are interested in finding an architect for your project, take Brigitte’s advice and ask for recommendations.  If you can’t find anyone locally check the RIBA website https://www.architecture.com/find-an-architect/ for registered architects in your area.  But go with someone you like and who you feel understands you and your project, As Brigitte says – “building work in an emotional endeavour!” 

Pinterest again came up as a favourite repository for research and inspirational ideas, but we also received the advice to take a photo of something you like – even if it isn’t something you specifically want in your home – it helps your construction professionals understand you and your project.

And finally – we got some great advice: “If you think a professional is expensive, wait until you find out how much an amateur costs you!”

Brigitte can be contacted through her practice website https://www.loki-architecture.com and she is also on LinkedIn under Brigitte Clements and on Instagram as https://www.instagram.com/loki_architecture/

The 5 steps of a home renovation project

The 5 steps of a home renovation or extension project – how the professional do it.

Are you thinking about extending or renovating your home?  Do you want to make sure the end product is perfect for your lifestyle, personality and taste? In this weeks podcast, Every Day Design host and Technical Design Expert, Abigail Hall, takes you through the 5 easy stages.

They are:

  • Plan it
  • Design it
  • Buy it
  • Build it
  • Test it.

Listen to the episode to find out what deliverable you should have at the end of each section and subscribe for future episodes where Abigail talks to industry professionals about how to get the most out of each stage.  

If you have any questions please email EDDPodcast@gmail.com and please subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. 

Episode 12: Water

It’s not quite been a long hot summer – but Abigail and Rachel have been reflecting on the importance of water. It’s also been a busy month or two… so while this was recorded in June we’re releasing it in July. We’ll be taking the rest of the summer ‘off’ (but do you ever REALLY stop thinking about design???) but hopefully will put up a short special to celebrate our 1 year anniversary of Every Day Design – the Podcast.

This Month I:

Abigail has been ‘turning left’. She went to the silent march which commemorated the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy. This march happens monthly, but this was a larger community event. Which has led to quite a lot of thoughts on the nature of community, place and a sense of belonging.

12 Grenfell March

Rachel went to Persephone Books on Lamb’s Conduit Street – this amazing bookstore dedicated to republishing mid-20th century women authors. There was a wonderful write up of the bookstore in the New York Times.

On this particular pilgrimage Rachel bought Consider the Years a collection of poetry by Virginia Graham. One poem in particular – The Bridge, St James Park – captured Rachel’s imagination and reminded her of another favourite by Wendell Berry – The Peace of Wild Things.

Good Design / Bad Design

Faux Grass? Love? Hate? While no one can argue the convenience, there is the downside of it getting hot in summer and adding more plastic to the eco system. But what are the other solutions?

12 easigrass

Should we lean into the low growing plants or moss? But is it hardy enough for a dog?

12 low plants

Rachel has reached the limits of her love for Farrow and Ball. Having done an entire podcast on the joys of these particular paints – there is apparently a time and a place for these paints. The key here is that the ‘modern’ emulsion cannot be touched up – because the sheen doesn’t quite match up. While it’s wipeable, it’s not touch-upable. So while it’s great for bathrooms and kitchens, the stairwell has not really held up so well. We reached out to Farrow and Ball and they have sent us this helpful F_B Advice Sheet – but confirmed that the recommended approach is to do a whole new coat rather than ‘touch in’.


What’s the first image that comes to you mind when you think about water in design?

For Rachel, she’s always thinking about how cities were designed around water ways – following the course of rivers. Whereas Abigail is far more into the engineered waterways.

Fountains Fountains Fountains! They have become increasingly popular as public art installations and a great way of animating space and gathering people together in cities. But there’s a huge amount of engineering that sits behind these seemingly simple features.

From the incredible fountain at Witley Court, to the Bellagio, to Granary Square in Kings Cross, London – these are places that can bring you both respite and joy.

London is a city literally built around and over water. Both in terms of the Thames, but also London’s lost rivers – which Rachel’s brilliant friend Tom has written about in his book. But fountains aren’t just for playing in, they are also for drinking from. In fact the whole history of urban planning can (loosely) be tied back to water fountains. We paid a visit to Victoria Tower Gardens and reflected on the history of public water fountains.


Victoria Tower Gardens – gave us some pause for thought – the pavillion in the centre is an incredible piece of Victorian public infrastructure with the lions’ head water fountains in the centre. Just across the way you can see another disused water fountain, and the modern equivalent selling bottled water and coffee.

Rachel and Abigail also reflected on their local water sources, the brook of Brook Green and the New River both feats of engineering that you can get to from our homes simply by turning left…

12 new river
Ducks on the New River in Finsbury Park

Episode 11: Soane Spectacular

Sir John Soane is Rachel’s favourite architect of all time. A bold statement no doubt. But this month Abigail and Rachel visit the recently reopened Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, West London and explore what makes Soane such an inspiration after all these years.

This Month I:

Abigail has been perusing Elle India (online) and read about the amazing contemporary cameos of Amadeo – merging her two great loves of agate and jewellery. They are, in a word, magical. Rock me Amadeo!

Rachel has been reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez. It’s an exploration of how society’s ‘default male’ approach to understanding and designing the world has put over 50% of the population’s lives more uncomfortable at best, and in mortal danger at worst.

Good Design / Bad Design:

Rachel is fundamentally perplexed by the counter intuitive dials in her fridge, and currently battling an iceberg. Same goes for the ‘two button’ loo flushes. Is the big one for a lot of water, or is the big one for a little bit of water and therefore you should press it more often???

soane paris

Abigail has just returned from Paris and wonders if it really is as dirty as it’s reputation – or indeed if London is any better. Still…. Dog mess aside it’s one of our favourite design destinations. The answer (as usual) is more trees in cities!


soane quote

Born to a bricklayer in 1753 Sir John Soane rose to the top of the architectural profession – his life’s work was the Bank of England, but along the way he designed two of his own homes, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, as well as the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Much of his work has been demolished – the destruction of the Bank’s interiors in the 1920s was particularly criminal, but enough survives for us to be UTTERLY fascinated by.

The thing that Soane did best was play with light and colour in interior spaces. In this way he creates movement through buildings and also humour – admittedly a very dry sense of humour.

This was also a man who knew how to throw a party – when he took possession of Seti the first’s sarcophagus (having it winched into the crypt no less) he threw a three day party to show it off.

The restored Pitzhanger is absolutely glorious – while not as intricate (the spaces are bigger and meant for entertaining) as his town house – the carefully restored plaster work, wallpaper, and his use of glass in the gallery are just stunning. He takes you from the bright light of the main stairwell into the dark yellow haze of a corridor and again into the light of the ballroom – simply breathtaking.

The interpretation in the house is fab – and in particular Rachel became obsessed with the table cloth which gave little vignettes about the people who used to dine there. It really serves to make you feel closer to the people who lived there.

Soane table cloth.jpeg

If you want to know more about how Soane sits in the pantheon of architecture – this talk from Rafael Moneo is an excellent first step beyond Wikipedia.

Next month we will…

Be talking about Water! In your house, garden, cities. Any thoughts on this let us know – we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Instagram.

Episode 10: Renewal

Spring is finally here. Abigail and Rachel talk about all things renewal. Journey with us through Rachel’s recent trips abroad and Abigail’s garden design revelations as we explore making old things new again.

Listener questions!!!

We’ve gone INTERACTIVE! Abigail is extremely excited to have our first listener question. This is off the back of our last episode on kitchen design. Michele Olivier asks how do you keep your beautifully designed kitchen tidy and clean. Abigail proses the (patent pending) Sticker Solution.

Rachel likens this to her front hall table conundrum which Ikea has solved for her with this nifty mirrors/ shelf / hook combo.

This month I:

Rachel has been to Cannes for business, and the United States for pleasure. While the highlight was clearly her Grandpa’s 90th birthday – her eye has been caught by The Developer magazine, a new publication from Christine Murray – looking at how places are created.

Abigail has become obsessed with the work of Khadambi Asalache – a Kenyan artist who has bequeathed his house in South London to the National Trust. He turned his house into an absolute monument of fretwork and you can now visit.

Good Design / Bad Design:

Abigail has been waiting for her garden to be perfect before using it properly. But she’s realised the error of her ways that done is better than perfect.

She has created a space that she loves that is fit for her gorgeous sculpture.

abi garden sculpture

In her travels to the US Rachel was thinking about the role of walkability in urban design. In Oak Park, the late 19th century suburb of Chicago which was home (and playground) to architect extraordinaire Frank Lloyd Wright. This was an amazing example of a truly walkable neighbourhood – where you could access the cinema, bookstore, library, parks, cafes and importantly public transport. Rachel was deeply tempted to move to Chicago just live here!

Hesston Kansas, on the other hand, is a town designed for cars – the main street is clearly losing footfall – and the town is not walkable. There are many beautiful things going for it – like the arboretum – but sadly it didn’t feel like there was a ‘centre’.

downtown hesston

Walkability is increasingly important to people looking to buy or rent properties. Walkscore in the US is actually using this as a way of marketing apartments.


The cherry blossoms are out – and Abigail ponders the ethics of snipping some off for her kitchen…

Rachel has – very unusually – been to the spa, and was fully renewed by a facial and massage. At the scale of a personal renewal. But also having maintenance undertaken for her house.

First things first, get your maintenance right before branching out and getting a new aesthetic. That said, Abigail is mildly obsessed with the new metallic wallpapers from Farrow and Ball.

Damp is a recurring issue in England – Abigail has been struggling with this, and has been moving her dehumidifier from room to room. Which put Rachel in mind of her amazing Calm app – and in particular the rather thrilling French Whisperer.

Back to renewal of your home – the key phrase is – Function First Aesthetic After!!!

That said, Abigail is obsessed with Wallpaper Direct – who she has on speed dial – and who have provided exceptional customer service.
She’s also very keen on the K-West Hotel who are her neighbours and have been incredibly helpful access her garden sculpture by Paul Vanstone. Rachel’s garden sculpture is more personal…

Rachel Garden Art

But people and cities are not the only things that can be renewed – cities are also constantly undergoing renewal and regeneration.

Importantly this is not about doing things TO people and places, but with people and places. Can you plan for good places? Rachel was struck by David Rudlin’s recent piece in The Guardian which was sent to her by all her planning friends. In it he argues that it is the planning system that keeps us from getting the places and spaces we want. Rachel’s not so sure…

So many cities have rebuilt themselves after fires – London, Chicago, and now with the recent disaster at Notre Dame Cathedral. Rachel questions whether the outpourings of grief from the international community have gone too far. Abigail questions how structural damage has been done, and has read the Dr Catherine Oaks’ article talking about the material use and history in historic buildings. They are both a little over excited about the potential for the architectural competition that has been announced. Should we go modern, or should we go reproduction?

Next month I will…

We are going to visit Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, the country home of Rachel’s favourite architect Sir John Soane.

09 Kitchen Consultation

We promise we’re not sponsored by Ikea… but when we found out that they had a new concept store on Tottenham Court Road in central London we just HAD to head over and find out how it worked.

The Ikea Planning Centre is there to give you inspiration for your (primarily kitchen) projects – without schlepping to one of the big blue boxes.

In this episode we take a break from our usual format and focus instead on the design consultation experience.

Working with long time friend Hayley Kruger, Abigail walks her through a series of simple questions which help you to “know your behaviours, habits and methods in order to know whether a design is right for you.”

For Rachel this is all bout empowering people to feel more confident in their design choices. This isn’t about having lots of money to throw at a problem – it’s an investment of time (in and of itself a luxury) and thought.

A note on the recording… we were out and about again so it’s a little noisier than usual!

We kick off the conversation at the Building Centre at 26 Store Street just off Tottenham Court Road – a real mecca for design and construction geeks like us!

Understand your space:

H kitchen hobH Kitchen SinkH Kitchen Window

Understand the things that bring you joy:

H kitchen favs

Abigail has set out a series of questions which we used to take Hayley through her space – but which you can use and adapt as well.

Preparation guide for your kitchen appointment

Overall this isn’t about your budget – this is about the thought and the care that you put into thinking though what you want and need out of your space. These principles also work whether you’re doing a kitchen, a bathroom, or even a whole city!


Five go to the Design Museum

It was a blustery and busy February – we managed the take a family trip to the Design Museum, and reflect on some of our favourite design concepts like legacy and delight – but we didn’t manage to get this posted… so a little bit late – here is our (slightly belated) February edition.


This month I:

Abigail was dazzled by the (sold out) Dior show at the V&A. Not very hard to see why she couldn’t keep her hands off the incredible wall coverings.

dior bow
Cut flowers adorn the wall, as on the dresses.

dior lamp
The contrast between the dark (acoustically muffled with fabric) space and the high white spaces took my senses on an absolute rollercoaster.

dior metalic
Lights projected on to exceptionally shallow cut panel walls was a worthy background for such beautiful couture.

dior cover
Abigail wasn’t the only one thinking about Dior and interiors…

Rachel got a little bit homesick reading about an exhibition at the Harry Ransom Centre in Austin, Texas. This WSJ article on “The Rise of Everyday Design: The arts and crafts movement in Britain and America” was right up our street.

Good Design / Bad Design

Abigail was thinking about the idea of ‘legacy’ in buildings, inspired by this incredible story from Oscar de la Renta’s new showroom in Paris. And we ask the question, how can you have a conversation with the past and the future in your buildings?

Rachel has been walking past this piece of public art in Victoria and thinking about good and bad public art.

public art in victoria
Seriously…. what is this even meant to be? A rolled-up newspaper? A shell?

Conclusion: Good public art engages you and possibly speaks to the story of the place and the people. Bad public art is an afterthought, or even the dreaded ‘hand prints’ to demonstrate that the people really OWN this public art…

We also talked about this amazing clip of world famous violinist Joshua Bell in the Washington Metro. Do you stop to listen to buskers, or do you keep walking?

Also – is it only men who play the pianos in public spaces? Answers on a post-card.

The Design Museum

We had a family trip to the Design Museum’s Home Futures exhibition – get in quick it closes 24 March 2019.

two go to the design museum

Home Futures Board

This exhibition was amazingly interactive and enabled both the grown-ups and the kids to have a fantastic time. There was also a kid’s room with an activity to engage both the parents and the small people.

Rachel and Isaac

This giant nest was  BIG hit with the smaller people.

Home Futures Talk bubbles
How close is this to how we live now?

Home futures how we live
Modular homes, what’s the smallest space we can exist in?

We also reflected on whether or not optimal living was joyful living. Like this modular apartment in Hong Kong by architect Gary Chang.

And finally… how to Americans boil water without an electric kettle? Would you have an external kettle element?

Kettle schematic

kettle in situe

Next month we will…

… Finally have our design consultation with friend of the show Hayley. She’s having her kitchen and bathroom re-done. Can Rachel and Abigail help her design happiness? Find out next month!