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House Renovation in the North East UK

Most of the United Kingdom is urbanized with almost no area for new residential projects on most of the bigger cities. Space is a premium asset that can blow up the budget of a family. Because of that, most people in the big cities of UK live in terraces, flats or micro-flats that weren’t designed thinking in their way of living. Instead of buying or building a new house, a more affordable approach is house renovation.

This renovation trend started in London, were a few strategies and challenges that are more common. One of the challenges is the design restriction that are imposed on buildings located on conservation areas. These are regions that are designated to safeguard areas of architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve. Often, houses that are in these areas must pass a strict aesthetic code to get a planning permission. In London, there are 27 conservation areas. However, not only Londoners has to face this problem. There are over 10.000 conservation areas in the United Kingdom[1]. Architects in the North East UK, also have the same problem. There are, according to Durham County Council[2], 93 conservation areas in County Durham, and, according to North Tyneside Council[3], 17 conservation areas in North Tyneside.

One of strategies that can be used when renovating a historic building is to use contrasting materials and elements on the areas that we are renovating or extending. By contrast, we create surfaces and volumes that helps others understand what is new and what is original in the building and, by using materials that are now more available to us, we also can solve problems, like the lack of natural light and natural ventilation, that didn’t have an affordable solution when the house was built. Glass and metal are some of the most popular materials used to cause contrast in house renovations.

Another challenge that architects most face is finding a way to enhance the quality of life of their clients. One way of doing this while working with the strategy related above is creating openings made of glass. According to a research made about the impact of natural light on our overall health[4], daylight exposure is important to promote longer and better sleep and has a potential to make people more physically active. Crittall doors, windows and akylights allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior of the house.

Since the clients wanted a design that enhanced their quality of life and their original house had a lack of natural light, part of the design focused on creating new openings that lead to more daylight exposure. Below we can see, when comparing the first image with the second, how the architects used crittall doors, windows and skylights to allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior of the house.

However, most of the conservation areas restrictions only allow these solutions to be used on the back of the house, creating a new problem: how brighten the rest of the house with natural light without creating new openings. One popular solution is to open the floor layout, specially the ground floor, knocking down walls that divide the kitchen, living and dining area. By doing this, we allow the light to flow freely inside the house without creating new openings.

Through a close collaboration with their clients and with a strategic approach to the planning process, changes can be made that allow the house to access a greater amount of daylight and create a better flow between each room. These improvements not only have a potential to improve the quality of life of the clients, but likewise increased the overall value of the house.

[1] HISTORIC ENGLAND. “What is a Conservation Area?”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (

[2] DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL. “Conservation Areas”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (

[3] NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL. “Conservation Areas in North Tyneside”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (

[4] Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PC. Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study. J Clin Sleep Med 2014;10(6):603-611.

Interior design storytelling, image showing the interior of a posh resturants design

Storytelling in Interior Design

We are physical beings. We walk inside and outside of a building, composing a personal narrative about our relationship with the building, its interior design and its decoration. This relation can be a natural result of the architecture of a building and how its occupants use it, or it can be a creation made by an interior design trying to accomplish certain emotions, trying to tell a specific story by making the users of a place walk in certain directions and pay attention to specific items.

The strategy that focus in telling a story using design is called storytelling. Storytelling is the art to tell a good story. This strategy can be used in home design, to tell the story of the family that lives in there; in the interior design of stores, to attract clients focusing on the experience of being in the store, instead of focusing in the products; and even in the design of objects, like those we see in the ceramics based on the aesthetics of Japanese Wabi Sabi, that try to tell the story of its production process and the effect of the time in its surface. The basic components of any storytelling are context, plot and structure. All these three components are fused together in the individual and subjective experience of the place.

interiors foundation


Context is the background that an interior designer will use as the foundation to build the other three components. In the case of an interior design, background is what is already built, something that the designer necessarily must work with, even if it’s only to take part of it of the final design. Usually this is what is already there, in the real space, that we are working. However, furniture and other objects that are not already in the building, but are something that a client desires to have, can also be considered part of the background of a project.

Image showing a stairway and lights which help plot the path to upstairs


Plot is the sequence of events that the users of a place will experience. This defines the paths that these users can follow, what are the spatial focus points of a design and what will be experienced in these points. By defining the plot, you are also defining what are the most important parts of a place, in relation with the idea of telling a story, what are the routes that will be used to access these focal points and what are the most important visuals to see these points from distance.

Having defined what are the focal points and the paths, we also must define what are the main story that that we want to communicate. The main story of a house can be the story of its inhabitants or maybe the hobbies that someone in the family likes. The main story of a public space can be the story of the city, the country or of some hero/public figure. And the main story of a store can be some brand that is important to the store, a new collection of products or objects that are related to popular culture.

Is based on the main story that we can decide what object will be placed on the areas that we defined as focal points. These objects are partially responsible for the experience of storytelling. Is these things, in conjunction with the walls and floor, that will actually communicate with the users of a certain space what is the story about.

interior fixtures


Knowing the background of a building and having defined the plot of the story, the next step is to define the structure that we’ll use to tell the story that we want to tell. The structure of interior design storytelling is how you organize this story, facilitating the user to know what you want to tell them and giving cues to where they should be focusing to know more about the story.

However, while a consistent story is a good thing, too much uniformity can cause boredom. To avoid it, the interior designer can use rhythm, contrast and suspense to create a more interesting way to communicate. Directing the experience of the story to a more dynamic and artistic way

This is the point where we start to think on design solutions to avoid boredom and to reinforce the paths and focal points decided by the plot. We can use fixture design to create a contrast between the focal points and the rest od the space, create a rhythm that differentiates the areas that are just for passage from the ones that will be used to tell the story, etc. The design solutions are infinite and can only by thought by an interior designer together with its clients.

Main Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

4 Frank Lloyd Wright villas for rent

Have you ever dreamt about sleeping in one of the many villas designed by the iconic architect? Here is our selection of the most beautiful homes you can book for your next architectural travel experience.


Cornwall House in Kohala, Hawaii

Originally designed for the Cornwell family in Pennsylvania in 1954, this house embodies the main principles of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture. With its structure perched on Waiaka Creek in the heart of the archipelago’s “big island” Hawaii, offering both an ocean and volcano view. The house was abandoned for several years for unknown reasons, the project resurfaced in 1984 thanks to Reginald Sanderson Sims, an advertiser from Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, who was passionate about the work of the famous architect.

Completed in 1995, the house alone synthesizes all the codes that made the architect’s success: a curved structure, large bay windows, wooden ceilings and a Cherokee red concrete floor and furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. With three bedrooms and three bathrooms, it has one hectare of land to fully enjoy the surrounding nature.

From $800/night;



Elam House in Austin, Minnesota

With more than 100 windows, Elam House is the second largest Usonian house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Designed on a triangular base, this 1950s house is one of the architect’s most emblematic models with its sloping roof, cantilevered balcony and large limestone pillars.

Although he only used photos of the land to design this project, having never set foot on it, he took particular care in building it, two years having been necessary to transport and sculpt the stone that makes up a large part of the residence. Inside, the walls and ceilings in stone and white cypress recall the architect’s preference for natural materials.

From $260/night;



The Palmer House in the forest of Ann Arbor, Michigan

This angular house built on the model of an equilateral triangle illustrates the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has almost no right angles. Some of the furniture like the beds designed by the architect, even has an astonishing hexagonal shape. The brick structure blends perfectly into the two hectares of forest that surround it and here again the windows blur the boundary between the inside and the outside of the house.

Another particularity: the land has a “tea house” accessible from the garden, built after Wright’s death in 1959 by one of his proteges, John H. Howe, at the request of the Palmer family, who owned the house from 1950 to 2009.



Woodside House in Marion, Indiana.

Located a stone’s throw from Matter Park, Indiana, Woodside House was built in 1952 by Frank Lloyd Wright after he met Dr. Richard Davis at a Minnesota clinic when he was undergoing surgery. The two men sympathized and the architect immediately suggested imagining a family home for the couple hoping to have four children.

The residence, designed by Wright from a distance based on photos of the grounds, will have five bedrooms and four bathrooms. In harmony with the natural environment so dear to the architect, it combines the influences of Lake Tahoe cottages and Amerindian Sioux tipis.

From $400/night;