Creating an A team
Country Life UK|August 05, 2020
Creating an A team
Building a new house doesn’t only require great design, materials and craftsmanship, but also a trusty cohort of experienced professionals who work seamlessly together, says Amelia Thorpe
Amelia Thorpe

GIVEN the complexity of building a new home, how do you make it an enjoyable experience? ‘The key ingredients are finding a professional design team and building team, and that everyone gets along well together,’ says Nigel Armstrong, chairman of residential builder R. W. Armstrong. ‘Make sure you are surrounded by people you want to spend a year or more with—you are going to be talking about personal things, in detail, on a very regular basis, so personalities are important.’

To find the team, most agree on the benefits of personal recommendation from friends, colleagues, and other professionals—and COUNTRY LIFE’s Top 100 published every spring. Search engines and services, such as RIBA Client Advisers ( RedBook ( may also be useful. Know who will lead the project —usually the architect—and that the practice is willing and able to take on the full gamut of tasks you expect, including co-ordinating all the other professionals involved.

‘Assemble the team as early as you can,’ advises Hugh Petter, director of Adam Architecture. ‘For example, I always like getting the interior designer involved when the scheme is still at the concept stage, so they can have proper input into the design.’ Not only will this result in the most joined-up thinking, but it may also encourage optimum creativity. ‘You get the whole team’s view from the beginning and develop the vision together,’ says landscape architect Marian Boswall, principal of Marian Boswall Studio.

Make sure you allow enough time for the project, especially at the beginning, because the number of decisions that need to be made can be extensive. ‘There is no substitute for preparation,’ advises Tim Moulding, owner and managing director of construction company Moulding, and head of Country House Building Consultants, the firm he set up three years ago to advise owners on the new-build process. ‘Spend enough time with the right design team making sure everything is worked out, right from the beginning. Once you’ve bought the land and appointed an architect, you will probably be excited and keen for the builder to start, but it’s better to make sure that all the design work is completed before the build begins for the best result.’

For Mr. Armstrong, starting off with the right mindset is important. ‘Some people start with a combative approach, thinking it’s going to be a nightmare, but it really doesn’t need to be,’ he says. ‘Yes, you will have to roll your sleeves up, ask questions, and get involved in design decisions pretty much on a daily basis—it can be very absorbing. But if you were renovating a classic plane or boat, you would be passionate about it and enjoy the process. Building a house really shouldn’t be any different.’

A who’s who of a building project


Well known as it is that an architect’s job is the lead role in translating your vision into a concrete reality, what is perhaps less often emphasized is the need to find someone you like and trust. ‘A new country house is often someone’s absolute dream, something they have been thinking about all their lives, so the client-architect relationship is a very personal one—it’s not like designing an office block or a school,’ points out Ross Sharpe, director of Yiangou Architects. ‘We have to be somebody the client trusts and whose vision they admire—and that includes occasionally telling them they are bonkers,’ he notes. ‘Most people will thank you for being honest, as well as inspirational.’


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August 05, 2020