People in design: Michael Holmes

Experienced renovator and Editor-in-Chief of Real Homes talks about property designs and renovations

TODO alt text

What does self-build mean? Do you have to be on site all the time or can you instruct a team to do the work for you? Which option is better?

Self-build simply means a home where the design and build has been instigated to suit the individual requirements of the homeowner. Some people use a mix of DIY labour and help from local subcontractors, while others leave it all to a main contractor or a design-and-build company – which route you take depends on your available time, skills and budget. For our projects, my wife Emma and I use a builder to construct the shell, and then employ plumbers, electricians, plasterers and decorators to finish the job. It’s a route we have always used.

What inspires you when designing a property?

I am a very practical and logical designer. I start by analysing the problem by looking at the site, the surrounding properties, the views, the orientation, the topography, the planning constraints, then I treat these elements like a puzzle to which there are only a limited number of practical solutions. I try to optimise the design to make the most of the site.

I’m sure I will take plenty of inspiration and ideas from The National Home Improvement Show this year (2013). Garden designer Matt James has been doing a lot of work on spatial design recently. I think the relationship between inside and outside is very important, so I’ll be trying to catch his seminar. Architectural designer Oliver Heath is redefining the ‘smart home’ by looking at ordinary materials with extraordinary properties, such as cooling or generating power – his sessions promise to be very interesting. Interior designer Julia Kendell will be sharing the latest in interior design trends at the show, as will Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux.

On Friday 27 September (2013) there will be a special guest – TV presenter Philippa Forrester will be advising on energy efficiency in the home.

What is the most common mistake people make when taking on a major home renovation and how can they avoid it?

People can be over-ambitious with their budget and underestimate the cost and duration of the build. It’s human nature – people only hear what they want to hear and perhaps if they were more realistic, they’d never start the project! If you can find a way to add more space at a cost that is below the value of the space, then it’s a no-brainer to extend.