New book on 21st century houses offers design inspiration plus advice and stellar architects.

Gertrude Aziz

Sign up to our daily newsletter Self-building is the preferred option but persistence is key if you are to find a plot, as is a substantial budget with a generous contingency built in.Converting a building or renovating and extending existing dwellings are more realistic routes.Whatever you choose, finding a great […]

Self-building is the preferred option but persistence is key if you are to find a plot, as is a substantial budget with a generous contingency built in.Converting a building or renovating and extending existing dwellings are more realistic routes.Whatever you choose, finding a great architect is the sure way to success and there is certainly no shortage of them in Yorkshire.Those looking for inspiration for their own “Grand Design” and those of us who must be content to dream while taking note of interesting elements that we can transfer to our existing home, will love 21st Century Houses: RIBA Award Winning Homes by Dominic Bradbury, a new book published by the Royal Institute of British Architects.It is an extensive compilation of exceptional properties from the past decade, chosen to offer ideas to those who are self-building, renovating, converting or extending.They include picture and detail-rich case studies from Yorkshire, including a contemporary lean-to by Harrogate-based Doma Architects.The clients asked Ruth Donnelly of Doma to make the property suitable for modern living and assumed a large extension would be her suggestion.She surprised them with a better and less expensive idea, which included turning the dark basement into a light-filled family room with a playroom, study and utility with access onto the garden via glazed, sliding doors.A small,contemporary, steel-framed extension houses a new staircase leading from the ground to the lower ground floor and gives storage space under the stairs. The cost was just over £100,000 and the RIBA described it as a “little gem”.The spectacular Old Shed New House in Great Ouseburn, near York, by Tonkin Liu Architects also stars in the book.This was the reinvention of a redundant rural storage shed for a retired couple who wanted a new home for themselves and their books.Their son, architect Greg Storrar, and Mike Tonkin worked with a modest budget to create the property reusing the existing steel-framed shed and coating it in larch boards that were shot-blasted to create the silvery grey colour that perfectly matches the avenue of silver birch trees on the site.A sedum roof softens the look and the layout inside features a sensational double-height library and clever use of pocket doors.Sustainability was a major influence and the property has a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system and photovoltaic and solar panels.Also starring is the magnificent Barrow House by id Architecture, just over the border in the Lincolnshire Wolds. The barn-like form features durable seteel cladding and a projecting bedroom pod.The book is beautifully illustrated with over 300 photographs and author Dominic Bradbury says: “If we accept the idea that the architecture and design of our houses should reflect the times we live in, while respecting the intrinsic character of our surroundings, then this survey of RIBA award-winning 21st-century case studies from across Britain offers an essential source of ideas and inspiration for the contemporary home.”The book also gives homeowners guidance on how to find an architect via [email protected], along with advice on how to work with architects. Here are a few of Dominic Bradbury’s tips on the latter:Begin conversations with your chosen architect before starting any work on a project to avoid costly mistakes or false starts.Most projects will require planning consent and need to be signed off by building control, which your architect will be able to advise on at the very beginning of the process.It is important to discuss, clarify and confirm the brief for the project in conjunction with the architect, thinking carefully about the uses and activities the house needs to accommodate. The final brief must include the agreed budget and establish a decision-making process – i.e. who will make and sign off on key decisions about the design, the costs and any evolving issues when construction is underway.It is also important to discuss issues of sustainability and contextuality sooner rather than later.Collecting cuttings or bookmarking pages online of houses and interiors that you particularly like and enjoy can be very helpful in these discussions.Scrapbooks of this kind can help your architect understand what you are looking for and may save a great deal of valuable time.Be clear from the outset about the costs of the architectural services that you require, as well as how and when you will be charged for them.Most practices do not charge for an initial meeting or consultation, although it’s best to confirm this beforehand.Beyond this first consultation, fees will be payable on any architectural and design services. These fees will vary according to the location, scale and complexity of the project, all of which should be established in the brief, as well as the level of service required from the practice.Some architects base their fees on a percentage of the total cost of the project, while others charge a fixed price and others might charge according to the amount of time spent on a project.Just as important as understanding the fee structure, the client also needs to be clear about what might not be included in the price.

*21st Century Houses: RIBA Award-Winning Homes, £45, is available exclusively from the bookshop at RIBA Books now and it will be available nationwide from September 1, 2022. For more information visit

Old Shed New House in North Yorkshire by Tonkin Liu Architects
Inside Old Shed New House, where creating a home for the owners’ books was a key part of the design
This contemporary lean to and stars leading to a basement conversion is by Yorkshire based Doma Architects
This contemporary home in the Lincolshire Wolds was designed by ID Architecture
This book has been rightly praised and offers inspiration to self builders and those transforming existing homes
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