Building A House

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A one-off house is the dream project for an Architect.

Since starting Capital A in 2009 I have taken on almost 190 projects but only four of these were houses. This is easy to understand because the majority of my work is in Edinburgh. Few people build one-off houses in the city, most of my clients want to alter an existing building.

I have been fortunate to meet clients who were ambitious and well resourced. I have built up a portfolio of modern house extensions and interior alterations. I want to put these skills to use designing and building modern self build homes.

Having spent most of a decade working on family homes I have strong opinions on their design. These are my thoughts on the most important aspects of a modern home. The images are of homes designed by other Architects I admire.

1. Public v Private.


There should be a clear division between private and public space. A stranger or guest should not have to walk past bedrooms, bathrooms and storage to get to the living area. Splitting a home either vertically or horizontally is the best first step.

2. Interior Layout v External Appearance.

A beautiful, minimal kitchen and courtyard

There will always be a conflict between the interior and exterior, this is unavoidable. The internal layout of any building affects its external appearance. Imagine a classic, Georgian house where just one window is out of place because the owner wanted the room behind it to be larger. It would ruin the entire building. From the outset this conflict must be recognised and accepted. Come down on one side or the other, and stay there!

3. Main Entrance.


There should be a prominent, obvious entrance. It doesn’t have to be in the dead centre but it should be easy to identify.

4. Shelter.


A house should have an intermediate zone connecting the home to its landscape. A solid wall with a door is not good enough, there is no sense of transition between inside and out. Cantilevering the roof or upper floor is a great way to create shelter on the ground floor. It also adds a sense of drama.

5. Proportion.

This modern house would look great in Edinburgh

It is possible to make a hideous building from beautiful materials. It is also possible to take a common, unremarkable material and make an elegant structure with it. The secret is proportion.

6. Custom Made Storage.

Saint_Jerome_in_his_Study,_oil_on_oak_painting_by_Hendrik_van_Steenwijck_the_younger,_1630music-home-study-melbourne-swalwell-june-2011-20170321141432-q75,dx1920y-u1r1g0,c--We don't just have stuff, we have life. Many clever, educated people assume their hobbies and interests don't merit a mention. Whether you work on bikes, collect antiques or play an instrument, your home should celebrate it.

7. Culture.

clean lines and elegant proportions

Are you living in the past or looking to the future? Your home will be built in the here and now, forcing it to look like it is from another time will not work. A house should be contemporary.

8. Context.

shletered area outside the main glazing

If you want a house which is ‘in keeping’, find another Architect. I haven’t got time for mediocrity.


A typical four bed family home, excluding a garage, is between 100 and 120 square meters in size. A realistic cost for new build housing is between £1,500 to £2,500 per square meter. The lower cost will involve significant compromise in materials and specification.

These prices are relevant to the central belt of Scotland in 2017 and they do not include the cost of land or professional fees.


If you are thinking of building a house please contact Capital A and we can discuss how to make it a home.