A Q&A With Emma Roden: Co-Founder of Award Winning Kimble Roden Architects

A Q&A With Emma Roden: Co-Founder of Award Winning Kimble Roden Architects

1. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience and what brought you into residential architecture?

From an early age, I wanted to become an architect, having always embraced creativity through art and design. I also loved maths and technical subjects so architecture seemed like the perfect marriage of those two disciplines.

When we founded Kimble Roden architects, Edwina and I decided to focus on residential design. We both felt that our background and experience working on large commercial projects would enable us to provide a professional service alongside high levels of design. That was definitely a key motivator in establishing Kimble Roden.

2. What are the key differences between designing residential properties compared to commercial buildings

Edwina and I both gained substantial experience in commercial practices in Manchester before making the transition to the residential market. One key difference I've noticed is that when dealing with layperson clients, is their familiarity with the process might not match that of commercial clients. Consequently, our role involves continuous guidance and support, offering them a hand to hold throughout the entire journey.

We oversee the entire process, while our typical project scale in commercial settings often involves collaboration with numerous consultants, on a residential project Edwina and I are able to address all project-related issues without the need for an abundance of additional consultants.

3. How do you approach the initial consultation with a client to understand their needs?

At Kimble Roden, we provide an initial free consultation, allowing us to meet our clients and grasp the essence of their project. Following our appointment, we conduct an in depth briefing meeting, which plays a pivotal role in understanding our clients' requirements. We don't ask our clients to devise solutions themselves – that’s what they are paying us to do! But it is essential for us to comprehend their family dynamics, specific interests, and how they envision the functionality of their house. This information informs our design process, as we consider not only their immediate needs but also focus on ensuring that their design is future-proofed.

4. Do you offer a fully integrated interior design service?

We provide a fully integrated design service, encompassing initial designs, planning drawings, detailed design construction drawings, and interior design. At Kimble Roden, we firmly believe in adopting a holistic approach to design, one that considers the entire journey from the front door throughout the entire house. Therefore, interior design holds significant importance for us. It's crucial that the interiors are not only functional but also visually stunning. Ultimately, they should perfectly cater to the needs and preferences of our clients.

5. What are the current trends or innovations in residential architecture that you find exciting or relevant?

Since our company's creation, the past decade has been witness to many great innovations, particularly in materials and the products that have come onto the market. Marble is a useful example, alternatives such as porcelain tile have become increasingly popular to create the same effect. Moreover, timber technology has developed, we are able to use wood veneers and other products that look like timber but wear much better than natural timber. This has been really exciting for us, especially for interior design.

6. What are the biggest challenges with a project with regards to planning and construction?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced over the last few years is the rising cost of construction. Given the state of the global economy, we have seen prices rise significantly. As a result, our contractors are charging much more than they were four or five years ago for a project. In terms of our input and how we help our clients, it’s primarily about controlling that process and the budget. This is part of our remit when we are employed to design people’s homes and we ensure transparency throughout the project.

We begin by getting a budget estimate done early on, providing a guide price for the project’s cost. Then, further down the line, we produce a large amount of drawings and information, which enable us to get a fixed price from the contractor. We usually go out to a competitive tender to guarantee our clients are getting value for money. By producing all of that information, the builder knows exactly what they have got to deliver to you.

7. Are there any sustainable principles that you might incorporate into residential projects?

When we are refurbishing someone’s home, we like to consider the thermal properties and how we can improve those in an existing house. It’s very much a ‘fabric first’ approach, making sure you have really good insulation and this can include upgrading windows, it can be the best way to ensure improved energy performance. We also have some great experts who can help advise us on renewable energy sources and how they can help with the energy performance of the house. Insulation and renewable energy combined allow us to upgrade the efficiency of an existing property, reducing your utility bills in the process..

8. Can you discuss the importance of creating functional and adaptable living spaces within residential design?

When we are designing, we are obviously thinking about your immediate needs, but also we are aware that every family dynamic changes constantly as children grow. For example, we might create an adult retreat room for you for the first two years, but eventually that might turn into a teenager’s den. Further down the line, it might become a room for elderly parents who might want to move into the house. Thinking about all the long-term solutions is very much our approach to design. It’s not just about the here and now; it’s making sure that your home is able to evolve with your needs and lifestyle.

9. How do you approach the balance between aesthetics and functionality in your residential designs?

When we are designing, we are thinking about the aesthetics, but it also has to be really functional. Good design is a perfect amalgamation of comfort and style. We take a very analytical approach to design, starting with how the house will flow and that usually starts to inform the aesthetics as well. It is not just about using certain materials or making it look a certain way, we have to make sure that it can function within the space. That’s what a good architect will bring to your project.

10. What advice would you give to a homeowner looking to choose an architect for a residential project. What should they consider when selecting one?

When you are selecting an architect for your project, the first thing you need to do is meet them and get a feel for the kind of work they do and the kind of experience they have. You’ll want to look at their existing portfolio of work and have a really good conversation about what they can offer. I would also suggest that you make sure that your architect is registered with the ARB (Architectural Registration Board) because only fully qualified architects can be members of the ARB. If they aren’t on this, they are not a qualified architect. Beyond this is also the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) which is the chartered body of architects, giving you another layer of assurance that you are dealing with a professional.

11. Can you talk about your favourite residential project you have worked on and why it stood out to you as an architect?

One of my favourite projects I have been involved in recently is a project called Fairwinds in Wilmslow. It had some initial challenges being located in the green belt, meaning we had to jump through quite a few hoops in planning, but we achieved a successful outcome. What I really loved about this project was marrying an old cottage with a really contemporary extension to the rear. The two storey extension opened up some amazing views over the countryside. We also then upgraded the rest of the house. Utilising the space we had available to us innovatively, we made the house feel a lot bigger and a lot more usable.  

12. How do you handle unexpected changes or challenges that may arise during the construction phase in residential projects? How do you communicate these issues with your clients?

When we’re working with an existing building, there are occasions where we discover unknown problems. The key thing about dealing with those challenges is coming up with solutions quickly and understanding any cost implications. This requires communicating with the builder and also our client. Sometimes, these challenges can result in something positive, but it’s crucial that we react quickly. We are always on the end of the phone when a project is on site, so we can react quickly to any of those challenges.

One of the best ways of mitigating against unknowns is by having a really good set of construction drawings. By giving your architect the time to produce that level of information, they will have considered all the challenges that are going to arise on site.

13. What advice would you give to an aspiring architect interested in pursuing a career in residential architecture?

For any students who are considering going into architecture, I would definitely recommend getting some work experience. It is the best way to get a real insight into the day- to-day of an architect. At Kimble Roden, we often welcome students from sixth form colleges and the schools in the area. They spend a week with us and we set them a design project, providing them with a sample of what we do. Some of them go on to study as architects, and some might choose different paths. However, it is so important to get some work experience before committing to the extensive training programme.

If you would like to discuss your project with us, please call +44 (0) 1625 402442 or email us for a free initial consultation.

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