Welcome to my new site

Welcome to Alexandra Cork Home Designs!  

We specialise in designing and seeking permissions for  Extensions, Conversions, Renovations and Alterations to Homes and Businesses.  We offer a friendly and practical, affordable service, working closely with you.
– Free Advice & Preliminary Visit
– Draft Plans & Designs
– Planning Permission applications
– Building Regulation Permission applications
 
– Extensions, conversions & alterations
– Loft Conversions & Conservatories
– New Builds
– Residential and Commercial
– Measured plans
– Interior Design

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Alexandra Cork Home Designs is Professional Indemnity Insured for your peace of mind.

Why choose ACHD?

Hello! I’m Alexandra Cork (Alex to anyone who knows me). If you choose us you get me- and only me- I’ll help you envisage, design and gain permissions for, your home design project. So if you want to get a little background on who I am and how I came to be doing this read on!

I’m based in Downend in Bristol, I’ve lived in and around Bristol for almost all my life, so I’m really familiar with it- I do most my work in South Glos, Bristol and Bath. I live with my husband and our 11yr old son in a 3 bed ex local authority terraced house- its no chocolate box cottage (!), but we really like it here so we’ve worked really hard to make it work for us, carefully considering how to get the most out of every room. In 2018 we extended it (so I’ve lived the process you’re embarking on!) https://alexandracork.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/my-house/.

I’m trained Interior Designer- I do some commercial Interior Design https://alexandracork.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/rockbeare-manor-exeter/ but most of my career has been focused on architectural design for homes. I LOVE houses- I won’t hide it, one of my favourite parts of my job is meeting you in your home and understanding how you live in it- for better and worse!

I began ACHD in 2010 while expecting my son, and after a short sabbatical following his birth, I became solely self employed in 2011. Since then, I’ve met (I’d estimate) over 900 homeowners in their houses so I’ve got real insight into the typical problems and solutions many people face. Its not always size that matters- the layout and configuration of your home is just as important.

I take on about 40 new projects a year and work with you to help you understand what you could create and then to get the necessary permissions to achieve it. They’re practical, affordable solutions to improve your home, but my interiors eye is always keen to consider how to create a flowing, attractive house.

I’m a keen maker in many ways- crafting, cooking and baking and I’m never happier than in my garden, so I’m always really keen to help you explore ways to connect your home with your outdoors!

This blog has a wealth of my previous projects (though they’re just a drop in the ocean really) that might help you start to imagine how you could alter your home, but nothing beats an in person meeting- so if you’re keen to get some one on one help during a free initial consultation – get in touch!.

Accredited Agent Scheme

ACHD are now members of South Glos planning accredited agent scheme. South Glos recognise that we make high quality planning applications – being a member of their scheme means our applications are fast tracked and updated more frequently.

We are also members of the Building Regulations partnering arrangement with BathNES building control and we’re proud that these close working relationships with local authorities in this area improve the service ACHD offers.

Two storey extension, Thornbury

Back in 2013 I designed an extension to a house in Thornbury-https://wordpress.com/post/alexandracork.wordpress.com/728 and the intention always was to eventually build a two storey side extension, an idea which has finally come to fruition, after various pandemic related difficulties, including a nationwide shortage of building materials. This pretty 1930’s house is on a steeply tapered plot- much wider at the front than the back. The house had a shared garage structure which had been oddly altered by a previous owner. The house had three good sized bedrooms and one tiny bathroom- which was awkward to use.

The garage was removed and a large two storey extension added to the property. This extension provides a modern utility, shower room and a garage store on the ground floor, with two new bedrooms on the first floor- the bathroom relocated into the original third bedroom.

The house benefitted from a lovely staircase which has been further improved by opening up the landing space which leads to the extension- this beautiful double height space is airy and impressive, but also practical- part of the original bathroom has become super useful storage on the landing.

The utility is also very practical and well laid out- providing a secondary entrance, coat and shoe storage, pet space and laundry and cleaning provision. The garage provides storage and houses some gym equipment and is the sort of super practical arrangement most home require- plastering and painting it really improves the environment.

On the first floor a new bedroom for their daughter and an additional spare room/study space have been created in the extension, the bathroom has been relocated into a very generous and restful space.

The owner is a talented graphic designer and stylist, so I always knew this extension would look fabulous- the soft, textural tones used throughout really sing about what a comfortable, well organised and beautiful home this is. The extension maximises the plot, using all the spare space afforded by the tapering boundary, and it is now a modern 4 bedroom, 2 bath property.

Focus On: Social Kitchens

By a country mile, the most popular project I am asked to look at are kitchen extensions, and the biggest driving force of this is to create a social kitchen.

Houses all differ, but the traditional format of homes up and down the country has a living room to the front, adjacent to the front door and hallway, with the rear split between a formal dining room and a kitchen. Kitchens were small practical rooms designed for one person to do the domestic work, any guests being entertained in the more formal rooms. Communal dining was important- but the act of cooking it wasn’t part of the social experience. In addition, Kitchens in many of the homes we live in, built in the Victorian era, or mid 20th Century, weren’t intended with modern appliances or labour saving devices in mind

Dining spaces were to be shown off, so they’re often disproportionately large in comparison to the amount of time they were actually used, leading to a disconnect- the oft used but cramped and isolated kitchen vs. the larger but infrequently used dining room.

Nowadays a kitchen is seen as the centre of home, and is an area to show off. Its connection with the rest of the house is paramount- it needs to be practical (above all else) but also not cut off – home owners want to be in a space where they can entertain, chat, supervise and interact with their children- and they want to fully utilise the floor area they have.

The keys to a social kitchen-

Create a social hub– this might be a dining table or an island/peninsula- somewhere people can gather, attached or near to the main kitchen. Seating is vital, even if its just an occasional perching place. This can be key as a social gathering point which includes the ‘cook’ in the conversation. Its also incredibly versatile- my own small kitchen island is frequently used as a place for a quick cup of tea (or glass of wine!), as a workstation, for play or do crafts at, for eating breakfast or lunch. It can be a perfect place for kids to do home work while dinner is being prepared. I’d wager if you set up a camera, it would be the most frequently returned to point of the house- the true centre.

Don’t forget a practical kitchen– the kitchen still needs to work- that all important ‘work triangle’ is essential- and its important to plan the kitchen so that key areas of it face into the room- there’s no point having a big social kitchen if you spend most your time facing the wall! Think about key items like a fridge and how easy it is to access from the main room (if you can fit in a wine fridge, all the better).

If you have space- add a soft seating zone – a nice comfortable sofa with a focal point (could be a fireplace or a TV) means you and your family will really ‘hang out’ in this room, and guests will feel at home. It also means there’s an alternative social space for different people- if the kids have friends over for example. You might want to soften the flooring in this area- a carpet or a big rug makes a more comfortable play space for children. If there’s room for some storage so that toys or hobby equipment can be easily cleared up it will help keep you room streamlined.

Think about transition to the garden– Gardens are also increasingly thought about as part of the envelope of the home- another room to use (at least for some parts of the year). Even when the weather isn’t for eating outside, a view of the garden is perfect for expanding your horizons, bringing in light, monitoring children’s play and feeling a connection to outside. Bi folds are ever popular for their large openings and the way people can drift in an out but there are other options- think big sliding panes of glass unimpeded by frames, or super cool Crittall style frames. Being able to overlook the garden and transition between the two is often part of what makes a social kitchen really successful.

Consider Noise– Noise in a shared, larger rooms noise can be a factor. Retain a closable door to the rest of the house, and if its possible- create a separate utility or built in cupboard for Washing machines, failing that, look for the quieter appliances.

If you want to create or revamp your kitchen we can help you design the social kitchen that forms the heart of your home.

Focus On: Porches

I strongly believe in adding space where it’s really needed- a few square metres at a critical pinch point in your house can mean more than adding 30 sq m of under utilised and badly positioned new space elsewhere. One of the most frequent complaints I hear from home owners is about the entrance to their homes- its too tight, too cramped, there’s no where for shoes and coats and bags (kids are particularly prone to abandoning their belongings all over the hallway!). Adding a porch- just a few square metres- can solve this- adding crucial space and storage at the entrance to your home- which is after all- one of the most well used areas of your house.

A new porch can also give your house a facelift- a warm visual welcome from the outside, increasing the kerb appeal of your home, and in many cases they can help create room for a WC, or combined with a wrap around extension, increased space in adjacent rooms. Some people like to retain a secondary door between their porch and the rest of the house- great for added security and thermal insulation, but others like to extend their hallway into the porch- creating a grander entrance.

Porches can be permitted development- most houses can add 3 sq m to the front elevation without requiring planning permission. A small porch of this size is likely to cost £9-10k (this is based on nationwide research taken in 2022, projects can vary), so whilst this can be quite costly when considered on a per square metre basis, it is what I term very ‘hard working’ space- it makes a clear and tangible difference to how you home acts, feels and appears to others.

If you have a porch project you’d like to discuss, we’d love to help!

Victorian infill extension

On a lovely day earlier this week I was invited back to see this completed extension in Horfield. This classic Victorian terrace had an L shaped floorplan- living room to the front with dining behind, then a small, dark and cramped kitchen and ground floor bathroom in the ‘outrigger’. This is the typical arrangement for houses of this age, kitchens weren’t valued as a social area to be shown off. The bathroom on the ground floor was impractical for family life, and the house lacked access and views to the garden.

The house had a wide side return area which is also typical for houses of the age- which is often dark and difficult to utilise.

The new extension utilises this area, building an extension into the side return, and extending another 1.5m beyond the original end of the house, increasing the footprint of the house by approximately 40% without losing much usable garden area.

Internally the kitchen and diner were opened up with steels to create a large open plan area. To the rear a beautiful U shaped kitchen has been fitted, with a dining area and a large seating space facing the garden.

The lean to roof profile allows for rooflights to the rear and to the side, which pour light into the previously dark rear of the house, and large format sliding doors give views and access to the garden. To my delight, the owners opted to keep their steels revealed, rather than boxed in, which called for intumescent (flame retardant) paint to protect them- I’m reliably informed this paint was a nightmare to apply- but the result looks fantastic- and suits their industrial aesthetic so well. A cast concrete worktop emphasises this look- the patina and depth of this material looks ideal in the space.

The owners have a great sense of style and their extension didn’t disappoint- its a warm, open and full of well chosen finishes, fittings and furniture, with artwork and ornaments reflecting their personalities and artistic backgrounds.

I’m a sucker for the practical details and so I’ll finish with these- a cute little pantry tucked under the stairs, and a super practical utility cupboard- housing washing machine, tumble drier, drying rack, storage and coats!

Focus On: Garage Conversions

Let’s face it, the vast majority of people don’t store their cars in their garages anymore- cars have got bigger, their use more frequent- and its too much hassle to store a car in an undersized garage. Garages can provide valuable storage or workshop areas, but all too often they become a dumping ground for things we don’t want to look at- a huge walk in cupboard of clutter.

Alternatively, garages can be converted into really valuable home spaces- and have a huge number of advantages- the work is usually much quicker, less messy (no digging!), and considerably cheaper- than building the equivalent sized extension.

Industry figures suggest the average garage conversion can be as much as 70% cheaper than a new extension, and can add up to 20% onto the value of your existing property.

In further good news- in many situations- garage conversions do not require planning permission and can be converted under Permitted Development rights, which speeds up and further reduces cost.

If you’re concerned about losing storage capacity, a popular option retains a proportion of the existing garage- enough for the true essentials- bikes, lawn mowers and a bit of DIY equipment- with access to the front.

Popular garage conversion projects create utilities, ground floor WCs, home offices, occasional guest rooms, play rooms, dining rooms, or when knocked through to the existing house- can help enlarge kitchens and living rooms without any new build space.

Alexandra Cork Home Designs have helped design many garage conversion projects- if you want to discuss turning your garage of doom into a sparkly new kitchen, utility, play room or home office- get in touch- we’d love to help.

One Storey Extension- Thornbury

This one storey extension in Thornbury, South Glos, infilled a gloomy corner of the existing garden. The extension has created a big open plan space, with roof lights over the kitchen illuminating the space. The area the extension was in removes an unused corner of the garden, keeping the usable outdoor spaces in tact.

The owner has chosen a lovely high gloss grey kitchen, with marble worktops, and burnt orange bar chairs, creating a really luxe look. But its the new WC wallpaper that really steal the show- if you can’t show off an amazing pattern in the smallest room in the house, where can you?

Free Initial Consultations

Just a reminder- Alexandra Cork Home Designs offer free initial consultations.

This consultation is really valuable as an opportunity for us to meet and it gives me a chance to see your house in person, along with the surrounding area, so we can discuss in more detail what you want to change about your home. Some people have very specific ideas, others just feel that the current house isn’t working- with 15+yrs of residential design experience and a background in Interior design and architecture- I can help identify areas for improvement, suggest potential solutions and start to refine your ideas during this initial meeting. I can also give you an overview of whether you may or may not require planning, building regulations and drain build over permissions and what each of these require.

There’s absolutely no obligation to go any further- though I’d love to work with you if you do! If an initial consultation is of interest to you, please drop me a line – info@alexandracork.co.uk and I’d be delighted to book you into my diary!