Transforming a home or building a new house? The RedBook Guide on how to get started

—15th June 2018

When you want to transform a home or build a new house, you face some big questions that can seem daunting: where exactly do I start, and who should I ask to help me with the project?

When you want to transform a home or build a new house, you face some big questions that can seem daunting—where exactly do I start, and who should I ask to help me with the project?

Taking the right steps to launch your project you will save you time and money, as well as avoid frustration and mistakes. These simple steps will also ensure you make the absolute most of the wonderful opportunity you have to improve your property or create an entirely new one.

And the first step could not be more simple. You just need to decide what you want to achieve with your project. In other words, you will be creating a ‘client brief’.

At RedBook, our aim is to help our clients get the brief right from the start. This saves headaches and potentially unnecessary costs later on that may arise from a lack of clear communication at the outset.

Creating a brilliant brief

An architect or interior designer, or indeed anyone involved in your project, is only as good as the brief you give them.

But your brief does not need to be detailed. It is enough to be able to describe your main goal in a few clear words, or a sentence: stick to the big picture.

It is good to describe what you want to avoid as well as what you want to achieve.

For instance, ‘I want to redecorate my flat in a cool, contemporary way but avoid it looking like a hotel’ or ‘I want to build a new family home in a Georgian style that doesn’t look like a pastiche.’

The client brief, a simple description of your goals, will tell all the professionals involved with your project exactly what you have in mind. Having a clear, succinct client brief not only helps to speed up the launch of a project and ensure it goes in the right direction from the start. It will also help to give the professionals you meet confidence that you will be a good client, so they will want to work with you—many of the best professionals can pick and choose their clients so it is important to be their preferred choice.

Now, it is time to expand your client brief a little by including a description of the scale of you what you want to achieve, its purpose, add some photos if possible. Then you need to decide how quickly you want everything to happen.


Size and Purpose

Give a concrete sense of the scale of your project, and what makes you want to do it.

For example, ‘I want to build a house with seven bedrooms and a big kitchen/living/dining room so my family can hang out and eat together in a relaxed space.’ Or, ‘I want to redecorate the entire flat because it is where I am going to live, the previous owner’s taste was different to mine, and both the bathrooms and kitchen are outdated.’


It is helpful at this early stage to collect some photos of homes or houses you admire, and which show your taste. Pages torn from magazines, or images captured from websites, are perfect for this.

You can then show these pictures to designers or architects at an initial meeting with them so they get an immediate sense of your preferences.

Don’t worry about having only a few images or a very broad idea of what you want to achieve since the main purpose is to give them a steer. If you get carried away with describing details or having too many images, you risk confusing the message conveyed by the pictures, as well as limiting the designers’ freedom to come up with concepts and solutions that may appeal even more to you than your original ideas.

And don’t fret if you don’t have any images. Words alone are fine.


Now decide when you would ideally like to start and finish your project.

You want to start it right away, and finish it as quickly as humanly possible? Or you would prefer to spend your time exploring designs before committing to the project? Either way is OK.

Just knowing your timeframe, even if it proves unrealistic, gives your project a valuable framework that will help the professionals you meet understand how best to help.


Most people do not know how much their project will cost with any certainty at all at the outset. They do, though, know how much they are prepared to spend.

So start by asking yourself ‘how much is too much?’

At RedBook we advocate clear communication about maximum budget at a very early stage, so that everyone knows where they stand. It is then important to protect your budget by putting the right team and constraints in place. (A separte RedBook Guide focusses closely on this critical subject.)

In any event, it is extremely useful for you to work out your financial limit. You will then have a good sense when costs are being discussed in abstract terms at the very start of a project whether you are comfortable or not with the potential cost, and whether your goals for the project can be achieved.


Your work is done—completing the client brief

If you can, put all the words you have written together with the images you have collected in a single document.

At RedBook, we have seen some clients put together briefs that barely fill half a page. And they are great briefs: simple, pithy and clear.

We have also seen clients put together briefs that run to pages and pages, and include countless pictures all carefully captioned. That is great, too, but more than is necessary. Other clients use websites such as Pinterest to collate their images collections. This is a good tool, but it is helpful if the pictures are accompanied by a few words explaining what it is about the picture specifically that you like.

If you produce a simple client brief, you will be in a small and special minority of homeowners who approach the launch of their project in the best possible way with all the benefits that flow from this.

Watch out!

Make life as easy as you can for yourself at the start of our project, keep your brief simple and try not worry at this stage about anything more than launching your project so that you end up with the home you want.

What you want to avoid is a running like a rabbit in different directions at the outset of your project, becoming distracted by questions that are not urgent or making decisions that later seem ill advised. In the worst cases we have seen, so much time passes before key decisions are made that the original purpose of transforming the property ebbs away—children can grow up before a house that is meant to be their new family home is completed.

Top tip

The launch of your property project will be driven by your energy, focus and ability to make decisions promptly.

At RedBook, when we meet potential clients for the first time, we find some have created a brief but most have not. So we help them create a client brief from scratch, or help them develop their brief if they have already started one. We also share a wide portfolio of images that we go through together with them, closely noting their likes and dislikes, so we can help them develop the stylistic part of the brief. Then write the full brief for them.

Only if they decide to work with us after they have met us and received our brief, do we invite them to engage us formally to help get their project off the ground.

RedBook is a specialist consultancy that helps clients and their advisers select the perfect creative and technical team for significant property projects.

For further information, please contact us on 0207 060 6222. Or email: