10 books on architecture, design & cities to give as gifts this holiday season.

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve right around the corner, some of us might still be contemplating how to find the right gifts for our friends and families. If you happen to find yourself in this category, then it might be helpful to consider giving a book as a present. Great books can make us see the world differently and inspire us in many ways, which is why it’s very likely that they will have an impact on the reader. Additionally, as distinguished sources of inspiration, coffee table books are a great addition to any living room.

If your friends and family have any interest in architecture, interior design, and cities, here are the top 10 books ideas that make a perfect present. From philosophical and sociological perspectives on living to dream cabins and the houses of the greatest personalities, real or fictional, you could find a book that is suited to anyone’s interests.

This is a must read for anyone interested in the link between architecture and wellbeing. In this book, philosopher and bestselling author Alain de Botton explores the psychology of architecture and interior design by looking at diverse buildings and everyday objects from our homes. In doing so, he aims to respond to questions about the meaning of beauty and to unravel the way that our aesthetic experiences affect our state of mind in the long term. This book is a perfect gift for a philosophy lover who would enjoy gaining an insight into these subjects. You can find it here.

This book takes a fresh look at the often taken-for-granted aspects of our everyday lives that make up the cities we inhabit. In it, the authors emphasise the distinction between ‘seeing’ and ‘observing’, while analysing the way that cities work and shedding light on the seemingly hidden reasons why objects are designed in a specific way. This book will challenge the way you see your environment and is a great gift for someone with a curious mind.

Written by an experienced urban planner, this book explores the relationship between the way the cities we live in are designed and our quality of life. Sennett draws on sociological perspectives and uses examples of big cities across the globe in order to put forward the idea of an ‘open city’, one that embraces complexity and difference. This book is a good choice for someone interested in urban planning and its challenges in the contemporary context.

This book features the houses of some of the greatest artists of all times, spanning creative fields such as literature, fashion, music, film and visual arts. It includes the residences of 250 artists, from da Vinci, Picasso, and Pollock, to Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley, offering a special insight into the link between their work, personalities, and houses. Responding to a great curiosity about how other people live, this is an inspiring gift for anyone interested in the arts. You can find the book here.

In a similar manner, this book explores the interiors of houses that belong to great personalities. In it, Simon Watson includes photographs and insights into the stories of elegant homes from Spain, Italy, Morocco, France, and Ireland, among others. The book includes a look into seventeenth-century palaces, such as Duchess of Alba’s Palacio de Liria from Madrid, and the retreats and residences of notable figures from the art world, as well as from the worlds of fashion and interior design, such as Roberto Peregalli. For more about the book, check here.

In this book, Phyllis Richardson draws a fascinating parallel between the houses of some of the greatest British authors and the ways these could have inspired their work. A perfect gift for a literature lover, this book analyses the houses of authors such as Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, as well as postmodern ones, such as Kazuo Ishiguro. You can find it here.

In a similar manner, this book explores the interiors of houses that belong to great personalities. In it, Simon Watson includes photographs and insights into the stories of elegant homes from Spain, Italy, Morocco, France, and Ireland, among others. The book includes a look into seventeenth-century palaces, such as Duchess of Alba’s Palacio de Liria from Madrid, and the retreats and residences of notable figures from the art world, as well as from the worlds of fashion and interior design, such as Roberto Peregalli. If you would like to know more, check here.

The latest book from Zach Klein brings new inspiration through a series of photographs of cabins from around the world. What started as a personal project between friends became a successful series of books that will allow you to escape from your daily routine into a dream scenery. You can buy the book here.

This book surveys recent trends in architecture by putting together a set of images of 50 contemporary houses from around the world. It includes the work of famous well-known names, such as MVRDV, Shigeru Ban, and Marcio Kogan. You can find out more about the book here.

This book (in German) features images of some of the greatest architectural landmarks around the world. But before that, you can find photographs of the same buildings creatively reconstructed by using different kinds of foods. This book is a good idea if you’re looking to find a fun gift for an architecture lover.

If you would like to know more about how we can help redesign your home and better adapt it to your own desires and needs, then get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you might have.

Six easy steps to get ready for a COVID-friendly Christmas dinner.

As we are closely approaching the end of the year, we begin to reflect on the possible ways that we could enjoy this period safely with our loved ones. While a simple look at the many decorations outside can make us feel the Christmas spirit, it is certain that holidays will be a bit different this year. As a result, the process of organising a Christmas dinner will also need to be adapted to the current situation, by keeping in mind the current government guidelines in your local area. For this reason, hosting a safe Christmas gathering will be a bit more challenging than in previous years. To make this process a little bit easier and to give you some inspiration ahead of time, we have 6 tips for having a COVID-friendly Christmas dinner.

Hosting a safe Christmas gathering will be a bit more challenging than in previous years.

1. Create a transition area

This could be an area at the entrance of your home, or just before the main reception area. In this area, guests can sanitise their hands and leave their shoes, coats, and bags before entering. In this way, you can minimise the contact between outdoor objects and indoor surfaces, which have already been cleaned. Make sure to provide this area with plenty of hand sanitisers, disinfectant tissues, and maybe even a few spare masks for your guests.

2. Increase ventilation

The simplest way that this could be done is by opening windows more frequently, for example, for ten minutes every fifteen minutes. If you do have air conditioning, to ensure its effect on safety, you could check that it does not only circulate the air that is already in the room but that it also brings in fresh air from outside, replacing the indoor one at a certain timeframe. To increase the effectiveness of the ventilation in your house, you could even measure the amount of CO2 present in the air and keep your windows open accordingly, or purchase an air purifier with HEPA filters that will filter out unwanted particles1.

3. Optimise the circulation

First and foremost, ensure that your dining table has plenty of space around it, so that people are less likely to come too close to each other while taking their seats or when leaving the table. For example, you could place the dining table in an area that is as open as possible, and you could try to avoid one that has a narrow corridor leading up to it. Alternatively, you could try to move away any furniture that is along corridors, or that create a pinched tight space for passing on the way to the table.

Holidays will be slightly different this year and, unfortunately, that is beyond our power.

4. Implement social distancing

The easiest way you could do this is by placing the seats at the dinner table farther away from each other, to give your guests plenty of space for social distancing. To make this happen, you might want to make sure that you have a big enough table, or you could consider combining two tables and give your guests more space in this way.

5. Adapt your dinner

Your meal can also be served in a way that minimises unnecessary contact between people: you could avoid sharing the same cutlery, as well as food. For instance, you could aim to have separate dipping pots and to place your condiments into smaller cups as well, and you could separate your starter platters into different plates beforehand. In other words, you could have a pre-plated dinner. Additionally, you could aim to have as much of the food, drinks, and spices already on the table in order to minimise the circulation of yourself and your guests in and out of the kitchen, especially if it is not an open kitchen.

6. Consider placing your dining table outside

This could be another way to ensure social distancing, as well as that the air you and your guests breathe is as fresh and safe as possible. This could be either done by using a backyard, a balcony, or a green area in the proximity of your home. To keep your guests warm, use outdoor heaters and have some warm drinks with festive flavours ready, such as mulled wine, hot chocolate, or tea.

While we are architects and our expertise is in spatial and interior design arrangements2, we hope that these tips for having a safe dinner at home will come in handy this Christmas. Holidays will be slightly different this year and, unfortunately, that is beyond our power. What we can be in control of is our own enjoyment and our own safety, which is also the biggest priority during this time. Even though the number of visitors that we will be able to receive in our homes is limited, video calls will help us feel connected to our loved ones before we can meet them again in person.

Until then, we wish you happy holidays and a better 2021!

If you would like to know more about how we can help redesign your home during the pandemic so that you can adapt your daily routine to the current social distancing measures more easily, then get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you might have.

1. https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732

2. The ideas presented in this article do not substitute and are not supported by medical advice or scientific research. These are simply a few of our ideas that you can consider and research further on your own.

Useful tips about building permits in The Netherlands.

So you made up your mind: you’re going to upgrade your house. Before you embark on the journey of renovating it, it’s good to have an overview of all the aspects that this entails. At the beginning of this process, you might start thinking of all the different ways you could improve your home and weighing in the pros and cons for each option. Your initial ideas might leave you feeling excited about the potential of this transformation. However, it’s useful to balance this early excitement with a consideration of what is conceivable from a legal point of view, i.e. permits. It’s better to make an informed decision regarding what you would like your home to look and feel like after taking notice of the aspects required for successfully implementing your plan.

To make this process as smooth as possible, there are a few useful things to consider about permits; from how to figure out if a permit is required for the kind of work that you would like to do, to the type of permits that you might need and what could happen if this is not clearly determined from the beginning.

It’s better to make an informed decision regarding what you would like your home to look and feel like after taking notice of the aspects required for successfully implementing your plan.

renovation and building permits
Is a permit needed for the changes you have in mind?

Based on your address, you can check whether you need a permit and if so, apply for one, here. It’s good to keep in mind that while this tool will give you a general indication of whether a permit might be needed, the results it comes up with are not always perfectly accurate. In general, a permit will be required if the changes you intend to make affect the main structure of the building, and if the building is either in a protected area or if it is classified as a monument. If the building is classified as a national monument, it is not as likely that making changes to it will be permitted, while in the case of a municipal monument, it might be possible to renovate the exterior or make some small changes on the inside if a permit is granted. For more clarity, it’s best to contact your own municipality or an architect, as they will be able to give a more well-adjusted answer in line with the regulations that apply to your particular case.

Types of permits

In the Netherlands, when you plan to start any type of construction, or make improvements to your house, you might need an ‘all-in-one permit for physical aspects’. In Dutch, this permit is called ‘omgevingsvergunning’. Applying for this permit will cover a series of different areas, such as construction, fire safety, and the installation of alarm systems. For a full list of the different purposes that this permit is intended for, click here. If you are renovating your house, it’s most likely that you will have to select the ‘all-in-one permit for building, rebuilding or renovating’ when applying.

For more clarity, it’s best to contact your own municipality or an architect, as they will be able to give a more well-adjusted answer in line with the regulations that apply to your particular case.

renovation and building permits
Is it important to obtain a permit?

The importance of a permit should not be overlooked. Failing to take this into account is a risk that might lead to serious consequences, such as getting a fine, having your constructions stopped, or even reversed. This would result in a waste of time, money, and resources. Starting to build without a permit is also likely to be less safe and could lead to work that is not up to the highest standards. Additionally, it could be difficult to get insurance or to sell your house at a later point1. It is much easier to consider all the factors that go into determining whether a permit might be needed prior to having your house renovated.

While renovating your home is a great experience in itself that could lead to a new, invigorated flow and better daily interactions, it’s best not to forget the legal requirements involved in this project. With the appropriate balance between your own wishes and the respective legal, as well as technical and financial considerations, your home can live up to its best potential.

If you have any questions about permits, or if you would like to know more about how we can help renovate your own home, then get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you might have.

The three main areas to pay attention to before buying a house.

While it is a promising situation to find yourself in, finding the house of your dreams can be quite a nerve-wracking experience. This is especially true when the ideal home you have in mind does not exactly line up with the reality of the offers available on the market. In many cases, you are looking at a house that still needs adjustments – big or small. You might start to think of your priorities and ask yourself what you are willing to compromise on: budget, location, layout. However, you might not always need to compromise. Fortunately, there are solutions to help transform a house and bring it closer to your desired ideal before you move in.

What is important is to make sure the house you buy with the intention of transforming it into your dream one offers an appropriate starting point for such a project. The feasibility of the project needs to be confirmed before you buy the house: is it possible to make the desired changes to the house from a technical, legal, and financial point of view? These considerations can play an important role in deciding on a particular property. You do not want to buy a house and then discover that the adjustments you had in mind are not feasible, for whatever reason. This is why it’s essential to have these aspects professionally checked in advance.

There are solutions to help transform a house and bring it closer to your desired ideal before you move in.

When viewing the houses that you are considering buying, there are three main areas to pay attention to before deciding if you have found the one:

The fundamentals

1. Structural walls
When walking around your potential new home, you might already start thinking of different changes that you would like to make. You might not like the effect that a particular wall has on the layout of the house, or you might be wondering whether a bigger window could create a more pleasant feeling in a specific room. However, technical aspects could limit the nature and amount of changes that you are able to make, depending on the building itself and its plan. For instance, not every wall is easy to move or remove, as some of them are load-bearing and carry the main structure of the building.

2. Natural light
Natural lighting is a function of the house’s orientation and surrounding buildings; two things that are, of course, not possible to change after having bought the house. So, you might want to consider the orientation of the windows in your new house according to your specific preference for different rooms. A window facing the south-east side will provide the most sunlight in the morning, while the south-west side will have the same effect during the afternoon. Another relevant aspect to consider is the proximity of other buildings to your windows, as they might create shade and limit the amount of light that is allowed in the house.

3. The state of the foundations and roof
Checking that the foundations are in a good state before buying a house is essential in order to avoid surprises later on. This includes making sure that there is no flooding in the basement and no leaks coming from the roof. Those kinds of problems would be too difficult and too costly to solve.

With the appropriate technical, legal, and financial considerations, a house can be more easily adapted to nurture you and your family and made into your dream home.

The legal requirements

In the Netherlands, some buildings are classified as monumental and protected. To know if the changes you would like to make are possible, the first thing you need to check is whether a permit is needed. This often depends on the type of building in question. For regular buildings, a permit is generally required when the work you intend to do changes the main structure of the building. However, some other buildings are classified as monuments by the municipality, implying a different set of rules and requirements. These could firstly be classified as national monuments, meaning that it would be difficult to make significant or even small changes to them. Secondly, in the case of municipal monuments, renovating the exterior of the building or making some small changes on the inside is more likely to be possible, provided that a permit is granted. The question of whether a permit is needed depends on the area as well. A particular building could therefore be located in a protected area and different regulations might apply for this reason.

The financial side

Considering your budget is equally relevant when determining the feasibility of a project. It is very easy to underestimate how much you need to invest in making changes to a particular house. An architect could advise you on the required costs for your specific case. Sometimes, the renovation of a particular house might be so costly that it could be more profitable and less time-consuming to opt for a different one from the beginning.

You could find the house of your dreams and feel like it needs no modifications, or you could find a great house that you wish to improve. In the latter case, investing in a proper investigation and personalised advice before making the purchase is essential. We believe that with the appropriate technical, legal, and financial considerations, a house can be more easily adapted to nurture you and your family and made into your dream home.

In a famous Irish joke, a traveler asks a local from a small town for directions on how to get to Dublin. After hesitating, the local responds “well, if I wanted to get to Dublin, I wouldn’t start from here”. Likewise, making sure to have the right starting point at the beginning of a project is crucial when you already have an idea of the desired outcome.

If you are in the process of looking for your next home and you need help, get in touch! Over the years, we have developed a specific method of advising people like you before buying a house to help them with their decision. Through a quick, smooth, and low-budget process, we accompany you on a site visit, understand your wishes, study the house and deliver a report of the key aspects, as well as pros and cons that are worth considering before making a purchase. If you have any questions about how to find the right home for you, then we would be happy to assist you.

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“We would like to express our gratitude for the time you invested in helping us get to a clear picture.  Anna and I really appreciated the call we had with you, your responsiveness, and the great empathy that you exhibited throughout – we certainly felt very “well taken care of” when engaging with you.  On the practical side, we especially appreciated that there was the option to obtain robust bottom-up cost estimates for the construction itself (not every design architect offers this).”

-Private Client of AKKA

 

 

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