February 25, 2022
Mitchell Evans Spotlight
Founded 30 years ago in Surrey, Mitchell Evans is a medium sized architectural practice, specialising in managing a diverse range of architectural projects including design, planning permissions and Listed building consents, through to working drawing packages for contractor procurement and construction.
Toby Howell joined the company 20 years ago as a graduate and together with business partner Darren Grist, now heads up the company’s three offices in Godalming, Isle of Wight and Wales.
Here Toby talks about the history of the business, what architectural trends are emerging and offers some tips if you’re planning an extension to your home.
How has the Mitchell Evans brand grown over the past three decades?
Our main office is in Godalming, where our founder, David Mitchell, started the company in 1991. I joined 10 years later, after graduating from university and took over the company with my former partner Ian when David retired in 2017/18. Darren joined the company in 2016 as a project architect and is now my business partner. My brother Tim joined the company a few years back. We were brought up on the Isle of Wight and he wanted to return there so we decided to open an office on the island, which has been a great success. The model worked so well there that when a member of our team was making a move to Wales, we decided to open an office there too. We however collectively work as a team across the offices with Island and Wales members coming to our Godalming office on a
Who are your clients and what sort of projects do you work on?
Ninety per cent of our clients are individuals who want us to help them realise their dreams, whether that’s creating a high-end contemporary home or making a more traditional property better fit their current lifestyle. I think one of the reasons people come to us is that we work on all different styles of architecture. Here in Surrey there’s a lot of historical architecture and some people want to keep that character as much as possible while adapting it to suit their current needs. Others want a more contemporary look, driven by programmes like Grand Designs, and are much bolder with their ideas. However, we are happy to work in any style and our design process will explore a number of options for our clients.
How has the pandemic changed the way people view their homes?
In our opinion, and from what we have experienced it’s led to a mass exodus of Londoners who no longer want a two or three-bedroom house in the city but somewhere larger where they can work from home and have lots of outdoor space. However, they don’t want to compromise on style – they often want to recreate what they had in London out here in the country.
What trends have you seen emerging in domestic architectural design in recent years?
The way people live has completely changed over the past few years, for example very rarely do we see people wanting a formal dining room anymore. Family life is much more sociable than it once was and so people want open plan kitchen family room living. The shift to working from home has also driven a desire for his and hers offices but one of the biggest trends is undoubtedly how people are incorporating outdoor living into their homes. We get a lot of requests for outdoor kitchens, swimming pools and outdoor entertaining space that is connecting, seamlessly, with the interior of the home.
What key things should people consider before embarking on an extension or renovation?
Ask us to check the local planning laws: Each borough will have different planning policies so just because you might have seen something done elsewhere in Surrey, doesn’t automatically mean it will be possible in your part of the county. Also houses in the countryside and greenbelt land can only be extended so much so it depends on the planning history of the property and how much it may have been extended in the past. I have on occasion had to shatter people’s initial dreams with that news. However, there’s a lot you can alter internally in a property to achieve what you’re looking for so don’t be disheartened if your initial ideas aren’t possible.
Live in a property before you make any big structural changes: Many people we work with who have moved to their new home, want their property changed to a new specification before they move in (depends on the condition of the house) but sometimes it’s worth living in a home and experiencing day-to-day life their first before you start knocking down walls. You may find you don’t live in the house the way you thought you might and this will change priorities for any building work.
Don’t rush the design process: Take your time with the design. It’s so easy to get excited about getting the build underway but you need a solid foundation. It’s important to get the design right first to avoid what could be expensive changes further down the line.
What local companies do you work with and would recommend?
- White & Lloyd in Thames Ditton for quantity surveying, party wall surveying and structural engineering.
- KM Grant and Curtis Building in Guildford for building
services along with others including Kircher Building services in Lightwater
and Stacey Builders in Cranleigh, but there are others we work with.
- Benjamin Beth in Effingham is great for garden design projects, as well as Polly Anna Wilkinson based near Hampton Court.
- And of course, Grantley if you’re trying to find a new home in Surrey!