Sandy Mitchell

Sandy Mitchell – RedBook Agency.

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So what's this going to cost?

A serious look comes into the eyes and the client’s forehead furrows. Then I know I am about to be asked the big question: ‘So what’s this going to cost, do you think?’

It is a crucial question that every client must ask, whether they are proposing to refurbish a property in London or build a house in the country. Still, it was a shock to find that I was asking myself the very same question this week: our three children are growing up and our house in the country seems to be shrinking just as quickly. So, at the end of the long summer holidays, my wife and I started debating urgently whether to build on to our listed home.

So how much? That is often a darned hard one to answer. Here are a couple of reasons why. Architects’ fees vary hugely from practice to practice. At RedBook, we are in the unique position of knowing what fees are charged by a huge spectrum of fine architects—and we see fees for private-client projects starting at 8.75% at the lower extreme to over 20% of the total build cost at the opposite extreme. (Most often, fees tend towards the mid- or lower level of that range.)

And it is a little known fact that each architect will often vary his or her fees according to the challenges of the job in prospect. As for interior designer’s fees and charges—well, ever tried reading a crystal ball? Even garden designers’ fee proposals, owing to the complexity of these designers’ work and input, can almost take a masters degree to fully understand. I say all this as an impassioned admirer of these creative professionals, and a very happy past client of a number of them.

Then you need to factor in to cost calculations a few variables such as levels of specification (degrees of luxury and quality of kit to be installed, in other words) and how quickly you want the project finished. No wonder clients want clear information and reassurance from us at the very outset of a project about the budget that might be required.

Another opaque question confronting anyone with a house project is whether they will get planning permission. And here is some transparently good news—hurrah! Leading planning consultants seem to agree that the Government’s drive to improve the planning system’s chronic sclerosis is generally working, and then some. As as one veteran consultant said to me, ‘If you are going to build or alter your house, there is a real window of opportunity. I have not seen this in my whole career. Who knows whether it will stay like this for long.’

So my wife and I are really thinking we might go for it. We are just left wondering how many years we have before our children move out and leave our newly enlarged house empty and echoing. Now, where did I leave that crystal ball?

Sandy Mitchell is the founder and director of the RedBook Agency which specialises in helping select the ideal architect, interior designer or garden designer for a project. All the practices are pre-selected by his Advisory Panel that includes Sir Roy Strong, Clive Aslet, Liz Elliot and other luminaries.

To read about the RedBook’s service and see its gallery of creative talent, you may wish to visit or contact Sandy directly on 020 7060 6222 / 07584 055 985


1 Duke of York Square,

T +44(0)20 7881 2388


Norman Court Barns,
Norman Court Lane,
Upper Clatford,
SP11 7HB

T +44(0)1962 795 035


The Manor House,
Church Road,
Great Barton,
Bury St Edmunds,
IP31 2QR

T +44(0)1284 788 306


The Stable Block,
Cornbury Park,

T +44(0)1608 810 662

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