14 Inspiring Self-Build or Extension Design Ideas

We love designing self-builds, who are we kidding… we love designing full stop. But, if you are lucky enough to be able to build your dream home from scratch, it doesn’t get much more exciting.

Developing a detailed brief with your architect is an essential stage of your build process; communicating your needs and having these understood is paramount! You get to decide how your house will look, perform and function. You are in control of the budget.

Putting extra thought into the small details will make your new home truly exceptional. We love working with clients to help their dreams come to life, so we’ve put together some inspirational self-build design ides to get your creative juices flowing.

#1 How about a sunken bath?

Now, we LOVE a nice freestanding roll-top bath or a trendy ‘egg’ shaped bath. However, there’s something about incorporating a sunken bath into your self-build or home renovation design that gives off such an exquisitely opulent, organised feel. When the lighting is right, your bath can become a real treasure in your home. It doesn’t take much designing in and this element could really make your home stand out from the rest. Imagine stepping down into a large, warm bath, filled by a generous waterfall tap… heaven.


#2 Timber cladding, inside!

With the rise in popularity of the ‘Scandi’ design style, earthy, natural feeling spaces are so fashionable. What’s more, they just make you FEEL so good. The warmth, texture and colour brought by wood cladding is so refreshing. Another good thing about interior timber cladding is it can fit a traditional or a modern taste pallet. Talk to your architect about how best to incorporate internal wood finishes, it may sound trivial but when it is planned well, it can look incredible!

#3 Not just a kitchen island…

Installing a kitchen island has become a bit of a must when designing a kitchen. We love the idea of getting creative with your island. Making your kitchen island a focal point will create a real stand out space for entertaining. Huge, sweeping designs can also add masses of storage! Have a look at our pinterest boards for further kitchen inspiration.

#4 Booze, glorious booze!

Displaying your collection of wines, spirits or beers has become a very fashionable, and, we have to admit, satisfying thing to do. Loads of our clients are designing wine fridges or racks into their kitchens. If you have the luxury of the space and it’s something that floats your boat, why not think about making a feature of your collection? We’ve designed wine storage to meet traditional tastes as well as crisp, modern looks and we have loved all of them.

#5 Hidden ceiling lighting

Adding some secret, hidden LED lighting is a fantastic way to soften a space and create a warm, inviting, homely feel. This can also be a nice opportunity to add some colour to your interior design scheme too! Thinking about this at this stage allows you to incorporate crevices for lighting in your build, making it much easier and cheaper to install.

#6 Wood storage

Like most of our clients and us, you probably love the romantic idea of a wood burner. They are becoming more and more popular and for good reason: they are good for the soul! If you haven’t already read about the Danish idea of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), get reading. What freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danes. The idea of Hygge is about finding joy in simple, cosy things such as: candles, blankets, fireplaces and so on. There is even a word for that favourite pair of jogging bottoms that you would only wear in the comfort of your own home – “Hyggebusker”. To us, a crackling fire surrounded by neatly organised wood piles is the epitome of cosy calm. Thinking about incorporating wood storage into the design of your home takes it from a pile to a beautiful feature.

#7 Pocket doors? What are they?

Pocket doors are a stylish space saving solution. They slide effortlessly into your wall, removing the space reduction and layout limitations of an opening door. Plus, we think they look pretty stylish. You’ll need to think about having your architect design these in as the adjacent wall will need a cavity for the door to slide into and you’ll need to avoid any plumbing and wiring.

#8 Non-standard doorways

Pocket doors could be really effective with a non-standard doorway. Thinking outside the box on door openings could create a truly exceptional space. A standard door opening is great but imagine one that mimics the angles and lines of your roof or windows. Or perhaps a curved opening could add a softer touch to your design?

#9 Stylish storage

If, like us, you love everything to have a place; it is well worth considering your built-in storage early on in your design process. When building a new extension or self-build home, you have the perfect opportunity to create storage that is perfect for your belongings. You could make an inventory of any bulky items or things you have a lot of (shoes for example) and then think about where they would be used and how you could create a stylish storage solution within your design.

#10 Relaxing window seats, with a view…

The window seat always adds a traditional, peaceful, elegant touch. We’ve incorporated a lot of these into our extension designs recently. A window seat can turn your open-plan lounge/kitchen/diner into a tranquil haven for you and your family. Incorporating one or more of these in your self-build project can add a special space for you to sit, reflect and deeply enjoy the space that you have created. If you love your garden, can you imagine anything more satisfying than sitting on a rainy day and looking out onto your hard work? See our post on window choices to add some even more exciting dimensions to this idea!

#11 Marvellous mezzanines

Our team get a little excited if a client mentions the word ‘mezzanine’. There is something beautifully dramatic about creating a grand, yet practical split space. Utilising a mezzanine floor as your office, play or relaxation space means that you can incorporate a vaulted ceiling without feeling overpowered by the enormous space. When you incorporate a high-volume ceiling, this also gives you the opportunity to use giant, invigorating windows. Winner!


#12 Work with nature

If you are building a self-build project or adding an extension, looking at the natural make-up of the plot is vital. Trees and other natural elements don’t have to be a hindrance. Try working alongside your architect to use these elements as starting points for your design. Obviously, careful consideration and planning needs to go in to designs around trees; roots can require engineered and creative solutions!

#13 A sheltered outdoor space

By continuing an interior wall to the outside of your home, you can break down boundaries between the garden and your home. In Newcastle and the North East, also adding a covered area for shelter from the elements is great common sense too. If you incorporate bifold or sliding doors/windows, these outside spaces can make your new space feel gigantic.

#14 Outdoor fireplace

If you love relaxing outdoors but are realistically pessimistic about the amount of time you can spend doing this in Newcastle, an outdoor fireplace might be for you. Chimeneas and firepits are readily available in DIY stores, however an integrated fireplace outdoors would make an incredible centrepiece for entertaining or relaxing after a long day. You could even ensure that the fire was visible from both inside and out.

The Team @ Acre Design hope we have given you some food for thought! Please check out or latest projects if you’d like to see more of what we’re made of. Our Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook pages are all brimming with extension, loft conversion and self-build inspiration too!

Purchasing a Property to Build and Extension and Renovate for Profit or for a Home



Are you thinking of purchasing a property to extend?

If you are on the hunt for your dream home but can’t seem to find it, Acre Design are here to help with some helpful information and things to look out for! Perhaps your property search has only yielded houses in the right location but these houses are too small, in the wrong location or simply not within budget? Here, we have a few tips which could help you gauge the potential of a property which is in the perfect location but which may be a little smaller than you had hoped for. We also offer a FREE, no obligation consultation; where we can meet you at the property to discuss the possibilities!

Purchasing a smaller home with potential for an extension

If you need a larger home to accommodate your family, or want to get on the property ladder; considering buying a smaller, cheaper home with a view to building an extension is a really sensible choice. Loads of properties have the potential to extend or have their existing features (lofts/attics, basements or garages) converted into extra living space.

Going through this process, rather than maxing out your budget on a larger house, could save you lots of cash, whilst putting you in charge of the design and quality of the build. You are in a position to create (along with your architect) a home designed specifically for your family’s needs. Pretty exciting, right?

Not enough bedrooms but the perfect location? Don’t worry, there’s loads of options out there to extend!

Here are some basics to look out for:

If you think you might want to build a loft conversion, measure the head height of the existing space; you’ll need at least 2.6 meters to convert. Garage conversions will need about 2.5 meters width to add an extra bedroom to the home – think about fitting in a double bed with room to walk around it as a minimum guide. However, a smaller space could still be converted to create a larger kitchen, dining and living space if it is in the right position. If the property has a decent sized garden space, you are usually allowed to convert/build on half of the garden space, so a rear or side extension would be a fantastic option to add space. If you aren’t sure the property has the space, we would be more than happy to advise you on this.

What else can I investigate?

So you’ve found a property in the ideal location, with the right transport links, but the house itself doesn’t quite fit the bill. How can you test the feasibility of extending the property prior to purchase?

Here are some steps you could take:

  • Contact the local council for pre-planning application advice. There may be information on historic planning applications and whether they were successful or not. The planning officer may be able to give you an idea of how successful any application would be.
  • Take a look at the surrounding properties – if any what building works have they had? This can be a good indicator of what is permitted in the area.
  • Research whether the house is: a listed building, has conservation area status or is in a townscape merit area.
  • Get some expert pre-purchase advice. A good architectural practice will be able to advise you on the type of extension suitable for the property and discuss any relevant possibilities or limitations. We offer a FREE, no obligation consultation.


Found a house you love, but only with an extension?

You might have already found a home you know you could transform into your dream house… Should you make an offer without being certain you will get planning permission? In theory, you can make an offer on a house which depends upon planning permission being granted, before you exchange contracts and seal the deal. However, as most local councils aim to determine planning application decisions within eight weeks, this can be off-putting for the seller if they are keen to move quickly. If the property has been on the market for some time or the seller is not in a rush to move, you may find a seller willing to embark on such a deal. It is probably best to seek expert advice from an architectural designer, such as Acre Design prior to making an offer.

Further to this, not all extensions or alterations will need planning permission (Acre Design would be able to advise you of this). Some projects may not need planning permission because of what are called “permitted development” rights.

Usually, planning permission will not be required as long as:

  • no more than half the area of land around the original house is covered by the extension or other buildings;
  • the extension isn’t at the front of the house or facing a highway;
  • the extension isn’t higher than the highest part of the roof;
  • a single-storey rear extension doesn’t extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 3m (attached house) or by 4m (detached house);
  • a single-storey rear extension is less than 4m high;
  • two-storey extensions are no closer than 7m to the rear boundary
  • two-story extensions don’t extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 3m;
  • materials used for the extension and roof pitch of extensions higher than one storey are similar to the existing house;
  • there aren’t any verandas, balconies or raised platforms;
  • maximum eaves heights are complied with; and
  • upper-floor, side-facing windows are obscure-glazed and any opening to be 1.7m above the floor.

You may not need planning permission in some instances, however you would need to send a “notification of a proposed larger home extension” to the local authority. It is definitely worth checking with the local council before putting an offer in on a house though. Local authorities can remove permitted development rights in some areas. Also, stricter rules may apply if your property falls within designated land (ie, conservation areas, national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and World Heritage Sites) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Don’t worry, this is something Acre Design would be able to advise on at your FREE consultation.

For more detailed, have a look at the notes produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government: Permitted development rights for householders: technical guidance.

Think you’ve found your home but not ready to put an offer in until you know what is possible? Get in touch with Acre Design today and we’ll happily meet you at the property to have a look and discuss the potential of the property. We offer FREE, no obligation consultations in and around Newcastle!