Q&A with Chris Ogle from SJ Associates
At Orchestrate, we match our handpicked architects, designers and engineers to put together the best team for your building project. Chris Ogle from Stuart James Associates is one of our go-to partners and have worked together on lots of projects including our Brook Green project. We caught up with Chris to find out a bit more about him and SJA.
How long have you been in business, what is your background and training?
I set up SJA six years ago following my own experience of renovating my house in SW11. The investment and emotion involved in such a large project means that I have first-hand experience of the kind of issues that arise and can directly sympathise with our clients. I’m an engineer and a scientist by background so I approach problems in a logical manner and love to find solutions to technical problems. Straight after leaving university I worked for 5 years in property finance for a large investment bank. From this I developed a passion for the challenge of delivering a great client focused service with value at its heart. SJA provides a full range of independent professional services to assist our clients in their home renovation projects: planning/architecture, structural engineering and building surveying/party wall/ cost consultancy.
What is your favourite aspect of your work?
I love so many things about what we do: meeting and working for interesting people, growing a great team, working on and adding value to processes, technical design and constant problem solving. Projects can feel daunting and risky and we seek to make the experience much more enjoyable with an altruistic and holistic approach.
Has your main business always been in South London?, if not where did you move
We have a solid and established base of business across South West London. We are also growing into Croydon, Surbiton/ Thames Ditton, North London (Haringey is an area with very similar houses to those in SW London and not a single loft or side return on some streets – what a fantastic area in which to invest!) and we have recently opened for business in Bristol.
What do you think of the area? Do you live here? Has it changed very much? What
makes you stay?
I live in SW11 and have done so for 11 years. There is no better place to live whatever you want to do in life with great schools, great entertainment, inclusive and international culture, great people and a wealth of opportunity. Like many areas in London the area has changed over the years. There is a great sense of community and a fantastic diverse population.
Which is the bigger problem you face – reining in a client’s unrealistic dreams or getting them to explore beyond their limits?
A bit of both! There are plenty of cost effective and simple ways to considerably enhance projects and we seek to use our knowledge, experience, understanding and a comprehensive database of over 600 projects to find a solution on any budget.
There’s not much we haven’t seen done to a Victorian terrace!! In addition it’s not just home design that can be enhanced and we focus on enriching and delivering bold processes on every project too. As well as great design, getting projects on site in requested timeframes and reducing cost, hassle and risk are our objectives.
Do you have a typical client?
We don’t really have a typical client as we advise on such a range of projects with a varied range of clients from homeowners to professional developers.The projects vary from simple wall removals to large basement projects. However there are two common driving forces: 1) a need for modernised, extended or improved space and 2) improving, extending and renovating being considerably cheaper than moving. As a result clients are typically staying put in their homes longer than in the past and improving their homes instead.
What has been the most outrageous request from a client?
We’ve been involved in some pretty outrageous projects over the years. Having worked on over 750 projects there is not much we haven’t seen and done to a house, although I’m still waiting for someone to ask us to fit a helipad on top of a terraced house! I’d like to see it and we’ll offer a generous discount on design advice to anyone that wants to try it out!
If you could describe your style in three words what would they be?
Holistic, Design, Delivery
Describe some of the trends that have come in and out in recent years? Which have been your most loved?
There are two things spring to mind:
a) Flats to houses….now houses to flats
A recent phenomenon is a reversal of the previous fashion and trend to convert multiple flats into houses. It’s now financially viable to split houses into flats. London wide planning policy is encouraging this, as is reduced affordability of large homes due to the dramatic London house price rises since the financial crisis.
b) Bathrooms to studies
In 2006-2013 the trend and fashion was towards more bathrooms; en suites for every bedroom, sometimes en suites for en suites! One trend we have noticed in the last two years is that spare bathrooms are now being turned back into rooms more suited to daily life such as studies and cot rooms. This is all driven by clients demand to stay longer and enhance the space they have rather than move.
What plans do you have for your business in the next five years?
We are committed to delivering our one stop shop. We offer a fun, independent service and a solutions led design approach to all of our clients and their builders. The home improvement industry is changing for the better in very many ways. We seek to be a core driver of this change. This is our focus for the next 5 years.
To find out more about Stuart James Associates, head over to their website: https://www.stuartjamesassociates.co.uk/