About Your Building Extension - You Might Not Need It! (says JED Design Architectural Services)
14th April 2023
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It was a Friday lunchtime in March 2023 when I was delighted to 'pin down' and invite TIM BALE of JED DESIGN (Architectural Services) LTD to talk about his highly respected 30 + year career and to describe some of his most memorable experiences. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

Simon (thebestof Market Harborough):
Hi Tim, it's good to see you again as always and thanks for doing this short interview.

So, firstly, please tell us a little about yourself and how you originally got into architectural services.

Tim (JED Design (Architectural Services) Ltd):
Well, it's always been a bit of a passion of mine I suppose. My dad was in this and his grandfather was also in this, so it's possibly in the genes a little bit, although I'm the only one of four siblings who followed that track. But it's just been a way of life. I just loved it from very early days. I used to enjoy going to various building sites with dad, and I always loved drawing.

Was that around Market Harborough?

Yeah, it was generally around Market Harborough, 'cause my life was more central the way around where you lived in those days, whereas today, it's more worldwide. But I'd go to building sites, meet builders, dad would always have his plans out etc , but I was always already into art.

I had a natural love and talent for art in those early days and I suppose that sort of ran onto art within buildings really. And I'm lucky to have loved it ever since.

And how long ago was this then?

Well, a long time ago! I started way back in 1977. So, a couple years ago now! I got into it by default really because, like many of us, we didn't do what we should have done at school. So I got a job with a building firm in Market Harborough on Scotland Road. And from there, I applied for a technician's job at a practice in Leicester. And they recognised my ability and were willing to train me up and so I was able to go on from there. So it was by default that I got into it through the back door. And then, I qualified when working within the practice.

I used to go to night school and all sorts of things. Then, I was due to enrol on a full-time course, just before one of the senior partners died tragically one day. And the practice couldn't afford for me to do that, so I had to continue learning my trade by working on the job rather than studying. But with hindsight, I think that was probably the best way of getting into the business.

So this was probably back in 1985. I eventually moved from there in 1986 to a practice in Melton Mowbray, and I worked there right up until 1992, when following the slump of the late eighties, I unfortunately got made redundant. I was one of seven I think who went, but luckily one of my clients who knew the quality of my work said they wanted to employ me, so she kindly helped me set me up in my own practice, gave me their fee, and I've never had to look back since.

So that was when JED Design started?

So JED Design started in 1992, but it became a limited company in 2000. And so I've been in business now 31 years, and I still love it! It's never been 'a job' to me.

It's so good when you can do a job that you actually enjoy all the time.

It's a passion. I've never been rich financially, it's not the most important thing, but I'm blessed that I've always loved what I do, just love trying to make a difference to how we live, how we work, and how we play. I've said to all of my children, 'follow your dream'. If you don't make it, at least it won't have been through not trying!  That's what I did. And you know, I've really enjoyed working for myself for the last 30 odd years.

Of course there's been some tough times and challenges to overcome along the way as you would have with any business. And yes, you get some highs and lows, particularly in the early days. But I've just been so grateful. And then it never ceases to amaze me when I present a new scheme to people and they go, "wow". And that's not because it's outstanding, it's because it's just given them another train of thought that they hadn't considered. And it's very satisfying!

So it's your creativity, which is helping people which perhaps they hadn't recognised in themselves.

So let me ask you, what would you say has changed over the years from when you started? What are the major factors that have occured and how have you been able to adapt to them?

So probably planning has changed. It's definitely become less user friendly. You know, we used to be able to go and have a cup of tea with the planning officer and chat through a scheme. Now, there's a lot more red tape. They're a lot harder to get a face to face meeting with. It's not the officers, it's the system. The systems just changed really. So sadly, it's made it less friendly but you learn to adapt.

But it's not just me. Other agents will say the same. It's just the interaction between planning and agents has just become less user friendly.

But from a prospective client's point of view, if you've already experienced those hurdles, at least you know what to expect and can adapt accordingly. Your experience presumably can save valuable time and save the hassle from a potential client's point of view.

Yes, absolutely. I think as we get older, we get more experienced and hopefully a bit wiser. So yes, we deal with things in a different way. So when we're designing, we're designing of course to satisy the client but also to get consent from the planning officer. We're not designing because we know the planners are going to reject it. We're designing in a way they're going to have a job to reject it. And that comes with experience and working within the industry.

So tell me about some of the highlights in your career.

I think for me, the most satisfying feeling is knowing you've made a difference. As I say, in whatever we do in life, work, rest or play (as in the old Mars bar advert back in the day!).

One of my fondest memories is, when I was working with a young lady who was on work experience, and we went to a project in Doncaster, a social services project. And we met this elderly lady who had been born and bred in this house but was going to have to go into a care home, because sadly, she couldn't go upstairs any more. So we just designed a little downstairs bathroom for her which solved her problem. It was nothing elaborate, nothing amazing. But, when we got there, she had cakes ready for us and she was in tears. She said, we had enabled her to stay there. And that meant the world to her. And when we came out, I said to my colleague that that's what it's all about. It's not about designing 'the Taj Mahal' or having your name in lights - "it's knowing you've made a difference to someone's life that makes the job so satisfying".

Fantastic. And that's what it should be about with any trade. If you've got the passion for your trade in the first place, you're likely to be very good at it, in which case it's not just about 'the money'. It's about the actual feeling of satisfaction, knowing that you've improved someone's life. That's brilliant job satisfaction.

Absolutely. And it's not even 'a job'. Because if you love it, it's not a job. It's a way of life.

So Tim, for any potential client looking to have some building work done soon, what would you say are the key things that they should be considering or looking for before hiring someone?

Well firstly, 'spatial awareness'. It's probably key to everything. Maybe for example, a door can be in the wrong position. I looked to a project for somebody recently and they couldn't see this space and they said the kitchen fitters can't make it work. And, and I said, 'well, we can move that door'. And it can be as simple as that. And you can create space very often.

I've done a number of projects over the years where I've discussed with clients about NOT extending. Everybody thinks they've got to extend to create space because that's what television life tells us. But very often you've already got the space within the property. And in fact, I was on a project only yesterday in Nottingham, and I said, we're not going to extend because they've got the space already. We just need to rework that space. And they've not got a big garden, so if we extended, it would encroach on the garden. So by reworking the space, we're able to give them exactly what they want, which of course is far more economical.

There's no planning involved in that either. So it shortens the process, significantly reduces the cost, and makes it a more practical building. And so it's a win-win situation.

It's so often a case of 'talk to the experts', 'cause it could save you a fortune, and there might be a better solution to a potential problem!

And equally just because you might want an extension (for example) - I could easily draw you an extension - , but I should also be saying, 'but what about this idea?' And if somebody's not saying to you, 'what about this?', then in my opinion they're not doing their job properly, and I'd personally be giving them a wide birth, because we as experts should be able to see alternatives to any plan which will meet the same objective but can hopefully save the client some money and inconvenience.

That may mean asking some questions, so you know a bit about the client's lifestyle, to be aware what goes on in the rest of the house, and that's how I look at it. Because we should only be extending 'cause we need extra space. In many instances, we've already got the space - it maybe badly planned at the moment, but we've already got it and so maybe the client doesn't need an expensive extension to the property.

In my experience, too many agents, and not only those newly qualified, are prepared to just go ahead and draw the plans without really looking at the project in the client's best interest.

So in summary, I'd definitely advise people to make sure they discuss architectural services with someone (if not me) who has 'spatial awareness', because as is so often the case, just putting 'a box on the end of your house' may not be the best answer.

Excellent. I think that's really re-assuring to know. So, thanks very much for speaking with me. I think you've offered some great advice today. Thanks Tim.

My pleasure.

Tim Bale - owner of JED Design (Architectural Services) Ltd was talking with Simon Perry of thebestof Market Harborough on Friday 24th March 2023.

JED Design (Architectural Services) Ltd
The Drawing Room
Gunnsbrooke Close
Great Bowden

Market Harborough
LE16 7HB

Tel: 07760 224851

Web feature Here.


About the Author

Simon P

Member since: 20th June 2014

Simon Perry - working 'tirelessly'! with thebestof team to drive our 'Buy Local' campaigns and support our very best independent local businesses.

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