What is a self build?

When an individual or an association of individuals build their own house (or houses), this can be considered a self build.

Self build is a way to own your home as in opposite to buying it from a commercial developer, which is the majority of the cases in the UK.

Embarking on a journey to self build your home can give great satisfaction and you can claim unexpected benefits at the end of the process.

What experience do I need to do a self build?

If you want to be a self builder, you don’t need to do the works yourself or be an expert of construction.

While many self builders want to be somehow involved in the physical process, often in the finishing stages of painting and floor-fitting (helps to save on the cost of workmanship), you can hire people to do the works for you.

Self-build is a project strategy where a private individual, not a company or a public entity, is developing their own house and taking project decisions, usually with the support of an architect or consultant, or directly working with one or more contractors.

Self build projects still require to comply with planning and building regulations, so better have an expert at your side for advice. Time is money.

Why are there so little self build projects?

As they say: no pain, no gain.

You will need to find a plot of land, present a project for approval to the planning authority, have sufficient financial resources – savings, a mortgage, or equity in your existing home – to support the entire operation, arrange the temporary accommodation where you and your family will stay while the works go ahead, ensure access to services is provided to the site – unless you want to be living off-grid, but the construction works may require water and power, somehow.

Self build is stressful, definitely more that browsing real estate websites.

What are the benefits of self building?

Some of the best reasons to undertake a self build projects are extremely practical, and include:

  • have a very bespoke house, tailored for your family and lifestyle
  • save up to 30% on the market value
  • future-proof your home, include all the technology and features, or allow for them to be installed in the future.
  • have easily 25% profit on the investment (or more)
  • claim back VAT on almost all building materials
  • pay reduced VAT rate to contractors

Additional VAT benefits could apply if you are converting an existing building to live in it.

Tempting, isn’t it?

I want to a kit home. Is it self build even if it is a prefab?

Off site construction is an excellent approach if the budget is not too stretched or if the site is located in a difficult context – limited access, adverse weather.

Yet it provides very high-quality results being the components factory made and inspected carefully during the process.

Alternatively, we are specialised in low tech and use of natural materials.

Either way, it could still be considered self build with all the associated benefits.

Here you can find further information on self building:
Homebuilding & Renovating
Self Build Portal

If you are thinking of self building, you should already contact us to talk about your project.

We currently offer a free consultation service and we are pretty sure you will like it.

It’s as simple as clicking on get in touch and we will help you take the right steps.

December 2020 updates

Monthly updates

December 2020

– Submitted the application for a small rear extension in Hackney
– Received approval for the project in Wapping
– Construction ongoing at the villa in Bickley

– new screens in!

– From lockdown to tier 3 4.
Meetings in-person reduced to minimum cancelled.

November 2020 updates

Monthly updates

November 2020

– Submitted the application for the extension in Greenwich and a second application for the Shooters Hill project.
– Planning success for the restaurant in New Cross!
– Followed tender process for the renovation in West Acton
– Prepared 3 proposals for an articulate renovation in Acton Central
– Construction ongoing at the villa in Bickley

– Developed new marketing plan

– National Lockdown

What should I do if a project goes wrong

If you have decided to start a building project without an architect at your side, you must be prepared if things don’t go in the right direction.

If you are not happy with the project or with something that the contractor is doing, or simply is not as agreed, it is best to speak with them.

Chain of command

Remember that general tradespersons may not have the full vision of the project and there is a strict chain of command to respect for a project to go smooth.

Start speaking about your concerns with the site manager or project manager, they can help with your queries and take action. It is good practice to recap what you asked and what they answered in an email.

If this was not enough, you can escalate your complaint to the contractor’s administration or company director.

Ask them to put things right and ask them to explain how they will do it.
Ask them also to put a plan of action in writing to you.

If the works are ongoing, keep a written note of any lesser products being used, unsatisfactory workmanship, unexplained delays or not following plans.
Remember to document with photos, receipts and emails/screenshots, make a note of dates.
Keeping records will help you prove if they are in breach of contract.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says the trader undertaking home improvements, building or decorating should take reasonable care and skill.

The trader should put right any unsatisfactory element of work or – if this is not possible – give you a refund.

Things going wrong

If your concern is about any part of the work being unsafe, highlight this immediately to the contractor, if the problem is not resolved promptly you should report them to Trading Standards.

If the contractor (or tradesperson) does not correct the problem or give you a refund, you can take your complaint to the trade association of which they are member.

Outline your rights and contact act in a letter, explaining the problem, what you have asked to remedy and what has happened in response.
Also, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau has letters you can copy that will show service providers you know your rights.

If no action has been taken to this point, you can consult a law firm or charity specialised in alternative dispute resolutions, where an independent person will look at your problem and decide what should be done about it.

Agreements made during this process are legally binding and it is cheaper than going to court. Should you end up in court in the worse case, some judges prefer if you have tried this route first.

Some trade associations have their own alternative dispute resolution, so try asking them before appointing your own.

More information about what to do if you have problems with building work can be found on the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website.

Hassle-free solution

A project can be as simple as renovating and re-decorating or as complex as an entirely new construction.

Among our services we offer the possibility to assist you during the works until completion as your representative and inspecting the site regularly.

We will assign a CSCS qualified Competent Person working with the contractor to take site decision and using our expertise to foresee problems to prevent things from going wrong.

If they still do, we will be at your side to make sure they will make things right.
Having a professional at your side is the best hassle-free solution.

Whether you are planning a project from scratch or you already have a layout to bring to construction, we can help you achieve great results.

You can visit us to talk about your project or contact us and request a call back.
Being in expert hands is few clicks away.

How to choose a new kitchen

When our clients are looking for full home renovations and they appoint us to design and deliver their project, they often have also the clear intention to buy a new kitchen.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are many things to consider before choosing your new kitchen, first thing being your existing one.

Is it too small and cluttered?
Is it too big and some cabinets have only random dusting cloths?
Do you find yourself comfortable when having guests, do they participate in cooking or do you prefer to keep it private?

When you look at your kitchen and ask yourself these questions, you will start to understand if it is the case to change size or layout for the new kitchen.

Even if you will prepare the food in another area of the house, the new kitchen could have a similar layout to the previous one, if that really works for you and makes you efficient!

On the other hand, many like a new kitchen to be an entirely new experience. Often kitchens are extended or relocated to enjoy a better position in the house and garden views.

What is important in a new kitchen?

The style and the general aestethics of your new kitchen are secondary, compared to the king of kitchen requirements: Practicality.

The kitchen is a home laboratory of food preparation, where practicality must be second to nothing. Practicality means ease of access, ease of movement, ease of storage. But also ease of cleaning.

What makes a kitchen practical?

When designing a kitchen there is a principle called “the kitchen working triangle“, according to which the three hot spots in a kitchen -sink, hob, fridge- form the vertexes of a triangle where the cook moves within, possibly in a circular flow.

Think about it:
Take any food, un-pack it or wash it, cut it or mash it, cook it, serve it.

The process is fridge -> sink -> hob.
But there are actually many triangles, depending on your cooking style. Fresh food can be from the fridge, you can use dry or preserved food from the larder. Some stuff is marinated and kept aside while other goods are peeled and washed…

Being a lab, it’s ultimately up to your chemistry style but Practicality will keep you going without loosing your mind if the day has been a bit more difficult than the usual.

Also, after your meal there will always be stains to clean and some could be aggressive, like vinegar or lemon juice, or greasy and peristent like oil or melted fat.

So it is very important that your new kitchen has the right storage, the right layout, and it is made with good materials and finishes for easy cleaning on doors and tops, but also in the most unreachable corners (of course that’s where dirth sticks the most).

Is there a best design for a kitchen?

Once the kitchen layout is outlined, there is not a style better than another.
In a small space a Galley or L-shaped kitchen fit well. Go for a modern look, no handles and smooth surfaces, to have less visual impediments, but If you have plenty of natural light a classic kitchen will see all its details emphasized.
In a big space, you can have a kitchen island or a breakfast bar, be it in concrete, country style or luxurious onyx, as long as the layout is proportionate to the room and the views, keeping it practical.
If you are planning an open space, the kitchen will be together with other functions around it, usually dining or sitting/receiving guests. You may want to have some screen or feature to separate the functions.
Or when the wall length allows it, there could be a gradual transition to different functions as we did for a project in Bromley, shown in the header image, where the kitchen becomes larder, then coffee bar, bottles’ pantry, bookcase and, finally, fireplace and sitting area, using all the walls of an almost 80 sq m open space.

How can I decide which kitchen to buy?

Buying a kitchen is a milestone in every residential project. While a good one can last for decades, finding the right one can be daunting. We recommend to think well about the layout and consider a practical solution. Find who makes a kitchen in a style that you like, see their product in person -very important- and test the quality of the paint and hard surfaces. Ensure you get the right appliances for you, in terms of capacity and power, ensuring these are energy efficient (class A or more). We usually go through all the requirements with our clients and work together with them on their ideal solution, liaising with shortlisted makers until the perfect kitchen is ordered, delivered and installed. If you are planning to renovate your home and get a new kitchen, our expertise will help you land the right solution, from the most simple to the most complex and customised. Our advice is few clicks away, just tell us about your project and we will help you survive in the kitchen jungle.

October 2020 updates

Monthly updates

October 2020

– Started a new project for a young couple in Greenwich
– Wapping and Shooters’ Hill projects submitted for planning
– Completed the design for the renovation in West Acton
– Construction ongoing at the villa in Bickley

– Started to set up our new workshop in Deptford, SE14

– Tier 2 restrictions in place

September 2020 updates

Monthly updates

September 2020

– Started a new project of complete refurbishment in Central Acton
– Resumed the Wapping and Shooters’ Hill projects
– Design implementation for the house in West Acton
– Construction ongoing at the villa in Bickley

– Fixed core system bug, restored pages

– Normal operations, respecting all health and safety guidelines

Why is our name Tholos Architects

In Rome the weather was sunny but nippy that day, and so was in London.
The soon-to-be founders of our firm were on a phone call, 900 miles apart, arguing about the first important decision of their new enterprise: the name of the company.

With rare exemptions, most Architecture firms carry the surnames of the founders, which often get simplified in weird acronyms and sometimes see the addition of special characters, such as + / | & .

This graphic combination usually becomes a logo and a brand itself, spreading across the web, magazines and letterhead.

Our firm wanted to be open minded and client focused since the beginning, trascending the association of the founders’ names to the company.

In creating our brand they wanted to recall the principles of Vitruvius, values of utility, stability and beauty; the timeless underlying principles of Architecture and the archetypes that over the eras have been declined in countless styles and uses.



While considering the roots, it was also important for such name to be easy to pronounce and spell out, without being too long, avoiding diphthongs, yet meaningful both metaphorically and concretely.

Then the lightning stroke and all the pieces fell together.

The Dome


The greek word Tholos means Dome, evolution of the Roof which, together with the Fence and the Gate, is one of the primordial architectural archetypes.

The Dome is a shelter, private, receptive; an organic, dynamic shape.
Its function is to protect and ward.

Ancient burial sites were often dome-like structures covered in soil. These turned eventually into artificial hills, disappearing in the landscape.
Archaeologists call them tholos tombs or simply tholos.
A dome to protect the remains of the valiants and beloved, for ever.

And so be it.
The name was decided and in line with our mission to respect the values of Architecture, provide timeless design and technical expertise, establishing a relationship with the surroundings and having the minimum impact on the environment.

We are Tholos Architects.

August 2020 updates

Monthly updates

August 2020

– Designed and submitted for planning an extension for the house of a local Church’s Minister
– Designed the refurbishment for a sweet tiny house in West Acton
– Completed the fit out for the flat in North Dulwich
– Construction ongoing at the villa in Bickley

– Updated the Team page
– Core system bug, lost some headings

– Normal operations, respecting all health and safety guidelines