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Agreeing priorities for an extension


The Challenge

John and Jess wanted a bigger home but didn’t want to move. So they agreed they would adapt their current house and fixed a budget. But they couldn’t agree on the priorities. They also sensed that the other had different tastes. How could they reconcile their differences and agree what they wanted from the project?

How Aura Planning Helped

Aura planning is about discovering the expectations, needs and preferences of the different people who will use a space, then looking for common ground.


We had one-to-one conversations with John and Jess separately, allowing them to express themselves without the influence of their partner. The conversations were open without set questions as this is how best to tap into people’s intuition and feelings about the space they desire. To start each conversation, we suggested they imagine the entrance sequence. Then we asked what would it feel like to be in the space? What light, sound and air qualities will it have? All the time, the focus was on identification of the personal perceptions of what was wanted.

The next stage of the aura planning process is to compare the conversations and look for similarities in the atmosphere each individual hoped the new space should have. John talked about wanting it to be “safe but not secure looking”. He wanted to ”shut the door on that [road] noise”. Jess wanted it “controlled”, with “everything in its place” yet ‘homely’; ‘hospitable’ yet ‘private’. 

For light and air, Jess wanted it to be fresh - “I love light - open and airy [space]”. John said, ”I like open windows”. These comments generate a design brief as they reveal the emotional needs the couple had for the space.

The Design

For John and Jess, the use of a verandah or generous porch over the front entrance created a buffer zone that softens the otherwise harsh abruptness of a flush front door. Another device is a strong sense of an axis through the entire ground floor to express control.

The verandah also creates a homely and hospitable welcome as well as a greater sense of privacy by virtue of the reduction of light around the entrance. The strong axial plan gives an otherwise modest ground floor generosity by creating a long vista through to the couple’s much treasured private garden.

The weather protection the verandah provides allows the front door to be open without feeling exposed. This, and the cross ventilation the through axis affords, adds to the freshness with the entrance leading to light and the scents of the garden beyond.

These principles are repeated in some of the key features of the inside. The main bedroom has its bed arranged axially in both the low cost and the grander solution. In the grand option, this finds expression in the roofscape. These architectural devices were chosen to achieve the feeling wanted by the people who will live in the space rather than to satisfy the vision and will of the architect.

Happy Clients

"James’s level of detail when planning our extension was a real eye opener. After meeting with other architects it was very clear that James’s passion really stood out and that he wanted to create a space unique to our wants and needs. Aura planning was not something I had thought about before. But it was very clear that this underpinned the foundations of what both myself and my wife were REALLY looking for. I would strongly recommend his services if you're looking for something far more personal than just an extension. After a site visit and a lengthy chat with both myself and my wife, he was able to summarise both our wants and needs into a document that gave us ideas and a creative vision of how to turn our house into a home."



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