Design & Build your home in London with builder-designer, Joe Crosby
Simple, humble and unassuming you will instantly like Joe Crosby, director of Paragon, a north London based Design and Build Company. Joe started his career as a builder and designer in 1991, and over the years has developed several residential properties including new builds and refurbishments, mostly working in the Hampstead and Crouch End areas of North London.
We recently caught up with Joe at his residence in Golder's Green where he spoke to us about his life as a building and design contractor, his current projects and tips on building your own house. Besides a designer and builder, Joe is also a wonderful cook - you have to absolutely try out his Crusty Bean and Pesto Cake dish - over discussing your project!
You can contact Joe directly on his mobile at 07792 453 037 or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Hi Joe, can you tell us how you started your career in building design?
It was in 1991 when somebody I used to work for as a teenager, put me in-charge of his new project - the conversion of an old bank into a laser eye clinic. Even though I did not have any prior experience in the field, he trusted me and the end result was very successful. I then went on to develop 14 more eye clinics between 1991-2004, changing to designing and building high-end residential properties in 2005.
2. What sets you apart from other building and design contractors? What is your forte?
I have a flair for transforming spaces into ones that are light and airy - a hallmark of a Paragon development. I provide the services of a designer, architect and builder which makes life easy for the client as they don't need to hire anybody else, once they hire me. In the 25 years I have been in the construction business, I have also developed a team of professional and reliable tradesmen, having the same meticulous attention to detail as myself.
Besides building and design, my company also does property maintenance, contract renewal and negotiations, gas safety tests, and inventories, all personally taken care of by me. Whether it is something as small as negotiating contracts to as big as building new homes - in order to understand the needs of my clients better, it is very important for me to have a personal, one-on-one relationship with them to get the best out of every project. My clients have stayed with me over the years and always keep coming back to me if any need arises.
3. How do you talk finances with your client, in other words how do you charge your clients?
I have an open-book system with my clients in which they can see every expense that has been made for the project. I already have an agreed mark-up with them over the costs incurred so they know exactly where they stand as far as finances are concerned.
4. What are the most important things you consider before beginning work with a client?
- A personal relationship - This is most important. My client and I have to be on the same page as regards the project to maintain a working harmony. We should be able to work collaboratively to come up with mutually satisfactory resolutions to problems.
- Generally, I like to deliver a consistent level of client-first service which is why I may not be the cheapest to hire, but sometimes the extra 2 to 10 percent in cost can be worth it. I like to give attention to details and use good quality products and don't like to cut corners which is why I need to understand the needs of my clients very well before deciding on taking any project.
- I like to go over all the areas of the project in detail with my clients even if it means spending extra time on the project, so that me and my team doesn’t get frustrated during construction by having to go back and redo elements of the building.
- I should have all the resources available before the start date.
- Time, budget, cost overruns are other things to consider before beginning a project.
5. We understand that you are currently building your new home. What building innovations are you using in your new house?
Under-floor heating is going to be a feature of my new house and is something I really look forward to enjoying especially when it's cold and grey in London! Also, every room is going to be soundproof and there is going to be a double sound insulation in my 13 year-old daughter's room!
6. Do you have an overall vision in mind when you start building? Or do you give in to innovative ideas that may come up during the project?
Invariably, it happens that when we have started building, me or my clients have come up with new ideas, or we see something much better that neither one of us has thought about previously. If the new idea or innovation is feasible and can be easily incorporated in the project without completely destroying the budget, we go with it!
7. Are you always able to work within the client's budget or are there always unexpected additional costs during the project?
There are always additional costs that take place during the project because I usually spot things that the client may not have even thought about before. I suggest having an additional mark-up to your initial budget to take care of such unexpected costs.
8. What has been your most important project and also the most challenging one?
The most important as well as the most challenging project has been the house I built at 22 Ravenshaw Street, NW6 - A contemporary terraced building juxtaposed with Victorian 2 up 2 down houses in West Hampstead.
The Camden planning department rebuffed our intentionally ambitious first scheme and finally compromised to give us what we were hoping to achieve. The build was no less complicated, as houses on either side of the land were supported by scaffold poles. Step by step, the poles were removed as the building went up.
9. Can you give us some referrals to some projects you have done?
Yes, ofcourse. You can also look up my website - www.paragon-properties.co.uk
Here are some of my best projects:
1. A contemporary 3 bed Eco house in Golders Green at 64 Woodstock Avenue, NW11 : Planning permission was granted on the first attempt - a benefit of going through the pre-application process. In order to meet the Code for Sustainable Homes standards for new builds, the house was fitted with solar panels, water recycling, and other Eco-friendly accessories.
2. Complete refurb of flat at 93c Priory Road, N8 : Before the refurb, the kitchen was in the lounge and the bathroom was an irregular shape. Stealing some hallway, and fitting of Velux windows, allowed the creation of a bright kitchen in its own space, and the creation of a regular shaped bathroom.
3. External works at Elmhurst Avenue, N2 : For years, the front of façade of this house was blockwork. Sand and cement render and white paint, finally gave this unique house some status. While the scaffold was up extensive roof repairs were carried out as well as decoration to all windows.
10. What is the one thing every house should have?
A garden! (Joe loves gardening besides playing tennis and meditating!)
Here is a video interview of Joe Crosby - an introduction to Paragon Design and Build.