Q&A - How will modern design affect our sense of ‘home’?

Posted on: Jul 28, 2021

Buying a home is one of life’s most exciting moments, however over recent years it has become increasingly more difficult to get on the property ladder due to inflating house prices, a result of increased demand, and insufficient supply of new homes.

With the risk that this encourages a rushed approach to new developments, we asked architect, Rachel Harford-Cross, some questions on the importance of great design and why modern housing shouldn’t just be a space to live, but a home, full of life and character.

Nairn - Kitchen

What is being done to support those trying to buy their own home?

The UK government is looking at opportunities to amend the housing problem, but housebuilders are now being tasked with delivering developments and new homes at a quicker pace and scale to meet the ambitious, but necessary, government targets.

While new homes are needed, and needed quickly, as property and design experts, we must all take ownership of the fact that these buildings are where people relax, unwind and feel safe. There is simply no space to compromise on the design or even the surrounding development, no matter what time frames are being set.

It remains vitally important to ensure that new housing developments provide great places to live, both now and in the future, and housebuilders are creating a positive, long-lasting legacy.

What do people look for when buying a new house?


While the number of rooms, the appliances in the kitchen, and the size of the garden are all hugely important when viewing properties, there are other things to think over before you make an offer on a new house.

Outside of considering the obvious – buyers want a home that meets our needs, expresses our character, and enriches our lives. Different homes suit different people – meaning we all have a different list of priorities for our search. Some will be drawn towards large, open plan and bright rooms, while others will want more cosy and private surroundings.

But ultimately, buyers want something that meets their individual needs and can be tailored to them. Thankfully, a new home is a ‘blank canvas’, ready for your own personal touches, so you won't be stuck with the previous owners' tastes.

Can new build homes still have character?

The UK has a wonderfully rich and diverse heritage of cities, towns and villages and designers have a duty to respond to the setting in which they are designing – sometimes with the mission of enhancing what is already there.

To deliver this vision, Stewart Milne Group has identified key elements that are fundamental to the success of any new housing development, reflecting the surrounding characteristic of its location while creating a new range of homes that meet the changing needs and lifestyles of families now and in the future.

In addition, a new home gives you the chance to put your own stamp on your homes character, At Stewart Milne Homes many of the fixtures, fittings and finishing’s that would be offered as upgrades by many new house builders, are included in the price of a Stewart Milne home, while you still have the option of picking out colours, and unit types throughout the house.

How can buyers be sure they are investing in quality builds?

The team at Stewart Milne has created a Design Standards of Excellence approach to housebuilding, known as, ‘Delivering Successful Streetscapes’ and will be used as a manual for providing excellence throughout their builds across the UK.

It’s primarily to encourage the consideration of great design and provide a clear reference point on what is needed to make attractive, meaningful, high-quality homes, without compromising on scale and speed of build. 

How will the Design Standards of Excellence be incorporated into city heritage?

Standardisation is often key to maintaining quality, but just because designers across the country are using the same elements, it will not mean all development designs are identical, instead, every location will be viewed as unique. The designers will actually be looking at communities rather than developments, homes rather than houses and to think creatively about design, rather than just build.

Local character will be at the forefront of the design, so the soul and spirit of the location will be embedded within the process. Additionally, the idea is to merge the builds into the space, harmonising with the current community. All this will take place following local research and will respond to the buyers in the areas wants and needs.

The built form of a settlement and the scale and density of existing buildings will be factored into the design process, including the use of materials. Teams are being encouraged to identify the dominant tone, building material and colour palette of an area before proposing their own.

Has lifestyle outside of the home been included in the standards?

Looking at communities as opposed to purely the homes, the design of future developments will work to suit how traffic and life naturally moves throughout a settlement, as well as considering local landmarks, landscaping, and physical boundaries.

By presenting the key considerations of each of these elements, designers will create sympathetically designed communities that will nurture, enhance and promote personality for many years to come. This approach is highly encouraged throughout the ‘Designing Successful Streetscapes’ manual.

How will the success of ‘Designing Successful Streetscapes’ be determined?

Stewart Milne Homes is currently rolling out the manual. Teams up and down the UK must collaborate and commit to the same design vision, from the developers themselves, to the architects, construction teams, planners and roads departments within local authorities.

If all elements are adopted, it will be shown in the quality and uniqueness of each community. It’s an exciting time for new builds, which now more than ever should incorporate the charm of period properties with the safety of current construction and the functionality of modern lifestyle

The UK housebuilding industry will then continue to lead the way and achieve the vision to create beautiful and thriving communities.


Rachel Harford-Cross is a highly skilled architect with over two decades of experience. After graduating with a (B.Arch) Architecture from Edinburgh College of Art, Rachel has worked at numerous high profile firms before setting up on her own, Harford-Cross Architects.