Andrew Kay meets Nick, director of Soundhouse
It’s nearly ten years since I first met the team at Soundhouse and wrote about them. Back then they were pretty new to the scene here in Brighton and Hove but they were already gathering a following of fans. I remember clearly interviewing some of their very happy clients and how they waxed lyrical about the work, the attitude, the manners and the cleanliness of the Soundhouse team. It almost became a joke, were they simply great builders creating great loft conversions and extensions – or were they lifestyle gurus, coaching families into a peaceful way of living with their penchant for green tea and classical music on the radio?
The truth was clear to see in the quality of the work they were doing, and the happiness they spread followed on. So much so that ten years down the line some of those original clients have moved homes and commissioned new work from Soundhouse. The work ethic they employ is second to none. Every client I have met, and I have met many, will give you the same story. Soundhouse are clean, Soundhouse are efficient, Soundhouse will offer good advice and Soundhouse will also listen to what you want and do their very best to meet your demands – and all for a budget you have agreed in advance. In fact, head man Nick is likely to say that in a Soundhouse quote it is easier to write down what is not included in the price than what is.
One of the things Soundhouse have built a great name for is handling a job from start to finish, from design and architects’ drawings through planning, building regulations, build and finish. They can and do genuinely take the pressure off you, the client. They also have great design ideas that they will apply to your build where appropriate; ways of saving space, creating space even; innovative concepts; a keen eye for new materials and products and a deep sense of practicality. For them, design and function have to go hand in hand.They continue to apply a green attitude to the way they work, seldom using skips or wantonly sending things to landfill when they can be re-used or recycled, and they clean as they go, never leaving a mess at the end of the day.
This time round I visited two homes where Soundhouse projects are coming to completion. The first is a fabulous extension to a 1930s detached home in Hove Park. From the front it retains all of the period detail that makes it so special, and inside, in the front rooms, that detail continues: oak panelling, stained glass…but when you pass through to the rear of the property you see both the scale and the quality of the project. Several smaller rooms have been knocked into one and the whole has been extended behind a sweeping wall of glass seven metres wide that folds back and opens onto the mature garden. There are four clear areas of activity: a family dining area, a rather grander dining space, a super kitchen and a relaxing TV lounge with wood burning stove. There are elements of old and new, sleek modernity with retro styling and furnishing. Owner Jacqui is delighted with the result; more than satisfied with Soundhouse, and for a second time, as this is a repeat client.
The second home I visit is a large Victorian villa where owner Vicki is busily running two businesses while looking after a young family and dealing with major building works. Vicki is delighted with her extensive loft conversion. Soundhouse have not only delivered what they asked for but more, by changing a hip roof into a gable end and creating more room than they could hope for. “Whilst they worked I was amazed by the quality and detail of the work, so much so that it was sad to see the incredible timber work covered up. They also accommodated my love of old things; a vintage bath, reclaimed doors, antique tiles – and also our desire for timber framed sash windows. The work is almost finished now and I can’t imagine what it will be like to not have the team here. Each one of them is a craftsman of the highest calibre and the transition from our old house to our new extension is seamless.”
Given the accolades, the success stories and repeat customers one might expect that Soundhouse would have expanded and taken on more work. But that hasn’t happened and it seems it never will. Nick is quite clear on that: “I like the way we work, the close knit team of professionals that we have around us and the fact that I can be genuinely involved in all of the projects we take on. If we were to expand I could not guarantee that level of attention, nor could I guarantee that I could find building professionals that share my enthusiasm for doing a job properly.
“We like to be able to offer the same quality of Service to each and every client and by staying small we can do that. I have also kept this as a pretty tight ship. We have no high street office or sign written vans and by keeping our overheads low, but always employing real craftsmen, I know we can offer quality work at a sensible price. I know we will never be the cheapest firm doing the kind of work that we do, but I am confident we are not the most expensive and that we deliver a job that in terms of quality is up there with the highest priced if not better. The number of people that come to us time and time again is testament to that.
“Word of mouth and careful marketing have kept us busy for ten years and we can see no end to that demand. Property expansions are a great and affordable alternative to moving, and with moving costs alone coming in at around £25,000, an extension is a very competitive alternative – plus, you keep your neighbours, local schools and amenities – if you’re happy where you live, why move? Expand.”
Nick and the team are clearly not in the business of cheap ‘quick fixes’, the work they do looks good and lasts. He and his team are a happy bunch with few changes over the ten years they have worked together. Nick continues to drive his vintage VW truck for business and he claims it is his therapy too, tinkering with it whenever he has a moment. He also continues to sea swim, completing his Alcatraz swim for charity and planning another already. A great team doing a great job, but if you have any doubts ask any of their clients, as I cannot find anyone who will say a bad word about them.
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