Who uses coworking space? Architects do.

Meet Astrid Architects! Showcasing who uses coworking space this month is Astrid Architects, celebrating their 6th year in business and nearly as many in Desk Space! Owner/Director Holly Ormrod-Stebbings gives us the lowdown on how they got here and what makes running her own business work for her.  

Having a designated office space helped… I don’t work well from home as there are too many distractions!

Holly Ormrod-Stebbings and Jamie Smith of Sheffield based firm Astrid Architects

How long have you been in business?

We’ve been a company since 2018, so we celebrated 6 years in March 2024. I (Holly) have been working in architecture for over 16 years and came up to Sheffield to start studying the subject nearly 20 years ago. 

How did you get started?

I was on maternity leave from my previous practice after having my daughter in 2015, and was approached to work on some extension designs for homeowners living nearby. I gained more projects and clients through personal recommendations, as well as local Facebook groups, and soon my workload was snowballing. After returning to work in 2016, I quickly realised I couldn’t manage both my job in a larger practice and my own fledgling business, so handed in my notice and set up Astrid Architects in March 2018. 

What did you know about the industry before you started?

As an architect, I had worked in different practices and on a range of project types including schools, healthcare and residential schemes. We also have to train for a very long time (minimum 7 years) before qualifying, so that gives us a good amount of experience. The Part III Diploma (which leads to becoming a qualified architect) also gives us an introduction to running a practice and the business of architecture. But nothing quite prepares you for the challenges of running your own studio and being a director, and all that entails – from insurance and employing other people, to managing workloads and paying taxes. 

What qualifications do you hold?

Architects have a lot of letters after their name! Mine are BA(Hons), PGDip, DipArch (Dist), MSc, ARB, RIBA. For me, this was an undergraduate degree, two postgraduate diplomas, a Masters degree, and 2 professional qualifications. But we never stop learning, and I’m planning to do an additional course in Retrofit Sustainable Architecture next year. 

What do you love most about what you do?

One of the most rewarding aspects of the work we do is building relationships with our lovely clients, and designing buildings and spaces specifically for them. We get to know our clients really well and work hard to understand their individual requirements, so our designs work for their lifestyles and aspirations. Every project is different – even when houses are similar, people’s needs and wants vary, so our approach is bespoke to every project. 

You and Jamie look like a great team, how do you guys operate together?

Jamie and I work closely on our projects, and it really helps being in an office space together. In architecture we benefit hugely from sharing ideas, collaborating on designs, and learning from each other when it comes to solving problems and tackling tricky details. Jamie has worked at Astrid Architects for over 4 years so we’ve developed a great working relationship and enjoy approaching projects as a team.

What are the challenges?

Our industry can be very responsive to economic and political changes. As soon as interest rates or living costs go up, people reassess whether they want to invest a lot of money into a new house or extension, and this can quickly affect our workload. But even when a larger project might be out of the budget, we can still help with smaller ones such as eco refurbishment or internal remodelling. And we are very fond of the motto ‘don’t move – improve!’.

Any tips for anyone in or starting out in business?

It can be difficult, but try to retain a healthy work-life balance and remember to look after your own wellbeing. In my early days as a business owner, I had been looking after my baby, had gone back to working 3 days in a larger practice, and was running an increasing number of my own projects – hence why I took the leap into setting up Astrid Architects and leaving my previous job. But it is difficult to know when to stop, and how to set aside ‘work time’ when there feels like an infinite amount to learn and get on top of.

For me, having a designated office space helped with this – I don’t work well from home as there are too many distractions! It also means I can shut down my computer at the end of work time, and try not to let the emails and never-ending to-do list infiltrate too much into my home life – otherwise it can become a bit overwhelming to juggle everything at the same time.

What’s the grand plan?

We love designing new homes and extensions for our clients and we are passionate about high quality, bespoke architecture, so we’re planning to continue this as our focus. Recently we’ve been working on some larger projects, including a new build in Nottinghamshire and a development opportunity in Sheffield, and these present exciting new challenges. We intend to always keep offering our personal approach, even if we grow as a practice, and look forward to working on a range of interesting projects in the future. 

How can people contact you?

Director: Holly Ormrod-Stebbings

Part II Architectural Assistant: Jamie Smith

Email: hello@astridarchitects.co.uk

Web: astridarchitects.co.uk

Phone: 0114 4000086

Insta: @astrid.architects

Facebook: facebook.com/astridarchitects

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/company/astrid-architects-ltd

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