Sophie Goldhill and David Liddicoat’s development journey began after leaving the Royal College of Art in 2004.

After six months of searching they bought a tiny garage site in Camden, north London for £75,000 and then approached their neighbour buying part of his garden for a further £20,000. Shadow House cost £210,000 to build and “became a great showcase for our capabilities,” Goldhill said. This included a Manser Medal commendation and an RIBA Award.

They bought their next site in Hackney, east London on the open market doubling the size of the existing planning permission to create a four-bed house. They sold Makers House in 2017 when house prices in the area had gone up significantly. They had also purchased their Dalston office in 2011.

Their next move was to the Kent coast, buying and renovating a bungalow in Whitstable and buying a former printworks in Margate.

"Part of the ethos for the move was we wanted to create a community around our studio so we knew we wanted to purchase a big space to share," Goldhill explained in her talk at the Building Society, the final one in the series on architect developers.

They have since decided to sell The Printworks. In part this is because, post-Covid and remote working, the practice doesn't need such a big studio. And because of higher interest costs and construction costs they have decided not to build out the residential units. Instead they are selling the plots with planning permission.

They are currently building three houses in Whitstable with David Mikhail and Annalie Riches and another couple while looking for development opportunities in Kent with backing from their clients.

 The seven takeaways from Sophie’s talk are:

1 Have the confidence you can overcome the risks and if there aren’t any, then you’re probably not going to make any money.

2. Understand the market. Sophie and David lived and worked in all the places they developed in.

3. Differentiate yourself – Sophie and David strive for quality and originality which has allowed them to sell and rent at a premium

4. Work hard. In all their projects they’ve done everything they could themselves including overseeing building work, press and PR and arranging leases.

5. Be prepared to pivot and have different exit strategies. Sophie and David are moving from a build to sell model to a build to rent model.

6. Understand development finance.

7. Enjoy the process. Sophie and David choose to manage the construction themselves because it “unlocks the ability to do more interesting things”.  

The story of the Printworks is covered in Amanda & Gus’s book, How to be an Architect Developer, published by RIBA Publishing.

Caption. Sophie Goldhill at the networking drinks after her talk at the Building Society, November 15th, 2023.