If lockdown left you in need of more space, you’re not alone. Absolutely London looks at the best ways to extend your house
By Pendle Harte
Our homes have never been more important – and never has so much been expected of them as during this pandemic. Where we used to leave in the morning and come back in the evening, we are now working form home, possibly alongside our partners and children, and the demands on our spaces have changed. We now need home offices and space to do yoga, as well as quiet places for children to learn. Now, more than ever, people have become aware of the limitations of their spaces, and extensions are the obvious solution.
The proliferation of scaffolding, skips and drilling noise on our streets and endless school gates conversations all underline the fact that everyone is at it. Building projects are everywhere, because we’re just not as willing to put up with outdated layouts, awkward spaces or unattractive features as we used to be – plus we’re all savvy investors too. Not only do we all want to improve our living spaces, but we also want to profit financially from them.
Extend your side return
Much of the UK’s housing stock is made up of standard Victorian or Edwardian terraced houses, with their warrens of small rooms, galley kitchens and unused side returns. These layouts don’t suit the demands of 21st century family life – let alone the reality of a pandemic. In some ways we now need less separation, with kitchens at the centre of the home and living areas often integrated with cooking areas.
Extending across the side return to create what can become a vast kitchen space has become commonplace, often taking over the former dining room or back room too and creating space for a separate utility room. The awkward space that once was the top of the side return can happily accommodate a desk and shelves to become a workspace for a home-working adult, or a homework space for two children. Living rooms commonly shrink to become essentially tv rooms, while kitchens dominate most of the ground floor footprint.
In terms of investment, a side return is certainly worth it, says Hamish Allan of Winkworth. “It’s an expensive project if you look at it per square foot, but it creates a very different family space and will increase desirability tenfold when selling,” he says.
Extend into the loft
The other obvious thing to do with your three-bed terrace is to extend into the loft to create another bedroom and bathroom – this is so cost-effective that it’s simply the sensible thing to do. A smaller first floor bedroom can then be freed up to become a home office, or a separate study space can be cleverly carved into the eaves.
Hire the right help
A well-designed home can improve quality of life, offer functional solutions on the smallest of sites, and create beautiful spaces even within the most restricted of budgets. However, taking on a house refurbishment can be daunting and harder than you think. While anyone can have a vision, knowing how to realise it doesn’t necessarily follow. Hiring a fleet of architects and builders can be time-consuming and costly, and managing them all is a job in itself, which is why many people look to companies that can do everything for them.
West London-based Elnaz Namaki and her business partner Hugo van Bilderbeek run a streamlined business in complete house refurbishments, including a property search service. They’ll find houses for their clients and then strip them back to create luxurious contemporary residences, navigating planning and managing the entire project, from conception to moving in. They’ll take care of floorplans, extensions, moodboards, lighting design and joinery – and they’ll make sure that all the sockets and switches are in the right place too. Their vision is a complete transformation and there are certain clever things that they will always do. Like maximising ceiling height, for instance.
Think outside the box
Old houses will often have enormous firehoods behind ceiling lights – and it’s easy enough to strip them away and gain probably 15cm. Doors too – they’ll raise the frame and install a taller door. Stripping a house back and redoing the infrastructure may not be for the faint-hearted but there’s no other way to create the full luxe feel with underfloor heating, carefully placed lighting, soundproof doors and unobtrusive pipework.
This type of project may seem eye-wateringly expensive, but likely to be well worth the investment. Namaki and van Bilderbeeek’s recent project in Kensington went on to break all sales records for its street. It was an unusual house, taller than its neighbours and unusual, with an Art Nouveau style that hadn’t been touched over the years. Inside, Namaki reconfigured the entire layout, which was lacking in natural light and divided into lots of little rooms around a central staircase. Changing the style and location of the windows opened up the space and the final result was an impressive contemporary home featuring all of Namaki’s signature design features.
Keep the character
Every year, London’s most ingenious residential design projects are celebrated in New London Architecture’s Don’t Move Improve Awards, all demonstrating how even the trickiest spaces can be entirely transformed with a bit of architectural nous. This year’s winner was a terrace house refurbishment and rear extension in south London by architects Procter & Shaw, which provided the existing residence with additional living, dining and study spaces, and was praised by the judges for introducing more natural light via a large glass skylight. Sympathetically renovated period properties offer the highest returns, and it’s always advisable to maintain a house’s history and character while incorporating contemporary elements and beautiful finishes – and considering clever ways to accommodate activities that once would have taken place outside the home. Space is everything now.
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