While extending can be a great way of adding space to your home, you can save a lot of time, money and disruption by first looking at ways to make the most of your existing space. Doing so will maximise your home’s potential and enhance the way you live there – whether you decide to extend or not.
Not only will these stylish design solutions help you to maximise space in your home, but in many cases they will also add to its value. Whatever your budget, there is an idea that will work for you.
1. Convert the loft
Loft conversions are one of the most cost-effective ways to gain space, with an extra bedroom and bathroom adding up to 25 per cent to a home’s value. Expect to pay between £500–£1,500 per square metre, depending on the location and work involved. Most conversions don’t need planning permission, but check the government Planning Portal for rules and exceptions.
The key factors are head height – there needs to be at least 220cm between the bottom of the ridge timbers and the top of the ceiling joists – and how to bring in light, which is usually via rooflights.
2. Hide kitchen appliances
Concealing appliances inside cabinets is a space-efficient solution, but too many door fronts can make a kitchen feel overwhelmed. This bespoke dresser hides the boiler and fridge-freezer, is the perfect solution. It has open shelving to allow for a decorative display and feet at the base to give the feel of freestanding furniture.
3. Build a room in the garden
A much overlooked means of gaining extra space is to build an outbuilding in the garden. With a period property this is often the most cost-effective and least disruptive solution. Many firms specialise in creating garden rooms – from shepherd’s huts to summerhouses and posh sheds, such as this – or you can buy a DIY kit, with prices starting at a few hundred pounds.
The room can serve as an office or studio, or provide overflow accommodation, complete with a kitchen and bathroom. Planning permission is not usually needed for simple designs.
4. Get creative with built-in storage
Every alcove, niche and nook offers the potential for building in shelving or cupboards. In this living room scheme, the recess next to the chimneybreast has been utilised for book shelves, added to the narrow space either side of the door, which would otherwise have been wasted.
When room storage makes a clever use of space, it creates a quirky feature as well as a practical solution. Expect to pay from around £1,000 for a bespoke alcove design.
5. Design a sleeker wetroom shower
Not only are wetroom showers more space efficient, as they can be built into smaller, more awkward spaces, but they do away with the need for a glass enclosure or door, so are easier to keep clean, and are more easily accessible. The space will need to be tanked underneath the tiles and the drainage carefully designed.
6. Utilise the space under the stairs
If your staircase is located in the main living area, or you have a large enough hallway, consider whether a standard understairs storage solution is really the best use of the space. Stairs create an enclosed feel below that can help zone a small dining area or reading nook that you may not otherwise be able to find space for. An open-tread staircase and fine balustrading, as in this design, helps maintain the flow of light.
7. Knock down walls to create an open plan space
Taking down internal walls between smaller rooms is often a good solution in Victorian and Edwardian properties, introducing a sense of space and flow. It’s especially successful when the walls are decorated in light colours. Ask a structural engineer to check it will be possible, before consulting a good builder.
There are a number of design considerations when creating open-plan spaces, such as respecting original features, lighting, zoning individual areas and positioning furniture. The work doesn’t require planning permission unless your home is listed.
8. Create a window seat
Deep, low windowsills make for quirky additional seating when the house is full of guests, or just for taking in the view. Have a seat pad made up to boost comfort and dress the window with scatter cushions for a homely, inviting feel. In children’s rooms with slightly higher windows (at a safe height), add a few steps up to the sill to create a fun reading area.
9. Fit in a utility cupboard
If at all possible, find space for a small utility area, whether it’s in a side passage, the space under the stairs or inside a cupboard. Having this area will make a difference to cabinet space in the kitchen and allow more flexibility for the layout.
The utility only needs to be big enough for the washing machine, a tumble dryer if you use one (these can be stacked) and a few cleaning supplies. Condenser tumble dryers, which can be placed anywhere, are now commonplace, but you’ll need to factor in the water supply and waste for a washing machine. Avoid locating a utility area in a living area cupboard, however,
as the spin cycle can be noisy.
10. Convert the cellar
Converting an existing cellar costs around the same as a loft conversion and often creates more usable space directly accessed from main living areas. This wine cellar was installed below and extension and cost around £25,000.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a cellar, you can dig down to create one, although it’s rarely financially viable unless you live in a high-value urban area. However, a spiral wine cellar is a quirky option that can be dug out, with prices starting at £11,820 for a build-your-own kit from Spiral Cellars.
11. Add a mezzanine level
If you have more vertical space than floor area, consider adding a semi-storey, which will give you extra room without removing the sense of drama a high ceiling creates. Studies, library areas or TV snugs are ideal, but extra sleeping areas are also useful. You’ll need to have enough head height for both areas to be full storeys (around 4.2m in total), or you could turn the space below the mezzanine into a storage area.
A spiral staircase is a space-efficient access solution, and you’ll need to install a balustrade at the edge of the mezzanine for safety. Consult a structural engineer in the first instance to find out if it’s possible, then enlist the help of a good house designer.
Photographs by Jeremy Phillips, Alison Hammond, Brent Darby, Jody Stewart, Grant Scott, and Mark Scott