As much as we might love our home, who doesn’t love browsing RightMove and daydreaming over that multi-million-pound mansion? But while that might be out of reach for many of us, there are ways to unlock the potential of your current home and enjoy more space without having to move out of the home you love. We speak to leading North East architects to find out just how they would go about revitalising those properties that need a little TLC, or those whose owners have bigger visions for their homes.
When Nicholson Nairn Architects are faced with a new challenge, they first sit down and assess the individual needs of their client and the different ways they can draw the potential out of the existing property to transform it into a dream home.
‘We find it’s always a good idea to start on the inside, and ask yourself a few questions first,’ explains Philippa Ramsay, an architect at Nicholson Nairn. ‘Is my house big enough? Does the current layout work for me? Are there enough bedrooms or reception rooms? If the answer is no, then how can you rework the space to create more bedrooms, or create an open-plan kitchen and diner? Often, existing homes are large enough, and the trick can lie in rationalising the floor plans. There are many different ways of achieving the same outcome without extending the property.’
Awkward or unseemly features are another issue architects often see with properties. ‘One example of this was a property in Gosforth,’ says Philippa. ‘It had a very awkward dormer roof which didn’t sit well, so we removed it and transformed the once-two-storey section into an airy, double-height main living space with a feature fireplace and exposed trusses, overlooked by a mezzanine on the upper floor.’
Double-height space is a feature many homeowners are eager to see in their properties now. ‘We see a lot of cases where we haven’t extended heavily but we’ve done a lot of internal alterations,’ says Stephen Rutherford of Monument Design & Build. ‘We’re a design-led business so we often try to reconfigure existing space. A lot of people jump to the conclusion that an extension’s the answer, but sometimes just a rejig of space can get you what you want.
‘Double-height space can create more interest in a house,’ Stephen continues. ‘We’re doing a property in Durham at the moment and initially when you came through the door it was just a boring, dark hallway. We cut out the floor above so now there’s this double-height space with a stylish glass handrail and lovely lighting and it just creates a much bigger impact on entrance.’
Architects at Squires Barnett have also noticed that the love for open-plan and spacious living seems unlikely to wane. ‘However, a refinement of the concept of open-plan living is appearing,’ says George Musson, an architect with Squires Barnett. ‘A flow of interconnected, well-defined spaces (rooms within a room) is becoming more popular than just taking out walls.
‘But with open-plan homes there is less opportunity to hide family clutter,’ George continues. ‘As a result our clients crave lots of storage space, so we’re seeing a rise in popularity of boot rooms, storage rooms, and even dog rooms (complete with showers for the family pet).’
If you’re not in a position to add to, or remodel your space, there are other options to create the illusion of more space. ‘To balance low ceilings, choose appropriate lighting and avoid overuse of spotlights,’ advises George. ‘Paint woodwork, ceilings and doors the same colour as the walls – it takes your eye upwards and removes the horizontal banding that makes a space feel lower and darker.’
Finally, when arranging your furniture you might be tempted to push it all against the walls to create space in the middle of the room – but this actually has the opposite effect. ‘Doing this will open an abyss of nothingness in the centre of the room and make the whole space seem smaller by creating a corridor,’ explains George. ‘Instead, arrange furniture away from the walls in strategic and cosy groupings. Or if you prefer an open space, make sure to leave a couple of inches between the wall and furniture – this gives the impression that the room is bigger than it actually is.’