Rooms with­out fron­tiers

For the sake of max­imis­ing space, are we too quick to rip out in­ter­nal walls?

Country Life Every Week - - Interior Design -

WHEN de­sign his­to­ri­ans look back at the his­tory of in­te­rior de­sign in the 21st cen­tury, they might do well to look at the ef­fects of Stamp Duty. Al­though the up­per reaches of the prop­erty mar­ket can­ter along quite hap­pily, there’s no doubt that many home­own­ers are un­der­stand­ably re­luc­tant to con­trib­ute yet more to the Ex­che­quer than they do al­ready.

It doesn’t in­volve any­thing un­to­ward: you ei­ther buy a wreck to re­store, thus at­tract­ing less of a tax bur­den, or you try to add ev­ery square foot you can from your ex­ist­ing home in an ef­fort not to move. In ei­ther case, it’s great news for builders, but not such great news for the Trea­sury.

But how good is it for houses? Al­though listed prop­er­ties are bet­ter pro­tected from ham-fisted at­tempts to re­con­fig­ure them, less starry, but no less charm­ing, pe­riod prop­er­ties are of­ten pierced from ev­ery di­rec­tion by struc­tural steel beams as ar­chi­tects strive to max­imise the amount of space with an open-plan lay­out. There’s noth­ing wrong with any of these things when they’re done sym­pa­thet­i­cally, but all too of­ten they aren’t.

There’s a rarely ques­tioned mod­ern doc­trine which di­cates that the only way to max­imise the space in a pe­riod prop­erty is to cre­ate an open-plan ar­range­ment of rooms, each one seam­lessly joined to the next. It might all make per­fect sense on an ar­chi­tect’s plan, but doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late well into re­al­ity when

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