Make a move to improve your home
Improving not moving makes sense. Architect Ric Blenkharn reveals why it pays to maximise your property’s potential.
HOW many people pick up this property supplement and say: “I’d like to live there”? The dream of winning the lottery and living in that large house in the country is for most of us just that, a dream. Yet we seem always to be searching for a new place to live, more rooms, a bigger garden. But is this necessary?
How many memories are wrapped up in a home? This was an interesting question posed by Wayne Hemingway in his preface to The Home Buyer’s Guide – What to look and ask for when buying a new home.
Your home is the place you invest time, love and money into so you can create a place that is yours alone. Certainly as your life changes with the onset of children, then children leaving home and perhaps looking after elderly parents, so your needs for space change too. Often this is the trigger to look for a new house and with it the upheaval of moving, with associated legal fees and a bigger mortgage.
Perhaps the alternative is to look more closely at your current home, and take a rigorous view of how you live. Being established in a place has immense benefits, primarily being rooted in a known community and feeling a sense of belonging. A strong community creates a strong support network, where needs are often met without recourse to paid or social services input. So is it possible that we are missing a trick in not looking more closely at our current habitat, and maximising its potential?
As an architect, I visit innumerable homes and, without exception, there are modifications that can be made that could transform your way of living. Most of us live in housing built in the early to mid-1900’s, for practical rather than aspirational need. As a country, we are not familiar with the notion of designing our own homes or thinking laterally about needs and futures. We largely inherit what is given to us.
Within this context, and that of an economy still in recession, my challenge is for you to look more closely at the home you inhabit and consider the potential it offers.
Perhaps you could start by listing down the way you live and detail a typical day, from waking to sleeping. Where do you spend the majority of your time? What would your ideal place be for each function i.e. where would you like to spend time with the first cuppa of the day and reading the paper. Would it be at a kitchen table or in a comfy chair overlooking the garden?
Continue this process through the day and with the results you will have a picture of how you live and how you would like to live. With these findings, take a critical look at your existing home. Are there spaces that are underutilised and perhaps could be used in other ways? Do have loads of possessions that could be considered “surplus to requirements”? Have a spring clean and take them to a car boot sale. If you have an outdoor space, consider how the house relates to it. Could you create a better link or create larger windows overlooking the space?
In doing so, the sense of the outside can be brought in and the room will feel larger. Perhaps a room could have an additional window on a further wall, so you can enjoy sunlight at different times of the day.
Have you looked in the attic recently? Is there space to create an additional room? Look around at neighbouring properties and see what changes might have been made that you could implement. Is there space to extend the home. Lots of people now wish to live in open-plan living kitchens, so look at the opportunity of taking a wall down to make a larger space. Look at the furniture and finishes. Might it make sense to unify some floor finishes so that rooms flow freely into one another? This can make the house seem larger.
Think about furniture and whether some of it can be flexible. There are some brilliant “transformer” pieces of furniture, where desks can become beds, where sofas become bunk beds. Such furniture could make rooms multi purpose, so that when an additional living or sleeping space is required, it is easy to achieve.
Lighting plays an important part in the feel of a house. A central pendant makes the corners of the room feel dark and doesn’t really give good light to read. Lamps and task-orientated lighting
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HOME: Left, a loft extension can create more space. Bed £199.99 from Dunelm. Right, from top, wall bed from the London Wall Bed Company, www.wallbed. co.uk; Task lighting is better than one pendant light. Wall light £84.95 www.allupandon.co.uk; Unify flooring for better flow. This carpet is from Brintons.