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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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.

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