PLANNING ADVICE From architect Greg Toon
Gaining much-needed extra space and higher ceilings upstairs doesn’t have to mean raising the roof, says Greg Toon
Increasing space on a ground floor is easy – simply knock down walls to create an airy open-plan layout. But how do you do it upstairs, when you’re faced with sloped roofs, corridors and separate bedrooms? Cheryl Avery,
53, and her husband Peter, 49, face this dilemma at their four-bedroom home in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire. Cheryl, a senior civil servant, and Peter, head of bids for an engineering company, have already renovated the ground floor to open it up. Now their daughter, Mimi, has started university, they want to create more room upstairs.
The house has four bedrooms, a small study, a family bathroom and an ensuite. Three bedrooms, including Cheryl and Peter’s master suite, are at the front. Their ensuite is on the far left, under the sloped roof and with restricted head height. At the rear are the family bathroom (also under the slope), the study, the staircase and another bedroom.
A landing corridor behind the master suite links the three other bedrooms with the family bathroom. Two of these bedrooms are singles, and as Mimi is moving out, Cheryl and Peter are open to reducing the number of rooms to gain space. It would be crazy to turn this into a two-bedroom home, so I’m reluctant to remove more than one single bedroom, especially as they’re so small, we wouldn’t gain much space. The key to a more dramatic transformation is removing the wasted corridor space and the sloped roofs.
My proposal involves installing a small side dormer, which I know may not be popular as they can make a house look lopsided and, done badly, blight the streetscape. In this design, however, the side dormer is discreet: it’s set back from the front and rear, and takes up less than a third of the height
of the roof slope. Clad in charcoal-coloured zinc, it aims to prove the theory that darker elements appear smaller. From street level, especially with the rear backdrop of garden trees, it would probably go unnoticed by passers-by.
The dormer turns the spaces with sloping roofs into full-height rooms, allowing for rejigging.
The existing ensuite would become the walk-in wardrobe Cheryl and Peter have always wanted, and with a new opening on the room’s back wall, the existing family bathroom becomes their ensuite. These areas sit under the dormer, which is fitted with large roof lights to flood them with daylight. This also does away with the corridor.
That bathroom is moved to the middle of the front of the house, taking the place of the fourth bedroom. And with the back corridor removed, even the tiny study gets a bit bigger, as it gains space that was previously part of the landing.
The result is an efficient layout and a much grander master bedroom, which should give the couple the same spacious feeling upstairs they have on the ground floor.
As extensions go, dormers represent excellent value for money. Made from timber, they usually don’t require intensive structural work. The downside is that they can be ugly, so it pays to design them nicely, using high-end materials and avoiding white fascias and plastic guttering.
Adding a small side dormer to a sloping roof will raise head height and create a more useful space
Greg Toon Architect and founder of architectural practicePotential etc…
BEFORE ABOVE With dormers installed, there’s now extra space for a walk-in wardrobe, and the family bathroom can become an ensuite. This solution does away with the corridor too