We all want more space, better space, more beautiful space and best-value space – but what are the best ways to find it?
Start with what you’ve got
In-up-out-down: this is my mantra when it comes to adding space to a home.
In general terms, in-up-out-down is the sequence of cost-effectiveness when it comes to finding the additional space you need. ‘In’ is the space you already have, ‘up’ might be a loft conversion, ‘out’ could be an extension, and ‘down’ would be a basement. So number one on the list of most cost-effective ways to find what you are looking for is inside what you already have.
It’s extraordinary how often it is possible – by remodelling and rearranging spaces, and making best use of the square feet taken up with corridors, hallways, under-stairs areas and landings – to find tremendous additional space and transform a home with very little building work.
Second in line, and often the most cost-effective way to add significant amounts of additional space, is to go up.
The most common and popular way to do this is with a loft conversion. Lofts can be very budget-friendly because there are no ground works or foundations to worry about and there is often the possibility, without any need for a planning application, to add a whole new floor to a house.
Loft conversions, and loft extensions (when combined with a dormer roof extension) are particularly appropriate for adding bedrooms and bathrooms, but are also very popular for a home-based office.
An extension to the rear or side (or both) of your property is next in line on my list of cost-effectiveness.
While the need for new foundations will often make this a more expensive option than a loft conversion, if the additional space you need is on the ground floor – such as for a larger kitchen or living area – then an extension might be the best choice.
It’s really important when designing an extension to think about the layout of the whole floorplan, not just of the extension. All too often, a box is added to the rear of a property and the effect on the existing rooms is not taken into account, often creating a gloomy middle area, far from any windows – so always look for ways that your extension can open up existing spaces as well.
While adding space with a basement is generally speaking the least cost-effective option in terms of price per square foot, that doesn’t mean it’s always poor value. In many cases, all other options have been exhausted or are not feasible, and where property values are high enough, a basement extension can add tremendous value to a home.
The key is often to really think through how the additional space is going to be used. If what you want is a home cinema or a gym and sauna, then lots of daylight might not be a requirement, but if the space is wanted for a kitchen, living space or bedroom, the art is often to design it so the space feels as un-basement-like as possible.
Work with plans
My starting point with any project where space is at a premium is to get a floorplan down on paper. When exploring how different spaces can work together, how the circulation will work, what the views across and between the spaces might be and how the daylight might flow, a floorplan is hugely helpful.
By creating a scaled floorplan of the existing footprint and then laying tracing paper over the top to sketch possibilities, you can really start to discover all the different options and assess which are the most promising.
One little aside is that estate agent’s floorplans can be a helpful guide, but they are often less than accurate and sometimes can be terribly misleading. Ideally (and always before building anything) invest in a proper set of accurate drawings, prepared by a land surveyor.