Designing your decor is a big project where you’ll have to make a lot of decisions, so much so that it can be difficult to know which choices are important, and which aren’t. Our guest editor and property expert, Phil Spencer, is here to help with your house style.
The first rule with kitchens is that they should be appropriate to the house. If your house is minimalist and clean lined, the kitchen should match this style. Fitting a kitchen that doesn’t suit the property is a big mistake—do you really want a retro fifties kitchen in a brand new apartment, for example? You can get away with installing an up-to-the-minute kitchen in a period house if you know what you’re doing. You might want to pay for a consultation with a good designer or architect (which shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred pounds) to get their ideas on what would look best.
The first thing to do is decide what will fit into your bathroom and how best to use the space. A large sheet of grid paper with small squares will help you to plan and design your bathroom. You can do various sketches to scale of where the fittings might go after measuring the ones you fancy. Don’t forget about the extra space required, including at least 2.2 metres of headroom above the bath and enough room to manoeuvre round fittings.
See also: Room by Room: The Bathroom
Open plan living
The trick is to think about your open space and work out how best to chop it into smaller spaces that effectively become ‘rooms’ in their own way. You can define these areas by laying down a carpet in the corner that might be the snug, placing a cabinet or bookshelf to separate a living room from the rest, or even by using lighting or plants to screen off a family room, kitchen or dining room. Different sorts of flooring can ‘create’ a kitchen (tiles or linoleum), living area (wood or limestone, maybe with a rug on part of the space), or a utility room (hard wearing tiles, rubber or easy to clean linoleum).
Use ‘dead space’—hallways and corridors—to create more room. If there is space to slip in a desk or bookshelf, you are saving room in another part of the house. Forgotten ‘dead zones’ include high ceilings where you can install hanging racks (or laundry maids). Builders occasionally put up bookshelves above and round doors, and even place bookshelves on the back of large doors, but you must make sure the doors are strong enough to support the weight of the books and have a small lip along the bottom to hold the books in place where the door is.
Extending just for the sake of it without thinking through what you are doing can be a big mistake. Many cavernous extensions can be soulless and even pointless. If they don’t blend in with the logic of the house and are not used in the right way, they can be a waste. For instance, just tacking on an extension to the kitchen that isn’t big enough to take a sofa and some chairs as a space to watch TV in, or even hold a desk for a home office, just creates more frustration. The space needs to be usable, not empty space that isn’t adding or improving how you live.
Keep in mind that just because you can stand up in a loft space, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will have proper head height and will be able to turn it into a liveable room. Insulation and joists will need to be added during the building work, which will take away some of the headroom. Older houses are usually easier to convert than homes built from the late sixties on, because they have steep pitched roofs and clear open spaces. It can be more complex to convert the roof space in a newer house and, therefore, can cost more.
See also: Stylish Interiors