I absolutely love the challenge of making the best possible use of space. Maybe it partly comes from having spent months at a time living on a boat, where every inch counts!
So when in January this year I was presented with a single storey cottage, that had grown like higgeldy, I relished the space planning challenge. Extensions had been tacked onto both ends of the original humble stone dwelling and a long skinny corridor ran along the back of the building, with three bathrooms literally squeezed into it, to the extent that one of the bathroom doors couldn’t even open past the loo roll holder on the far wall…
A long corridor of completely wasted space
Keen to renovate as soon as possible and not wanting the delay of planning applications, the clients wanted to work within the existing building footprint. The original cottage was divided into three rooms – kitchen, dining room and sitting room – but even these didn’t lead straight from one to the other. To get from the dining room to the sitting room next door meant walking back into the kitchen and along the corridor, which felt very odd and the clients had already worked out that they wanted to create one generous open plan space instead.
The original small sitting room
The original kitchen
Looking into the loft, it immediately became clear that the room would be completely transformed if we removed the flat ceilings and opened it right up to the roof as well as knocking down the walls. While the clients hesitated…. would it be too high and too cold? they asked, I was excited by the prospect of a light and airy space which would be plenty warm enough with underfloor heating, a woodburner and new insulation. They trusted me and we went for it!
Knocking down the walls between the kitchen, dining room and living room opened up the space dramatically
And then we took the ceilings down too to reveal this great roof structure
But whilst they hadn’t really considered the layout of the rest of the house, I saw a lot of wasted space in the corridor and the bathrooms hadn’t been designed at all; they’d just been awkwardly shoehorned into narrow spaces. I was sure we could improve the layout here too. My first step was to do a measured survey of the whole house and draw an accurate scale floor plan. Then I try lots of different options, a wall here, a door there, even if some of the ideas seem a bit crazy to start with. Only by considering all the possibilities, do you unlock the best possible solution.
The space has been transformed throughout and the project is very nearly complete
In this case, the key was to do away with the corridor all together; in a long narrow house, it just made the rooms even narrower. In my final plan, not only did the client not have to sacrifice any of the three bedrooms and three bathrooms, but I managed to carve a utility room and a playroom out of the previously unusable space. The layout was improved throughout and large new built-in cupboards increase the storage space significantly.
Reaching the final iteration of layout options is a hugely satisfying moment – just like slotting the last piece into a large and difficult jigsaw. Walking around the new layout on site, with the new walls and doors in place is even better – the puzzle has been solved, my designs and plans have come to life and the spaces make sense.