7 home-transformation project ideas

Are you longing for a new home office or large kitchen-diner? Sarah Warwick takes a look at some of the best home-transformation projects

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A well-designed loft conversion is the ideal location for a spacious master bedroom. This conversion by Econoloft was designed with enough room for a stylish en suite (see below). The project cost around £35,000 to £40,000

A well-designed loft conversion is the ideal location for a spacious master bedroom. This conversion by Econoloft was designed with enough room for a stylish en suite (see below). The project cost around £35,000 to £40,000

Create a bedroom suite in the loft

Converting your loft provides the perfect opportunity to create a luxury bedroom suite that’s separate from the rest of your home. As with any loft conversion, sufficient head height is crucial to the success of the space.

‘The ideal measurement would start from 2.4m at the highest point of the loft,’ says Rebecca Tibbert, director at Econoloft. ‘If additional floor space is necessary, this can be easily created by installing a dormer, which can have a gabled or hipped roof.’

It’s definitely worth including a bathroom in the design, too. ‘Having an additional bathroom with the master bedroom will add more value to your home should you ever wish to sell,’ says Rebecca. ‘You can opt for a separate room, a room adjoining the bedroom or even a bathroom space within the bedroom itself. Juliet balconies are also very popular – they will not only bring in a lot more natural light but, if you have a favourable view, will show it off to maximum effect.’

Space division

Think about the elements you want to include before calling in a specialist to discuss the layout of the bedroom suite. ‘The division of your room is likely to be dictated by where the main bathroom is located as it makes sense to plumb in any additional sanitaryware above your existing soil pipe,’ says Rebecca.

‘A dressing area will often go underneath a sloping roof: this makes best use of the space and you can hang clothes or build in shelves quite neatly. A seating area or relaxation zone should be as far away from the bed as you can manage, and you can either use room dividers or build false walls to separate the space.

‘You may want a work space or an exercise area and, if you discuss this with the experts, they’ll make sure they build in the space you need at the design stage.’

bathroom in loft conversion with spanish tiles

This is the en suite area of the open plan master bedroom pictured above

Add value with luxury elements 

You can boost the opulence of a loft bedroom suite through your choice of bedlinen and carpet, and by including mood lighting or designer features.

‘Some clients invest in decorative radiators or prefer aluminium windows rather than uPVC,’ says Rebecca. ‘You could also go one step further than a Juliet balcony and have a version that you can actually step out onto. A Velux Cabrio design turns from a roof window to a balcony in seconds and you don’t need planning permission.

‘You may also want to have built-in surround sound so that you can turn on your music at the flick of a switch. However, remember to discuss all your requirements early in the planning process as it’s often difficult and expensive to go back and amend things once the build commences.’


‘A straightforward dormer loft conversion will cost around £35,000 and then you will need to add on decorating, flooring and furnishing expenses,’ says Rebecca. ‘This cost will depend on the specification, and you could spend anything between £5,000 to £30,000.’

Update your hall and staircase

Neville Johnson staircase with bookcase library

Create a feature in your hallway by transforming your staircase. This Cotswold stair concept, made from painted timber, costs from £2,000 from Neville Johnson

Making over your hall and staircase is a project you’ll appreciate daily, so it’s a home-transformation project well worth putting on your wishlist. You can renovate an existing staircase, while features such as under-stair offices and shelving can maximise even awkwardly shaped halls.

Alternatively, create a feature with a brand-new design. ‘Take the opportunity to make a new staircase work for the way you use the house – for example, the direction of approach from high-use rooms,’ says Richard McLane, design director at Bisca.

Staircase style

‘When planning a staircase renovation, consider the existing look of your hallway,’ says Roberta Jervis, design manager at Neville Johnson. ‘Is it traditional or contemporary? Do you want to redecorate to complement your new design? A carpet will make a staircase more comfortable underfoot, but it will be more difficult to clean than a hard surface.’ You could create contrast by choosing carpet for the hall and a hard surface for the stairs.

There is an array of design options to choose from for staircases. ‘For the treads, there’s glass, timber, stone, marble or Corian,’ explains Richard. Alternatively, you could choose to match the timber you already have in your home. Different finishes are also available for timber treads and balustrades.

For the balustrade, glass, timber, steel or plaster are all options.

  • Glass may make cleaning hard work if you have young children.
  • Timber spindles look traditional and are cost-effective.
  • Forged or machined steel balustrades can be simple in appearance or more elaborate.

‘The most common way of updating a staircase is to replace timber spindles with glass or steel uprights,’ says Richard. ‘The former is more contemporary and steel uprights can be as modern or ornate as your budget allows.’

Problem solving

If your hall is small, you can make a design statement with your staircase. ‘The balustrade is an integral part of the staircase, so even if you just want a new version, the staircase needs to be considered as well,’ says Richard. ‘Feature newels (posts) could be included in a new design, which would make a statement without necessarily increasing the overall staircase footprint.’

If your hall is dark, introduce light with glass balustrading, glass walls or lights set into the wall above each tread. In a large space, options are plentiful. ‘For wow factor, you can’t beat a sweeping helical design or a majestic grand staircase,’ adds Richard.


‘Kit staircases start at around £500 to £7,000 for a straight flight; an off-the-shelf mid-range design is around £8,000 to £15,000; and a fully bespoke option costs from £15,000 to £150,000 upwards,’ says Richard. ‘The number of risers (steps) depends on the height of the floors in each house and there is no standard. Materials are limited only by imagination and budget.’

Extend for a kitchen-diner

kitchen diner extension with raised decking outside

Using similar materials in the kitchen and garden unifies these indoor and outdoor spaces in this kitchen from Woodstock

Adding a spacious kitchen extension that includes a dining and living area will give you the luxury of having plenty of space to play with rather than working within the dimensions of an existing room. However, it pays to think about what you want before you call in an architect, builder or kitchen designer.

‘You need to consider how you plan to use your kitchen,’ says Andrew Hall, managing director and chief designer at Woodstock Furniture. ‘Is it simply a functional space or an extension of your living area, too? If so, you may need to think about comfy seating, lighting, and whether you want bi-fold doors or classic windows and doors.’

You may not need to add much by way of floor area in order to create a successful layout. ‘Most kitchens are extended by three to four metres,’ says Andrew. You may also want to consider opening up other parts of the ground floor at the same time.

‘It’s a very individual choice and depends on what you want from your kitchen. Think about how you would like your house to work for you and what sort of investment you want to make,’ he adds.

Work order

You will probably want to call on a range of professionals to create a functional kitchen extension that’s also aesthetically pleasing. ‘Start by getting an architect and structural engineer on board before you approach any builders so that you’re on top of planning,’ advises Andrew. ‘Often a kitchen designer will get involved in the early stages of the design process so that everyone can work together.’

Woodstock kitchen diner with glazed roof extension and American black walnut units

This Woodstock kitchen diner with glazed roof extension and American black walnut units is perfectly linked to the garden

Garden link

A rear kitchen extension can create the perfect opportunity to open up a house to the garden. ‘Always think of the relationship between the kitchen and the terrace or garden, and make sure it flows through to the outside space,’ advises Andrew. ‘If you’re having bi-fold doors across the rear wall of the extension, you may also want to think about having electronic blinds fitted as they can be invaluable on bright, sunny days.’


A bespoke kitchen will help you to make the most of your extension with a design that is perfectly tailored to your space and needs. ’Prices start at around £35,000 for one of our bespoke kitchens,’ says Andrew. ‘If you’re doing building work, too, then costs could go up to £150,000 to £200,000.’

Transform your kitchen

kitchen diner living area with wood and marble flooring

This open-plan kitchen has been zoned to create separate kitchen, dining and living areas within the same space (see more below)

High on many people’s home-transformation wishlists for next year will be a stylish kitchen makeover. ‘A key trend for 2016 is the growth of matt finishes in the kitchen, in particular the cabinetry,’ says Graeme Smith, senior designer at Second Nature Kitchens. ‘This will be evident across both classic and contemporary schemes, offering a softer visual aesthetic that’s very easy to live with

‘Homeowners are still favouring open-plan living spaces where they can create a family hub, with a natural link between the kitchen and living areas. Sophisticated greys and blues are tending to dominate the colour palette and offer an alternative choice to classic creams and beiges, delivering more opportunities for personalising your space.

‘Storage will always be key to creating a clean and streamlined look that works well in open-plan schemes. Other areas of the room demand complementary pieces of furniture, such as window seats, TV and media units, dressers or even home offices. Lighting is also becoming a fundamental element of the kitchen design process, with due consideration needed for task, mood and ambient lighting in each of the different zones of the space.’

Plan ahead

Even if you’re changing an existing room rather then extending, it’s still best to start your new design from scratch so that you can consider all the available layout options. ‘Don’t be tempted to replicate what was there before – it’s always best to begin with a blank canvas and look for other design ideas,’ says Graeme.

‘A great starting point when planning your space is to assess what doesn’t work for you in your current kitchen, both on a practical and visual level. Addressing this will be the catalyst

Second Nature kitchen with natural oak and almond painted cabinets

The Second Nature kitchen by Fearon Bros of Newry features natural oak and almond-painted cabinetry and costs around £21,000

Design success

A kitchen designer can help you make the most of the space, even turning a small alcove area into a feature of the design, but make sure you’re upfront about what you have to spend. ‘Being honest about your budget will ensure your expectations are not raised and that your designer works within your target amount, meaning you won’t waste each other’s time,’ says Graeme.

‘Having a contingency fund is always a good idea, as the room contains services such as plumbing and electrics and may require some refinishing. Plus, there is always the element of the unknown that only comes to light when the old kitchen is removed.

‘Be open to suggestions from your designer on ways to achieve the look you want, possibly compromising on your initial choice. Always be clear on the features of the products you


‘A bespoke kitchen design from an independent Second Nature retailer will cost from around £10,000, and will depend on a number of factors, from how large the space is to the choice

Give your home an exterior makeover

remodelled home with fresh white render and new doors and windows

This 1980s house was remodelled by Back to Front Exterior Design with new windows and doors, a new roof and landscaping. The £230,000 project included a two-storey rear and single-storey side extension, plus refurbishment of the interior spaces

Updating your home’s exterior can turn an ugly duckling into a swan, plus it’s a worthwhile project if you’re planning to sell. ‘Almost anything is possible as long as budgets and permissions will allow,’ says Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home and Interior Your Home. ‘It’s often about unifying the use of materials and organising windows and openings so they look well proportioned and natural.


‘Even if it is too much to consider reworking the whole exterior, adding or rebuilding a porch in a more appropriate style, or replacing some ill-suited windows with designs to match the main ones can have a transformative effect.’

Find out what improvements you can do without planning permission here.

Possible looks

A new look in almost any style is possible. ‘The one limitation is that attempting to design a house exterior as if it were much older than it is will generally fail,’ says Hugo. ‘Adding Georgian details to a façade that does not have Georgian proportions will usually look fake. However, replacing hard-looking, machine-made finishes, such as concrete roof tiles, with old reclaimed clay roof tiles can work tremendously well. Be careful, however, as reclaimed materials can work out to be very expensive.’

Individual design

‘The best solutions for each house will depend upon the type of property and its surroundings, so it’s impossible to say that one style or another is generally better,’ says Hugo. ‘Look closely at the form and shape of the roof as this can often give lots of clues as to what might work well. For example, if you have steep roof slopes, an Arts and Crafts style might work well.

‘Covering ill-matching brickwork and pebbledash with a unifying rendered finish can be a cost-effective way to transform your home. Many people think that revealing brick that has previously been covered up will look fantastic, but stripping existing render or pebbledash off older brickwork may not leave it looking attractive at all. Doing this can even break the surface of the brick, leaving a very porous surface that might cause damp problems and will quickly look dirty.

‘Sometimes eaves with too short an overhang can make a property look too “flat” and, conversely, too deep an overhang on the wrong house can look oppressive. On several occasions, we have successfully enhanced houses by making changes to the style and form of the eaves.’


Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, costs for improving the outside of a property can vary widely. ‘Rendering the façade can cost as little as £5,000 (depending on the size of the house), changing windows can start from £4,000 up to £20,000, or more if there are a large number of windows and if structural changes are needed to alter openings from wide to portrait format,’ says Hugo. ‘Tile hanging can be a very effective material change for a front façade and this can run from £5,000 upwards, depending on the area size and the tile chosen.’

Revamp your outside space

bi folding doors to a garden on a dormer bungalow

Bi-fold doors are a great choice if you want to seamlessly link indoor and outdoor spaces. These XP Glide sliding doors from Express Bifolding Doors cost from £2,000 for a two-door, twin-track 2m-wide system

Whether you’re planning to fit bi-fold doors to maximise your view of the garden, want to create somewhere to dine and entertain outdoors, or if your outside space is simply uninspiring, make 2016 the year you decide to revamp your garden with a stylish new look.

Any planting should be guided by the conditions of the space. ‘When you’re selecting plants, match them to the conditions such as shade, sun and soil type,’ says Inge Berrie of Berrie Garden Design. ‘Trees and structural plants are important in every garden, no matter how small or large, and should be planted first. It’s also important to choose a range of plants that will provide colour in the garden throughout the year.’

Consider modern options for your outdoor area, too. ‘Lawn doesn’t always need to be the only choice for a soft ground cover,’ explains Inge. ‘Artificial lawn is increasingly popular in gardens that have children, dogs and shady areas. The latest designs even have a few brown threads in them to replicate a natural-looking lawn. I would recommend a qualified person installs it, however, as DIY jobs can look cheap and unrealistic.’

Work schedule

It’s vital to make changes to a garden in the right order. ‘The hard landscaping, such as the patio, pond, fencing and walls, should be introduced first, followed by the lawn, which often creates the outline for the borders, and then the plants,’ says Inge. ‘Select a size of patio that will be large enough to accommodate your table and chairs and still have some room to move around. The patio should also be in proportion to the garden and house.

‘If drainage is a problem and you wish to bring the patio level in line with the interior floor, consider installing decking. Low- maintenance, long-lasting products, such as composite decking, are ideal and allow for good drainage under the boards. Styles are available to suit both traditional and contemporary gardens.’

open corner with bi fold doors to garden from living room

Make the most of garden views by opening up a corner section of your home. These corner bi-fold doors in aluminium with a dark silver metallic finish cost from £1,800 for a H228xW86cm door at Origin

Classic and modern

Think about the overall look of the patio and garden when considering the design. ‘A sleek stone patio laid in a regular pattern with narrow or no mortar joints will lend itself to a more contemporary look, whereas a more textured stone laid in an irregular pattern with larger mortar joints is associated with a traditional appearance,’ says Inge.

‘Raised beds around the patio add interest and height to the area for gardens of all sizes. The materials for raised beds need to complement the paving, though. White rendered walls should be carefully considered as they stain easily and are high maintenance. Textured stone, gabions, brick or wood are good alternative materials.’


‘Patios are often the most expensive element of redesigning a garden,’ says Inge. ‘The landscaping costs will depend on the current state of the area that is to be paved as well as the drainage needs. Costs vary from £2,000 to £10,000 or more, depending on the stone selected.’

Design a home work area

Rencraft oak fitted office

Having a dedicated area for web-surfing, bill-paying, research and shopping is vital for most of us – and an essential if you work from home. ‘As long as there’s room for a desk, there’s no minimum space you need for a home office,’ says Lucinda Lucey, head of marketing at Rencraft.

‘By sectioning off a small area of an existing room or finding a cosy nook on the landing or under the stairs, you can create space in any area of your home. Enlisting the help of a bespoke designer will allow you to convert even the most awkward of spaces into a cosy, practical and efficient workspace.

‘A separate room opens up a wealth of opportunities for creating a truly unique and personal home office. For example, busy families may have more than one person using the space at any time – in these situations, more than one desk may be required. Avid readers may need additional shelving, or even a cosy seating area to sit and enjoy their favourite books.

‘If you love technology, you might want space for multiple screens or brackets, as well as shelves for printers and additional gadgets. By utilising all the nuances in the room, such as alcoves and chimney breasts, you’ll be surprised how many innovative ways there are to achieve exactly what you need.’

Office essentials

Both lighting and the furniture set-up are vital considerations for a workspace. ‘Lighting plays an important part when designing any office – the correct lighting will help you avoid eye strain when working for long periods,’ says Lucinda.

‘A general principle to work out the wattage needed to light a room is to multiply the square footage by 1.5 to 2.5, depending on how much natural light there is. Task lighting, such as a desk light, will usually be needed and an LED bulb is ideal for this purpose, being both energy efficient and strong. If working on a computer screen, the wattage in your desk light should be at least the same as your screen, which is around 60 watts.

‘The ideal height for a desk is 75cm from the floor, and with a desk this height you really don’t need an adjustable chair, although you may prefer one for long periods of work. Storage is an important consideration, too. For example, if you want to hide a computer tower, you’ll need storage with ventilation.’

Design options

‘Handpainted furniture is very popular in creams, pale pastel greens or blues and is a flexible choice, with the option of repainting should you fancy a change,’ says Lucinda. ‘Navy blues and burgundies are also popular, reflecting the warm, rich colours so popular in traditional offices. This style never goes out of fashion and features classic solid wood desks and cabinetry in oak and walnut, complemented by vintage light fittings and pewter or brass handles.’


Prices vary widely as you may simply be budgeting for a suitable desk and chair, or investing in an individual arrangement to suit your home. ‘Using a bespoke designer means costs are dependent on the extent of the work required,’ says Lucinda. ‘Our prices start from £3,500 for a desk, and a whole room can cost from £18,000.’