7 ways to create space

If your home has become too small for your lifestyle, try these ideas to maximise your property’s potential

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Extending the back of the house created a kitchen/dining/living area that linked to the garden and allowed other rooms to be reconfigured. Designed by Des Ewing

The home that fitted you perfectly on the day you moved is probably not the home you need or want right now, but there are plenty of ways to introduce extra space to suit your lifestyle. Converting the loft or garage are great options for creating extra rooms for teenagers, visiting family and friends, or for additional accommodation. If you have a young family, an extension that doubles as play space means you can watch over little ones as you’re cooking or baking, while a kitchen extension can create a sociable area to share with older children.

Many homes also have the potential to create a room that’s fit for entertaining a crowd by making use of a side return to boost the size of an extension. And when home office space is lacking, carving out part of an open-plan area is a worthwhile project.

1. Increase the size of your kitchen

Kitchen extensions are on many most-wanted home-improvement lists. ‘With dining and living areas included, the kitchen is now the hub of the house and, in most cases, needs enlarging,’ says Des Ewing. ‘A kitchen extension also involves a remodelling of the interior. Making the new space’s circulation work is vital. The area does not need to be big – in fact, the opposite is better, so that you don’t have to walk very far to the fridge or table.’

Costs

‘The new-build element may be around £1,600 to £2,260 per square metre, using half for remodelling internally.’

Top tips

  • If making use of permitted development (see planningportal.gov.uk), consider a certificate of lawful development via your local authority – useful when you come to sell.
  • Decide if you want bi-fold or sliding doors early in the design process, but don’t forget that you’ll need to retain enough wall space for kitchen units.
  • Think about heating the space. Underfloor heating may be the best solution if there aren’t sufficient walls to hang radiators.

2. Extend your living space

A light-filled room is fabulous for families. ‘An orangery is the perfect choice for expanding the ground- floor space in a property,’ explains David Salisbury, managing director of David Salisbury. ‘Most form a natural extension of the living space, with around half now incorporating the kitchen. A glazed roof and large windows on three sides ensure ample natural light all year round, whether cooking, dining, relaxing, playing or studying.’

hardwood orangery by David Salisbury attached to a historic home

The original kitchen was small and dark, and didn’t have any dining or play space for the family’s needs. Building an orangery (designed by David Salisbury) onto the kitchen has filled the space with light as well as adding the informal family area the owners desperately wanted, with direct access to the garden

Costs

‘It depends on the design, size and if you use your own builder for the internal works, but plan from around £35,000,’ says David. ‘Extra costs could arise if planning permission fails, and the larger and more elaborate the design, the higher the cost will be.’

Top tips

  • Make sure you keep any orangery design in proportion to the existing property, but bear in mind that it doesn’t have to have a strictly traditional appearance – an electronic sliding roof, for example, will give a modern twist.
  • Choose an orangery to add space that’s open to the garden, but not if you want extensive wall storage.
  • If planning permission is required, look for companies who include the application for you as part of their service.

3. Create a home office

It isn’t generally economical to build an extension to add a home office, because it’s the number of bedrooms and the condition of kitchen and living areas that will influence a house’s price, explains architect Federica Vasetti. ‘However, when extending there is sometimes the opportunity to carve out a study corner. An alcove provides wall space and screening, but if home working is a daily occurrence, a separate room is recommended instead.’

lounge with study corner

This room was previously a kitchen. The area where the kitchen used to be has been transformed into a home office as part of an open-plan extension (by architects Dittrich Hudson Vasetti)

Costs

‘A mid-range extension with aluminium or timber windows, engineered timber floors and a decent ratio of glazing will cost from £2,000–£4,000 per square metre.’

Top tips

  • To prevent glare, avoid unobstructed east- or- west-facing windows in a home office or study area.
  • Make sure you plan in enough electric sockets: look at designs that include USB chargers as well as three power points for a neater finish.
  • Opt for dedicated task lighting that’s operated on a separate circuit for a home office area.
  • Think about whether you want an office that’s open to the rest of the room, or would prefer to conceal it behind a bi-fold door when it’s not in use.
  • Cut holes in a worktop for cables or choose a desk designed to hide them so you don’t spoil the look of your new space.

4. Make use of the side return

A side return can have huge value when incorporated into an addition to a house. ‘When you extend into this space, you create a more useable area without encroaching into the garden. But there are planning restrictions to consider; for example, the height of your extension in relation to the party wall.’

side return extension for a kitchen diner on a Victorian home

There was a long unused alley at the side of the house before, and a narrow kitchen. Granit Architects used a side return, to create an extension big enough for entertaining

open plan kitchen diner with central island

Costs

Using the side return will incur similar costs to other types of extension. ‘A ballpark budget is around £2,160 to £2,400 per square metre,’ says James. ‘However, much of the cost can be associated with reworking the existing rear of the house, new slabs, plastering and services. The design and type of roof can have a big impact, too.’

Top tips

  • A repeat of a neighbour’s side return extension may work well for you, but calling on an architect (architects-register.org.uk and ciat.org.uk) can allow you to maximise space and light.
  • If you need a party wall agreement, you may be able to save by undertaking the notifications yourself; if not, call on a surveyor (rics.org).
  • Show the neighbours your plans early when you’re adding space, as this can relieve any worries they may have at an early stage.
  • Even under permitted development, you will need building regulations approval, so allow time to submit plans.

5. Transform your garage

‘Size can sometimes be deceptive as garages are generally not insulated, so ensure that any plans allow for insulating the walls and roof,’ says architect Rachel Haynes. ‘Consider how the garage will link back to the existing house. Waterproofing and insulating the existing floor slab need to also be considered if you are trying to tie in to an adjacent house floor.’

bedroom with wooden floor and blue throw in a garage

The Haynes’ property already had two parking spots, so the garage was used for extra storage instead. A private bedroom for with en suite is connected to the house via the utility room, and can be used by the couple’s grown up children and their families when they come to stay. The conversion was designed by their daughter Rachel, of Thread Architects

Costs

‘General living space or bedrooms with no drainage or major internal fit-out may be more simple, but if installing a kitchen or bathroom, conversion costs range from £960 to £1,800 per square metre.’

Top tips

  • If a bathroom is part of the conversion, you may need to update the boiler to cope with the extra load.
  • Think about concealed storage to house what’s already in there.

6. Build a two- storey extension 

A two-storey extension needs thoughtful design to work well. ‘People typically like to use a single-storey extension to create a bigger kitchen or living space,’ says Simply Extend director, Robert Wood.

‘The benefit of two storeys is that you can do this and add a bedroom space. You do need to think about how it affects the flow of the house; normally you have to reconfigure the first floor to fit in new bedrooms or bathrooms, otherwise rooms can be landlocked.’

bedroom with bi-fold doors in two-storey extension

A two-storey extension has transformed this flat, adding a second bedroom and a kitchen-diner, plus a new bathroom. The work was carried out by Simply Extend

Costs

Allow £1,800 per square metre, per floor for shell costs. However, the unknown variables, such as below-ground works can up the costs, says Robert. ‘Sometimes poor soil or trees can affect the foundations, and hard-to-access properties may increase prices.’

Top tips

  • You’ll probably need planning permission for a two-storey extension as permitted development rights don’t generally cover them, so factor in both the extra time needed as well as cost.
  • Be aware that a two-storey extension could overlook neighbours or impede their light, so take this into account.
  • As well as creating more space, two-storey extensions can be good value because the doubling of volume doesn’t equal doubling of costs.
  • Check your builder has insurance and a warranty facility and make sure you sign a contract for the work.

7. Convert your loft

To be able to increase the size of your home with a conversion, it needs to have sufficient height. ‘Ideally, you need 2.3m at the highest point,’ says Rebecca Tibbert, director of Econoloft. ‘In order to make it a viable room there should be enough space to fit the staircase, preferably within the existing landing area, and there needs to be space to create a new landing area.’

loft conversion for bedroom office by econoloft

Econoloft helped the Gairs delivered on their promise to son Kevin, when he moved from the smallest bedroom in the house to a loft conversion with a shower room. It also has an area for relaxing and a work space

Costs

‘There is no such thing as a typical loft conversion,’ says Rebecca. ‘However, an average dormer conversion, which is the most popular, is around £35,000. Things that may hike up the price are whether you need to move the boiler, and the specification you want.’

Top tips

  • Most types of home are suitable for a dormer conversion, which will increase the volume of the loft. Gable to gable, hip to gable and mansard conversions may be possible and will likewise increase loft size.
  • Think about the light as well as space. If daylight is not maximised, the room(s) created will feel smaller.
  • It’s always worth considering including a bathroom or en suite as part of a loft conversion. The head room available may mean a bath is a better option than a shower, though.
  • Many loft conversions can be carried out under permitted development – check with your local council.
  • If your house is terraced or semi-detached, the Party Wall Act is almost certain to apply, and you’ll need to notify your neighbours in writing of your plans.