Give your home the wow-factor: Part one

Update your home with one of these great design ideas from renovating expert Michael Holmes. Adding an outdoor room, a new staircase, creating an open plan layout or even adding a new porch or entrance to your home can create impact and add value to your property.

Renovation expert Michael Holmes offers his advice on how to update your home and add value by renovating your garden, adding a new staircase, rejuvenating your front entrance or adding feature windows or double height ceilings.

1. Outdoor room

A covered outdoor area can extend your living space and is the perfect spot for alfresco dining. It could be a traditional veranda, an American-style porch (a covered deck), a loggia, or a contemporary outdoor room with a flat roof. A slatted roof section or sliding slatted walls will allow natural light through.

Ideally, the same flooring will be used inside and out, with the floor level and separated by glazed doors, so the space functions as one room.

If your home has a view, you could have your outdoor room on an upper floor, tucked under the eaves or an overhanging gable roof.

2. Staircase update

Adding a staircase is usually the best way to create architectural interest in a home with more than one storey – and it can make a great first impression in an entrance hall.

The trend is towards minimal staircases that appear to defy gravity, with cantilevered treads in timber, glass, stone or metal and a glass balustrade. It will cost from £5,000 plus VAT for a new staircase and the work must comply with Building Regulations (Building Standards in Scotland). It doesn’t need planning permission unless the building is listed, in which case listed building consent will be necessary.

Alternatively, clad the treads and risers in a timber laminate and update the balustrade with new stair parts (try A staircase makeover costs from £600-£1,400 plus VAT.

3. Open-plan layout

Creating open-plan rooms will make your home look bigger and you will get better use from your space. Removing internal walls doesn’t require planning permission, although if your home is leasehold (like many flats) you’ll need the freeholder’s consent.

If you make alterations to structures shared with neighbouring properties, you’ll also need a Party Wall agreement with the owners (in England and Wales).

Non-load-bearing partition walls can be removed quite easily, but before starting work, check with a structural engineer (find one on whether or not a wall is structural.

Load-bearing walls can be removed, but the structure above will need to be supported. Disused chimneys can be removed if not shared with other properties. Any structural alterations will need Building Regulations approval.

Removing a partition wall between a kitchen and dining area would cost around £3,000-£5,000 plus VAT. A structural engineer is likely to charge £250-450 plus VAT.

4. Entrance redesign

Updating your home’s entrance will create kerb appeal and showcase its interior style. A generously proportioned front door, wider and/or taller than a conventional opening, is both practical and impressive. Whether boarded, panelled or flush, your front door needs to complement the architectural style of your home. Some great contemporary designs have been introduced in recent years – try

Changing your front door doesn’t require planning permission unless your permitted development (PD) rights are removed or restricted (flats will need consent).

A porch or portico of the right size and style will give character and prominence to your entrance. You can add a porch under permitted development, provided it is no more than 3m² and three metres high, and no closer than two metres to any boundary or the highway.

5. Glass flooring

As well as its novelty value, glass flooring is a useful way to allow light to permeate from one floor to another, and so it is popular for use in basements and landings.

Toughened laminated glass is used for flooring, so it is entirely safe to walk on.

Glass flooring must comply with Building Regulations. It is usually supplied and fitted by specialists (, It costs from £775 to £1,120 per m² plus VAT.

6. Feature windows

With careful sizing and angling, a window can be used to frame a particular view almost like a picture, directing the eye exactly where you want it to go. The same technique can be used to conceal an eyesore, or to improve privacy.

High-level windows positioned above eye level can bring in natural light without creating a view, while low-level windows can be used to create a view that can be enjoyed from an area of seating, or your bed or bath.

Adding doors and windows doesn’t usually require planning permission as it constitutes permitted development (PD). Flats do not have PD rights. Check for details.

Creating a new opening and adding a bespoke window will cost £800- £1,200 or more, depending on size.

7. Double-height ceiling space

Any room can seem a lot larger than it is if there is a vaulted cathedral ceiling above it, creating a real sense of volume. This feature can be produced in any room that has a vacant loft space directly above it.

Firstly, the existing plaster ceiling is removed and the pitched loft space incorporated into the room. If the ceiling joists are structural, new ties may need to be added between the rafters to prevent the roof from spreading – a builder, or a structural engineer will be able to advise on this.

The wiring for the lighting will have to be moved, the roof insulated at rafter level, usually between and under the rafters, and the new ceiling then plastered. Insulation boards with plasterboard bonded to it (such as Kingspan, Celotex or British Gypsum) make the job much easier.

Creating a vaulted ceiling will often result in exposing part of the roof structure, which can add character and make an interesting feature in its own right, especially on an older property. There may also be scope to add rooflights to bring in light from above.

If the double-height ceiling level is very high, there may be potential to add a mezzanine platform level, which is ideal as a reading or study area.

Creating a vaulted ceiling above a large bedroom or kitchen with suitable loft space would cost £3,000-£4,000 plus VAT. This cost is mitigated if the roof needs insulating anyway.

Photographer credits: Nigel Rigden (Outdoor room, Glass flooring, Feature windows); Simon Maxwell (Open-plan layout); Oakwrights (Entrance redesign); Jeremy Phillips (Double-height ceiling space)