The owners of this Hertfordshire home extended the kitchen, remodelling the internal space to create a light filled open-plan room that complemented the Victorian building
When does it make sense to improve, rather than move?
If you love the location of your home, it’s always worth improving. A home is about community, neighbours and social structure, not just that dream driveway or extra bedroom.
If you move, you have to pay stamp duty and removal costs, so it’s often better to consider a base spend of around £30,000 to £40,000 to transform your existing property and create something you love. Keep an open mind and even consider demolishing and rebuilding if it’s a more viable option.
What should the thought process be when transforming a house?
I’m a big believer in using the skills of architectural designers. Look for the RIBA badge when searching for a designer to work with, but also look at the work they’ve done, meet past clients and check how their designs age.
Never tell your designer what you want the floor plan to look like; instead tell them the places that inspire you, the things you love to do, and let them suggest a design, which you can then edit together. Those first conceptual drawings are the most valuable part of the whole process.
Which home improvements will add the most value?
I don’t think you can talk about value in this context. It’s about creating beautiful homes with strong architectural properties; homes that are low energy, comfortable and use daylight cleverly. It’s far better to create something you really love and, if you do choose to sell it one day, then somebody else will value it, too.
What’s the simplest way to transform a property?
Every house is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. One thing that applies universally, though, is simplicity. Houses don’t need to be complicated. If you can only do one thing, then consider simplifying your layout – take out the doors, walls and antechambers that you don’t need. Simple spaces often make the most sense, and they’re cheaper to create.
Can you transform an old house into a low-energy one?
Spaces that are low energy, or don’t lose heat, are more comfortable and won’t suffer from the hot and cold spots that you typically find in older properties. It isn’t easy to make a period home low energy, but it can be done.
You need to target all of the elements where heat is lost – the roof, floors, windows and walls. It’s also important to retain the breathability in older properties to allow the movement of moisture and prevent damp.
What do you need to consider before remodelling the exterior?
Respect the original design of the building, and make the result the best version that it can possibly be. You won’t make a 1960s bungalow look Georgian, for example, but you can create something that encapsulates brilliant 1960s architecture and more contemporary design. It’s easier to make an older property look contemporary than the other way around.
When is demolishing and rebuilding the better option?
If you’re considering a home transformation costing £150,000 to £200,000 plus VAT, then I would seriously consider a demolition and rebuild. There’s no tax or VAT payable on new builds, so you can actually save money compared to transforming an older property.
Study the costs carefully, weighing up what works best for you. Rebuilding isn’t right for everybody, but it’s important not to get sucked into a major transformation that doesn’t really lead to what you want.
What inspired you to improve your home, rather than move?
My wife Kate and I love the location of our home in the Cotswolds, and we’re trying to make changes that allow us to stay there. It’s a Grade II-listed cottage with a single-storey 1970s barn that houses an office and guest bedroom. We want to knock down the barn and build a three-bedroom home and then move the guest bedroom and office into the cottage. It’s in the planning stages at the moment.