How to optimise the space in your home…
- Space, together with light, is the raw material of our houses. A well-designed house is one in our needs are met and the available space used well.
- Take control of your space so as to shape it to your own needs!
- I believe in the optimal solution, that is, to make the most of what you have according to your particular circumstances.
- For some, this may mean minimal or even no outlay.
- For others, it may be possible to undertake minor adjustments, say structural alterations and/or interior finishes and fittings.
- Others may be in a position to contemplate an extension so as to increase the amount of space available to them.
- In all case, a little strategic thought at the outset will ensure that you gain maximum return for your effort and outlay.
Optimise your existing space…minimal or no outlay.
- Assess your furniture layouts. Re-arranging/re-allocating furniture can have a profound effect on how you experience and use each room.
- Assess your colour schemes. Lighter, unified colour strategies will maximise the sense of space as well as light.
- Assess and address your storage needs. Reduced visible clutter will enhance your enjoyment of the space available.
- Take a look at our Choose Your Space guide for space design ideas to address the issues relevant to each room use.
- Explore if rooms are best matched to their use: assess the use to which each room is put.
- State your needs, and the needs of each member of the household.
- Compare the list of your needs with the list of rooms available, at both ground and first floor levels.
- Re-allocating room uses can be refreshing and transforming.
- Be radical in your approach. Make every room work hard as hard as possible. This will contribute to a heightened sense of space in the house as a whole.
- Do not assume that first floor rooms, always brighter than those at ground floor level, can only function as bedrooms.
Optimising space in our house: making the most of what we have…
- We are at that pre-teen stage, where the children need space to be on their own/with friends and we need the odd moment of quiet. This presents obvious challenges in a house that is primarily open plan on the ground floor.
- Our long term solution is to build an extension, but in the interim, we have re-organised our spaces to keep us sane.
- Our central dining area now houses a games table and the smaller of our two dining tables, for arts and crafts use.
- Our main dining table has moved to the kitchen/dining/family area which can be closed off from the main part of the house with sliding screens.
- The small first floor room which functioned previously as a TV/Play Room is now a TV/Study area, providing a sunny work space removed from the main body of the house.
- These minor adjustments to our furniture arrangements have improved our enjoyment of the house immeasurably at this intermediate stage. And for no outlay.
Improve existing space in your home…minor design alterations.
- Where a larger space is required, explore how adjacent spaces might be joined together by removing a wall or by making a large opening between the two.
- To the rear of a house, this may allow a Kitchen/Dining/Family Room overlooking the garden to be created.
- Enlarged windows and doors here will enhance the sense of space by maximizing the relationship between indoors and outdoors.
- Opening up between the front and rear rooms on the ground floor may improve the flow of light, allowing, for example, a north facing rear room benefit from the daytime sun in the front room.
- Double doors between the two rooms will allow each room be used separately when required.
- Make sure you put an architrave about this enlarged/new opening so that it blends seamlessly with your existing doors and openings.
- For optimum flexibility, provide sliding doors in this situation, preferably sliding into a recess created by a twin wall.
- Solid sliding doors will provide visual and acoustic privacy for each room when closed over.
- Always seek professional advice when undertaking structural changes internally, for example where you plan to remove a wall or to increase the width of an opening significantly.
- Re-locating a door is a minor alteration which may have a huge impact on a problem room.
- Likewise, changing the side on which a door is hinged – and so the direction in which the door opens – can be effective in many instances.
Increase existing space in your house…extend
- Before undertaking an extension, make sure the design of your existing spaces is optimal.
- Where this is not the case, take the opportunity to ensure that the extension and existing house will ultimately work together to meet all your needs and answer all of your identified issues.
- Use the sun as your starting point when planning how to place your extension. Consider how the extension might allow you to gain new sources of sun, for example a north-facing house might gain west or east facing spaces where the extension does not extend the full width of the house.
- Explore the opportunity, especially with a single storey extension, to provide an enhanced quality of space, not to just replicate the existing, e.g.
- Increase the floor to ceiling height. Anything above the statutory minimum height of 2.4 metres improves the quality of space hugely.
- Where you plan a pitched roof, don’t assume the ceiling will be flat: explore how you might “sculpt” a vaulted or slanted space by exploiting the roof space within the room.
- Exploit fully the potential to provide roof-lighting overhead, which may also help to capture sources of sun not previously enjoyed by the house.
- Where the part of the house to be extended faces north, enjoy the fact that a single storey extension will not decrease the amount of sun reaching the garden. This will allow you to improve the relationship between the house and the garden at no expense to the sun.
- Avoid the creation of a “middle” room! A room with no independent source of natural light is likely to be dark, unloved and unused.
- Be aware, from the outset, of the need to comply with Building and Planning Regulations.
- Be aware of the relationship between the existing house and the extension in terms of proportions, i.e. avoid overwhelming the original with the new in terms of scale.
- Do engage an architect, where possible. Include the cost of fees in your budget from the start. Do not consider this outlay an added luxury. It should be an intrinsic part of your strategy for what will possibly be the greatest investment in your life.
- Expect to recoup the expense in many years enjoyment of a space designed and sculpted to your exact needs, now and into the future.
- Where an extension is planned, guidelines regarding planning issues are contained in the leaflet PL5. Doing Work Around the Houses – The Planning Issues, which may be downloaded from www.environ.ie.
Extending Our House…
- We have identified the need, in our house, to plan for the needs of our children as they become teenagers.
- Our house is open plan on the ground floor, with a small TV Room/Study at first floor level.
- We are reluctant to change the open plan arrangement downstairs but recognise the need to have a separate space where they may bring friends and just be teenagers.
- Given the space restrictions on our city mews site, we plan to move our bedroom and associated spaces into a new space on the roof, i.e. to extend upwards.
- This will allow us to create an enlarged living space to the front of the house at first floor level, in lieu of the existing TV Room/Study and Master Bedroom.
Increase existing space in your house…convert your attic
- Where you plan to convert your attic as part of your works, a useful leaflet entitled “Loft Conversions, Protect your Family” may be downloaded from www.environ.ie and is an essential starting point for such a project.
- Loft Conversion Leaflet (pdf, 80 kb)
- Loft Conversion Leaflet Amendments (doc, 1,576 kb)
Increase existing space in your house…convert your garage
- Often small and thereby challenging to occupy, with a typical width of 2.2M.
- Allow for the floor to be level with the main house, where possible, to allow the room feel like an integral part of the main house.
- Ensure the room is sufficiently insulated and heated to be at least on a par with the rest of the house.
- Locating the door from the main house is another strategically important decision. Make sure it facilitates a configuration of space that is useful relative to your intended purpose – frequently Home Office/Study, Play Room/Den.
- Choose furniture carefully relative to the size of the room.
Garage conversion in our House…
- Our TV/Study measures 2.2 x 3M, thereby equating to a typical converted garage.
- This room has served us well, having acted as Play Room, Guest Room and now TV Room/Home Office/Guest Room.
Are you looking for space design ideas or advice for your house?