It’s really important to invest in the fundamentals of the house. Many people think immediately of the ‘cosmetic’ aspects of kitchens and bathrooms, but the most important thing, despite what an estate agent will tell you, is quality of space. The quality of space comes, principally, from a sense of generosity, simplicity, and light.
Small things make a huge difference, even in the most modest house. First up, I’d recommend de-cluttering, where possible. Simplicity really is key. I’m a big fan of removing skirtings and architraves, but where this can’t be done, I’d always recommend painting them (and the doors) the same colour as the adjacent walls. Avoid ‘picking things out’ as it will invariably make the house seem smaller. Where possible, take off doors that aren’t needed.
In terms of flooring, try and run the same floor covering throughout, with no threshold strips or joins between rooms. Painted boards can be fantastic, particularly when the same colour as the walls. Use simple, bright colours. I’ve seen entire houses painted white – floors, walls, everything – which can look amazing, and make the house seem so much bigger.
If structural changes are on the cards, I’d recommend reducing the amount of wasted space in circulation and incorporating it into adjacent rooms. For example, many 2 storey houses do not need separate passageways and corridors around staircases – so removing walls between them and the adjacent living spaces can make a high difference to the sense of space. Then, bringing top light down into the staircase with roof lights or sun pipes can be a fantastic way to improve what are sometimes dark spaces.
If walls between small living spaces can be removed to create bigger living spaces, it can transform a house. For the really bold, opening up into the roof spaces can be a great way of increasing the sense of space, and can give a great lofty feel as these rooms will follow the line of the roof. If there’s space for a small mezzanine that can be used as an extra living, work or bed space, even better.
When choosing new windows, try and find slim frames, with no glazing bars if possible, as these can just add clutter.
Lighting, too, is really important. Pendants are very tricky, unless the fittings are really interesting – so i’d recommend discreet lighting that lights the space, rather than ‘object’ lighting.
Build in as much storage in concealed discreet cupboards (painted wall colour) to clear the main spaces of clutter. We tend to be very lazy about how we use space in this country – in japan, they’re a fantastic example of how to use small spaces effectively, with inventive storage solutions in all sorts of unexpected places.
For more expert advice from Piers Taylor, come along to the show from 27-30 March at NEC, Birmingham www.homebuildingshow.co.uk