Stretching Space

How to Stretch Space

1. Declutter

‘It’s a bit of a house doctor’s tip, but get rid of as much stuff as possible. I’m always amazed how much we hoard, but we could all get rid of a lot of stuff, easily. Doing so clears the mind as well as creating space. When we go to a house to do a renovation for The Home Show, we clear everything out, then only bring back the essentials and important bits of furniture – we are quite ruthless at getting rid of unnecessary stuff. If you’re doing a self build, it’s a really good opportunity to have a clear out, but even if you’re doing a building project in your existing house, and you’re going to live in while the builders are there, it makes sense to declutter anyway.’

2. Use White On Your Walls

‘Getting as much natural light as you can into your home will make it feel bigger. One easy way to do this is to use light, reflective paint colours on your walls, and particularly to create white rooms. My favourite part of the whole show is the white out. Go to my house and everything’s white. It’s not that I struggle with colour. I just think that every colour that’s darker than white will make the space feel smaller. For me, the architecture makes the most of space, and it’s the personal possessions, such as rugs, colourful lampshades or art, that bring the colour to the rooms.’

3. Keep Flooring Light

‘Light floor finishes help stretch a space, too. Oak boards, stone tiles, light ceramic tiles, light coloured carpets are all good choices, even though the latter can be a nightmare to maintain if you put it in the wrong space. I’ve got oak boards in my home, and neutral grey carpet in the bedrooms. It can take a little bit of stick but it’s not so light it shows every single mark. Put down anything dark and it absorbs daylight – keep it light and it reflects daylight, helping the space feel bigger.’

4. Install Skylights

‘Skylights are my favourite way of getting light into a house. Top light is always the brightest light and the best. The light that comes in from the roof bounces around a space, while light coming in through windows just lights the space around the window. Putting in a roof windows is relatively easy to get done and it won’t waste space – smashing a new window into a wall won’t be as effective, and it will lose you wall space. Look at fitting Velux windows, light tubes, Coxdome roof lights. They all bring in amazing amounts of natural strong light.’

5. Swap Solid Floors Or Ceilings For Glass

‘Glass floors and ceilings make an amazing difference. It’s really hard to describe, but I put them in corridors and circulation areas so you can get light beneath. In my house, the ground floor hallway between the kitchen and living room was dark and there was no wall space for a window there. So, I had a sheet of glass installed to replace a section of the ceiling of that hallway (so you could see right up into the room above). In that room above, there’s a roof window, so light from there travels right down through the glass floor/ceiling and lights area beneath beautifully. It’s not necessarily a cheap option, because the glass has got to be structural glass suitable for floors. But for small areas, it will create maximum effect and be money well spent. It also makes the architecture more exciting.’

6. Drop Your Floor Levels

‘Dropping floor levels will give your rooms increased height. You can have a ground floor literally dug out. Houses with suspended timber floors are a good example of where this works – they can be ripped out, dropped by as much as a foot and replaced with a concrete floor to make the whole space feel bigger. If you’re going to do this, go to town – put a proper concrete slab in so the space is fully damp-proofed and invest in underfloor heating, too.’

7. Reposition Your Staircase

‘On narrow houses, look at repositioning the staircase. On my house the stairs took up quite a bit of living space – I’ve moved them over to make the living room feel wider. Any move you can make to make house feel higher or wider will increase the feeling space.’

8. Get Your Lighting Right

‘Get your artificial lighting right – sometimes when people light a space, it’s amazing how much smaller it can feel. Give yourself flexibility. I use dimmer switches so I can change the mood to give a room low level ambient lighting. When my kids are playing, I turn the lights up to make it much brighter and safer. It’s really hard – there are so many options with lighting, but it has to work with the architecture. For example, kids’ bedroom with high ceilings should be uplighted, so the space feels bigger; low level lighting (such as skirting board level) in a hallway will make it feel longer; using directional downlighting in a room will pick out feature walls or architecture. If you’re on a tight budget you can go to good lighting companies who supply design services for free. If not, go to a lighting consultant – an expensive luxury. There’s a company called Group B in London who I go to and he walks me through and shows me new products. He goes round the house with a light meter to work out where lighting could be better, too. It makes all the difference.’

9. Replace Solid Walls With Glass

‘Put panels of glass in walls. There’s a great example in my house where a bathroom window gives the room natural light, but the hallway beyond was dark. So, I put in a strip of glass at a high level in the bathroom/hallway wall to get light coming through into the hallway. Bear in mind that if you are doing this within a bedroom, the glass has to be fire-rated – but the space between a bathroom and hallway doesn’t have to be, and the glass doesn’t have to be structural, either.’

10. Go Open Plan

‘Take down and reposition walls. Doing so will make spaces feel as big and as light as they can possibly be. Be aware of the pitfalls of open-plan living – such as noise and lack of privacy – and also be aware of the way you live and the zones you need. What I mean is – zone your rooms so that each area is designated a purpose. For example, a big long living room, I treat as two zones. One end is tv area, the other is a reading area. I’ve seen thousands of homes where they’ve knocked out walls but not thought about how to furnish or use the new rooms properly. That’s just a waste of space.’

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  • Monika
    Reply

    “dropped by as much as a foot and replaced with a concrete floor” – do you have some pointers to how exactly this is done on Victorian/ Edwardian properties? Does damp not penetrate into the walls then instead?
    I’m a huge fan of UFH and have been looking for a house where I can actually install it, but keep seeing wooden subfloors, where UFH would not be as effiecient.

  • Monika
    Reply

    “dropped by as much as a foot and replaced with a concrete floor” – George, do you have some pointers to how exactly this is done on Victorian/ Edwardian properties? Does damp not penetrate into the walls then instead?
    I’m a huge fan of UFH and have been looking for a house where I can actually install it, but keep seeing wooden subfloors, where UFH would not be as effiecient.

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