Space grace: add more floorspace

increase space at homeAttics, extensions, second storeys are all created in the quest for more space. Space is the holy grail of renovating.

But it’s floorspace, and making the most of the existing footprint within a home that can make a real difference to the sense of space in a property.

Addit Home Improvements owner Greg Blackburn says today’s new houses are bigger than anything the previous generation lived in, yet still we crave more room.

“We are greedy. Look at the McMansions, there is so much wasted space in those houses. You’ve got rooms that aren’t even used. I think people like space because it gives them a sense of grandeur,” he says.

He says most of his clients search him out when they feel their house is cramped – perhaps the children have grown up, or a second marriage means two families need to co-exist in one home. “Everyone wants more room,” he says. “Everyone.”

But what about making more room without spending a cent?

IT’S ALL IN THE PLANNING

Heritage design expert Clive Lucas believes modern renovators don’t plan spaces properly and are quick to extend and renovate before re-planning a home or apartment. “Existing spaces can be used more cleverly,” he says. “Can you use another room for something else, instead of adding a room?”

Interior architect and project manager Roxane Kourakis agrees, and says simple planning techniques can create more usable floorspace. “You need to reduce circulation spaces – things like corridors – to create useful, usable space,” she says.

Chimney breasts, the area behind doors and around furniture are “circulation spaces” or “traffic spaces” and these areas tend to steal from the floorspace, making a room or home feel smaller than it really is.

Lucas believes our modern desire for one large open plan living room does not necessarily create the much-needed space we desire. “Yes, I agree most homes need a large room where everyone in the house can come together but it doesn’t have to be so terribly big,” he says, explaining his distaste for the modern trend of glass-walled family rooms that open to outdoor terraces..

“If you make whole walls of glass, then you are wasting space because you can’t put any wall furniture up against it – no bookshelves or pictures – and you have to find a space somewhere else in the house to put those things.

Lucas believes the planning that went into older homes – which often had many smaller rooms that could be opened up to each other using folding doors – was more space-efficient.

“The best planning in the world would mean you didn’t use corridors and had rooms that opened on to each other,” says Lucas. “I think there is a lot we can learn from older houses and the way people lived in smaller spaces.”

THE FINER PLANNING

Architect Yvonne Haber, who has re-designed several small homes – says she always designs spaces by planning the household’s furniture and storage needs first.

“It’s easy to say get rid of clutter, but that’s not realistic for most people,” she says. “I usually look around a client’s house and work out how much stuff they like to have around them.

“I design a place to put all that stuff. It’s about providing a space to put the clutter – making a house look considered rather than cluttered.”

Kourakis says floor-to-ceiling storage that is customised to a household’s needs is the best way to maximise floorspace, even in living rooms.

“Something that takes up two or three square metres of space but can store everything out of the way is going to be better than having lots of freestanding sideboards or drawers which take up floorspace and don’t have enough space to store everything,” she says.

“The idea is to have only the minimum of furniture taking up floorspace yet create the maximum function and usefulness for each room.”

RENOVATING FOR MORE SPACE

  • It’s much easier to re-plan your home to create more space than extend or renovate.
  • Assess the function and purpose of each room. Which items of furniture really need to be there? What storage needs does each room require?
  • Avoid creating traffic spaces around needless items of furniture. Consider creating a floorplan on a piece of graph paper and cut out your furniture to scale, playing around with the furniture arrangement until you have found one that works best for the room.
  • Creating the illusion of more space is easy if you stick to light colour schemes for furnishings and walls. Haber says she likes creating high feature windows in small rooms so you can always see sky. “Seeing the sky gives a sense of being part of something larger,” she says.
  • Lucas suggests adding a three-metre-wide veranda to a small house can dramatically increase usable living space. “I hate rooms that open to outdoor roofless terraces –a veranda that is undercover and can be furnished is a much better option,” he says.
  • If you still think you need to extend the home, attic conversions and turning freestanding garages into habitable rooms are two of the cheapest ways to add more space.
  • Blackburn says second-storey additions and attic conversions are popular for people who want to increase the size of their house. “The staircase has to go somewhere, though,” he says. Addit Home Improvements usually recommend the staircase –which takes up at least 3.5 square metres of floorspace on each level – is created where an old bedroom was. “You can turn the area under the stairs into storage and use the rest of the room as a home office or something like that,” he says.
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Renovation & DIY