Attics, 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?
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.”
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.”