I’m sure you remember the story of the Frog Prince.
As a quick recap, a Princess finds a frog in a pond after dropping her ball into it and after giving it a kiss it turns into a handsome Prince with whom she lives happily ever after.
And what has that to do with your home?!
Bear with me here.
Our sense of space in a room is defined by the walls, beams and columns and the floors. In other words the physical structure of the room and how these different elements relate to each other define our sense of space. Height and width also add to an impression of space.
Another couple of important factors here are proportion and perception. In other words it’s how we see the room and how much of it we take up.
If the scale of the room is wrong and is too small we can feel cramped like we are trapped in a confined cell.
The point here is that we can trick our brains to think we are in a space that is bigger than it really is by what we see with our eyes.
Our eyes only imprint things in 2 dimensions and our brain then converts in into 3D and fills in the blanks.
So by manipulating what our eyes see we can then make a room seem bigger (or smaller for that matter) than it really is.
We can manipulate this with interior design.
This is an important fact because this trickery affects us psychologically and emotionally so by manipulating what our eyes see in the room will drastically effect how we feel in that room. With me so far?!
So in essence we can turn our frog of a house into a prince by using a few tricks od the interior design trade.
We can make our homes feel bigger without getting any building work done at all.
And that’s what we’re gonna cover here in our third instalment of our series looking at your favourite home improvement shows.
This time out we’ve been watching:
BBC Design Rules
The latest of these shows to come under our radar is ‘Design Rules’ on the BBC. Here we are looking at the first episode in the series, specifically about using space and planning your home.
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, love him or loathe him, does raise some important points here. Ideas that, as architects, we deal with on a daily basis but which can dramatically improve how your terraced house feels to live in.
This is all about working with what you have got and getting the most out of it. Even if you add a loft conversion, basement fit out and an extension there is still a limit to the amount of space you can get out of a normal terraced house.
So.. before you start spending money knocking down walls and digging out the basement, it is important to first look closely at what you already have and how well it is working for you.
It’s Your House…but BIGGER
Everybody wants a bigger house but how can you make the house you already have feel larger?
We call this the ‘sense of space’. How big or spacious a room feels is not always about how physically large it is, and there are many factors that can influence this.
One of the most important points raised in this episode is that clutter makes a space feel much smaller. This is even more important when you dealing with a terraced house where space is of an absolute premium.
So how to we solve this? The simple answer is storage, lots and lots of good, discreet storage. Most houses don’t have enough. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but do go for built in storage solutions if you can to make the most of all those nooks and crannies (think about the space around chimney breasts and under stairs).
Let There be Light
The next item to consider, and this is something architects can become obsessed with, is maximising the amount of natural light entering a space. Well-lit spaces not only feel bigger but they feel happier – even when it is raining outside!
This obviously depends on the layout and orientation of your home, but don’t just stop at windows – you can bring light in from above using skylights or ‘borrow’ light from adjacent rooms with translucent panels or fanlights over doors.
Once you get that sunlight pouring in, use light coloured walls, polished floors (where practical) and strategically placed mirrors to help bounce light around every space making them feel much larger.
Lawrence’s Tips & Tricks
Im not a big fan of ‘tricky’, gimmicky things, and even less of those that promise one solution that can be applied to every situation. After all our homes, like ourselves, are all very different.
There is an incredible amount of fluff and flowery speech in the interior design world and Mr Llewelyn-Bowen is certainly no stranger to it. The notion of his ‘espionage core’ of secrets, for me, is a bit patronising. That said, if you can cut through the guff, there are some really useful tips in there.
Let me explain..
The effect that materials and texture has on a space is fascinating. I think many of us are aware about how soft or hard materials change the acoustics of a space – just try singing in the shower! What is interesting is how these materials also absorb light making the room seem smaller.
Now.. to make this work for you, you have to think about how you want the space to feel. Do you really want a room that feels cavernous and echoey? consider how it would that affect your enjoyment of the space and what the room going to be used for (for example a bedroom and a dining room would have very different requirements).
Often it is good to balance the hard, flat, pale surfaces with elements of bright colour and softer textures to give the room some personality and stop it feeling like a cave!
One other item in this segment of the video is the use of lines in a space. Vertical lines on the walls make the space feel taller, while strong horizontal bands make it feel wider. Diagonal lines on the floor make the space feel wider and board lines running the length of the room make it feel longer.
Its not exactly rocket science.
I would urge caution, however, if choosing to employ these particular ‘espionage’ agents. Stripes and block of colour are actually quite powerful devices and can dramatically change the feel of a space. Use them sparingly and only if you feel you need to, if maximising light and decluttering just dont cut it.
The Ins and Outs of It
The final item to take from this video is the concept of bringing the outside in. This can be done my using external features to draw the eye out (like Laurence’s little bush) and by exploiting the visual connection between internal and external spaces.
As an architect, one of my pet hates are those frilly net curtains you see everywhere (urgh!). Whats the point in having a nice big window if you cant see out of it? You’ll be amazed at the difference something small like this will make if you take them down – just try it.
If you want to go a step further, and this is particularly good at the back of the house where you might have a kitchen, dining or living space facing the garden, is to convert existing windows into double glazed french doors.
Provided you don’t change the width of the opening, it is a relatively simple task for a builder to take out the bricks below the window to create a simple doorway and it will make a massive difference to both the room and your appreciation of the back yard, however small it is!
Don’t Be Afraid to Break Your Plan
I will leave you with a final thought, and this is something that our good friend Mr Llewelyn-Bowen only really touched on in the episode above…
When planning the layout of your home consider the concept of ‘broken plan’ rather than open plan. This involves creating a series of separate, distinct, but interconnected spaces that flow into each other rather than one large, open area.
This allows for views from one spaces into another, which not only makes the room itself seem bigger but it draws the eyes away and through the house. You can do this by removing some of the doors between living spaces (perhaps not bedrooms) or through modest changes in level, two or three steps up or down at most, to differentiate between spaces .
Well thats all from me for now. Look out for the final article in the series where we will be looking at the nitty-gritty of basement conversions and how to avoid digging a hole for yourself.
The Ultimate Terraced House Renovation Information Pack
In the meantime if you would like to know how to layout your house AND make sure that the building work goes as planned then you need to check out a our Terraced House Renovation Information Pack.
This information pack has been developed over the last 16 years in designing & managing peoples renovation projects.
Here are some of the things that are covered:
- Step-by-step, easy to follow instructions that show you how to remodel or reconfigure your terraced house so you can create a tonne of extra space WITHOUT needing planning permission
- How to AVOID BEING RIPPED OFF by builders during the work
- Several remodeled & reconfigured layouts so you can pick and choose what to do with your home
- How to create an AMAZING KITCHEN in your house
- Where to get some other work done to your home that will add a lot to the value of your property
- How to make sure and check that you are getting QUALITY WORKMANSHIP in your renovation
- How to put together a world class bathroom in your home
And this is just a sample!
This info will give you confidence when you deal with builders so you’re not taken for a fool or even worse ripped off.
So to find out more all you have to do is click the link below:
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