Laying it Out

Really interesting visit to my friends’ house last night, to help them think through some space dilemmas. It’s a good size three bed Edwardian terrace but with the original bathroom at the garden end of the kitchen rather than upstairs. They’ve extended into the loft to gain two extra bedrooms and a bathroom, but still don’t think the living space quite works.

We had lots of good ideas as we walked around but I could only really test whether they worked when I got home and plotted them out on my trusty graph paper.

Whatever tools you use, and whether you do it yourself or employ an architect or designer, scale drawings are a must, otherwise it’s just guesswork. They don’t need to be neat (mine certainly aren’t) but accuracy is important.

The three main challenges are:

  • Creating a properly comfortable dining space
  • Getting more storage in the right places – especially for outdoor clothes and shoes
  • Resolving the dead corridor space created when the previous owners carved an upstairs family bathroom out of the back bedroom – shown here in red

Plus they need to make room for a piano …

One of the problems they faced was one we shared in our old house, which is the back half of the sitting room, which feels like it ought to be the perfect dining space, is just a little too cramped, mainly because the door currently opens into that room. One way to fix that would be to rehang the door, or ideally install a sliding or pocket door, and this approach is great for keeping costs down.

However with the piano to fit in too, this might still feel a bit cramped. And this arrangement doesn’t achieve their other aspiration – to create a better connection between the house and the garden.

So the obvious next step is to look at extending – either into the side return or by knocking into the old bathroom (which isn’t used and would be repurposed as a utility room in option 1)

Side return extensions are great (I’ve got one) but also expensive and disruptive. And weirdly, the fact that the kitchen already has a bay jutting into the return makes it feel less worth doing – because the space gained is less. I still think it might be worth it, to have a full five metres to play with, but it’s worth testing the less traumatic bathroom knock through first.

A dining table would sit nicely at the far end, perhaps with bifolds or glass sliding doors to the garden. It does mean relocating the loo though, and losing a wall means less space on which to site cupboards and worksurfaces. I’m not sure this layout is right, but it’s food for thought at least.

Meanwhile upstairs I’m suggesting losing a room to gain some space: by swapping the current configuration of bathroom, corridor and small office for a more spacious bathroom with a desk ‘lobby’. Another route – which has just occurred to me, hence no drawing – would be to take all the space for a really generous combined bathroom/ utility room (upstairs utilities are very big in the states and catching on here) and combining the office with either the front bedroom guest room or rear sitting room. I think this might be the best route yet…

UPDATE – just mapped out the upstairs utility and bathroom and I think it could work

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Working mum, love interiors, food and my neighbourhood - Forest Gate in East London. And my family of course...

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