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Make room

contemporary room 24 2 12Space in this small country is at a premium, which is why extending your house up, down or within has got to be a good thing.

With the property market still on a go-slow, why not stay put and invest money in making your home as spacious as possible? Whether it’s to extend for a growing family, to sublet a room or just for extra storage, increasing the area will be useful for you now and will increase your home’s value when you do want to move.

Going down, down
A family home with an added basement down below will add value to your home, especially if you live in a city where space is at a premium. It is a costly enterprise, though, and whether you make your money back will depend on the type of house, the quality of work, the layout, interior design and natural light within the space. However, no doubt about it: building in a basement is becoming a popular option because you can use that living space for a whole host of purposes: from having a kitchen installed, to creating a spacious play area or games room. You could have it as a sizeable office or as your utility room, freeing up space upstairs. Be aware, though, that there can be problems with basements – drainage can be difficult because ground water and waste have to be pumped up. Sarah Beeny’s advice is: ‘Keep the ceiling height high – no less than 8ft – and put in as many sources of natural light as you can via grilles, windows, stairwells and skylights. If you have any money over, spend it on a beautiful, open staircase down to the basement – it will transform the space.’

The only way is up
Rather than building an extension, consider the much cheaper option of converting your loft. This utilises an otherwise dead space and, since building regulations and planning permission requirements were relaxed in 2008, it’s easier to do than ever. Make sure your loft is at least 2.3m at its highest point, as this will give you plenty of headroom. ‘Create a dazzling space by making key elements – flooring, lighting, soft-furnishings and accessories – all work together harmoniously,’ says Sarah. ‘Ensure the staircase leading up to the loft is painted in the same colours as your lower halls so that it fits together as an integral part of the house, not as an afterthought.’ On average a loft conversion can cost from £32K-£55K, and double this for a detached house, but you can usually get your money back – and more – in the asking price when you sell.

Open house
Nowadays it’s all about fuelling the open-plan living phenomenon, where internal walls are smashed down to create one space synonymous with contemporary living. It creates a multi-functional space that appeals to a lot of buyers. ‘The ultimate challenge is to maintain the room’s open feeling with a single décor theme,’ says Sarah. ‘Use shelving to divide zones and use the same finishes for a clever uniform effect. It may not add value to your home but it will make it seem bigger, and this will appeal to families particularly.’ A word of warning: do have your walls checked by a structural engineer before you start smashing them down. It won’t be a problem if it’s a partition wall but you don’t want to be disturbing load-bearing walls!

This article was first published in at home with Sarah Beeny in December 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

Photograph: Getty Images

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