Room to Improve's Dermot Bannon on rejuvenating your updated spaces
The architect and TV star answers your home improvement questions.
How can we revamp our 1980s home?
My husband and I recently bought a three-bed semi-detached house built in the early 1980s. It's in a lovely location in the centre of our town. Unfortunately the decor has not been touched since it was built. The room sizes are generally small and storage is an issue. It's two storeys with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, kitchen/diner downstairs, living room and a converted garage.
The house in Mullingar
Our concerns are:
1 We love to entertain and have dinner parties, we regularly have both our families around. When we viewed the house there was only a small kitchen table with no space to extend. How do we lay out the kitchen so that we can fit a good-sized dining table in it, keeping a small living area, without adding an extension as our budget for renovation is very tight?
2 We need to convert one room into an office. Do we sacrifice one of the upstairs bedrooms or loose the converted garage even though the extra living space is great to have?
3 The master bedroom is small and has a pelmet of wardrobes for storage which I absolutely loathe. I'd rather have my clothes on the floor than keep it. What could we do instead if we take this out?
Thank you for your e-mail and congratulations on your new home. The problems with the layout of your house is something I come across all the time in housing developments. Standard house layouts really haven't changed in over 100 years! We are still building houses with the good room to the front, the good dining room behind it and the kitchen where we spend 90pc of our time the smallest room at the rear of the house. What it looks like here is that the previous owners have knocked through from the kitchen to the good dining area at the rear to create a living space adjacent to the kitchen which would have created a nice family living room, but the dining area is compromised.
I think in every family home the dining area is hugely important - it is, in most cases, the centre of family life in a home. In older houses the table was always given pride of place in the kitchen as everything revolved around it. With the advent of the built-in kitchen, the new shiny kitchen cupboards are taking pride of place clinging up against all the kitchen walls taking up more and more of the room. With an abundance of worktop space the kitchen table was getting shoved into smaller and smaller corners. You can see in your house that the only dining space in the house was under the phone on the wall up against the radiator, not the nicest spot to spend a couple of hours at a dinner party!
In order to get a good dining space without extending the room you will need to be a bit clever with the layout of the space. I would use the space along the back wall of the kitchen - where the oven is now - for all your built-in units including ovens, fridge, freezer and a worktop space for your hob. I would then turn the existing sink unit 90 degrees to form a peninsula with the sink unit in it. If you leave about 140cm between the back units and the peninsula and make the peninsula 90cm deep it will then leave enough space for the dining table.
If you can afford to, I would widen the opening between the kitchen and the living area and bring the top of the arch right up to the ceiling. This will mean that the demarcation between the two spaces will be less, especially if you maintain the same floor space throughout. Budget-dependant, I would then open up the back wall of the house as much as possible to the garden to make the whole room feel wider. It doesn't have to be a big wide opening, it can be divided into a series of smaller windows. This will bring the steel and the labour costs down but do bring the windows to the ground or 45cm from the ground with a window seat in it.
This should result in a rectangular space divided into three; the kitchen, a much better dining space and a living area all opening out to the garden.
The next item in your question is regarding a space for an office. You didn't tell me if you need all the bedrooms you have upstairs so I will make the assumption that you don't. To my mind the best place for a home office is as far away from the living space as possible - unless you need to keep an eye on things downstairs! The only exception to this is if you tend to have meetings in the office, then you may not want to have people traipsing through your house and up your stairs past bedrooms. My other concern with your house is that if you don't have another purpose for your converted garage it will become a redundant room if you maintain a living space in the kitchen and a front room. An unused bedroom can become a walk-in wardrobe or an en-suite to the bedroom it is adjacent to it. If you are not going to use the garage room I would suggest sub-dividing it to become two-thirds office to the front and one-third utility room connected to the kitchen space behind it, which will give you that much needed storage space.
The final part of your question is in relation to the wardrobes in your bedroom. I have always disliked this arrangement myself - it makes the bedroom feel very cluttered and smaller than it actually is. This arrangement of up and over the bed was to allow the bed to be tight up against the wall because the room was not wide enough to take a bed and have wardrobes on the opposite wall, you simply wouldn't have enough space to walk around the end of the bed. You need 290cm from the bed head to the front of the wardrobe for the room to work. If you do replace them and the room isn't wide enough, you will need to place them on a perpendicular wall beside the entrance to the room. It looks as if the door to the en-suite is on the same wall so this may need to move over to allow a longer wall space, or alternatively you could command the bedroom you were going to use as the office as a walk-in wardrobe!
Good luck with the project.
4 inspirational ideas
1 Come together
A kitchen, dining and living room operating together is ideal for modern family living.
2 Lounging around
Perfect for after-dinner entertaining
Having your dining and living room together creates a relaxing, inclusive atmosphere.
3 Eat, drink and be merry
Put and end to cramped table seating
Letting the dining table take priority in a space will promote a comfortable dining experience - your guests will be happy to linger here long after dinner is served!
4 Let there be light
Free the wall space
A kitchen organised in linear fashion, pulled away from the wall, will capture the light.