Dermot Bannon: How to make the most of a redundant playroom
The architect and TV star answers your home improvement questions.
How can we make the most of a redundant playroom?
Our two-storey house is semi-detached. Next to our kitchen, we have a playroom that is no longer used. Our children have grown up and it has become redundant. Our two concerns are:
1. We would like to knock down the load-bearing wall between the two rooms and open the kitchen out into the playroom. The playroom has double doors leading into the living room. We'd like to keep most of the kitchen but would love to put in a wood-burning stove. Is it possible to do so on a budget?
2. The kitchen and playroom are at the back of the house so they can get quite dark. We have a sliding door and French doors that need to be replaced. How would you lay out a living, dining and kitchen area in this space, and what flooring would you recommend?
We would love to hear any ideas that could improve the space.
Thank you very much for your letter, you are in the same boat as a lot of my clients when the last child leaves the house and you are left with the empty nest syndrome. As your relationship with your house moves into another stage, I think it's a really good time to re-assess what you want from your home and what you want it to do for you. There is nothing worse than having a load of unused rooms you only visit from time to time, they can end up a bit like a shrine to how life in the house used to be - great for memories but not much use to you, especially when the spaces you are using are small.
I am assuming that the living room that you mention at the front of the house is in everyday use so it doesn't really make sense to keep the playroom especially if it is never used. Your existing kitchen and dining feel a little small and you could definitely benefit from the extra space. So yes, I would seriously consider knocking down the wall between the two rooms to create a bit of extra space - but be careful how you go about it.
Once you knock down the walls you have two options; either to create a living/ seating space in the kitchen or a larger kitchen/ dining room. As this space is connected to the living room at the front of the house (I wouldn't lose this as it will bring light right through the house from the front), you may not need a second living space, or you may like the idea of a little seating area in the kitchen. You are the only person who can decide this as only you know how you use the house. If you decide that you need that second seating area within the house I would leave it within the existing playroom as it would be a lot cosier and intimate as a hangout space, this could then be subdivided using the stove or a built-in shelving unit.
If you are happy to just maintain the living room to the front but need the extra space in the kitchen, I would use the playroom space as a dining area, leaving more space in the kitchen to stretch out the island unit towards the back wall of the kitchen giving you a lot more worktop preparation space. This would then face back into the dining area giving a nice connection to that room and also the garden.
You mentioned in your letter that you would like to put a stove into this area. If you are maintaining the seating snug off the kitchen, I would consider using the stove to separate the two areas like a mini room divider. You could even consider using a double-sided stove that could be seen from both the snug and the kitchen/dining area. Using a room divider will give the lovely open plan feel and make the kitchen and dining space feel bigger, but it will make the seating space feel cosier, almost like a snug in a pub - yes you are part of a bigger space but it can close in around you when you need it to. If you intend to use the old playroom as a dining area I would position the stove on the old back wall of this room so you can see it from everywhere, but do make sure it's not too close to the dining table as it may be a little uncomfortable if it gets too hot.
If the budget would stretch to it, it would be really nice to open up the back corner of the current dining area to the garden. Even though there is an existing set of double doors already leading from this room, I would be dying to remove the part of the wall where the clock is and replace it with a glazed corner which will open up this space to the wonderful garden you have beyond. This will automatically make the entire space feel bigger and much brighter.
With regards to floor materials, I would try to keep it quite simple and keep it as natural as possible. The tiles in the room do make it feel quite cold and utilitarian so I would look to change that up and introduce a bit of timber which could run right through the entire area, or you could keep some tiles or stone in the wet area of the kitchen.
Enjoy the extra space that you have now reclaimed in your home and good luck with the project.
The new series of 'Room to Improve' airs on RTÉ1 on Sunday, February 7 at 9.30pm
Dermot's next column will appear on February 27. If you would like him to solve your house problems, email a detailed description to email@example.com. Please include photographs of the building.
4 inspirational ideas
Mix it up
Tiles or stone in the kitchen area look well when paired with a warming timber floor.
“If the budget would stretch to it, it would be really nice to open up the back of the existing dining area to the garden... it will automatically make the entire space feel bigger and brighter.”
Warming room divider
A well-placed stove can act as a room divider, which will give a lovely open-plan feel, while simultaneously creating a cosy seating area.
More than just storage
A seating area can be made cosy not only with a stove, but also a built-in shelving unit.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Opening up the dining area to the garden not only affords a wonderful view, but also helps to bring the outside in which brings a relaxed feel to the space.