Family all hanging out in separate rooms? Dining room table gathering dust while you eat in the kitchen? Feel cut off from the garden when you’re inside? You don’t need to up sticks and find a brand new house to get the open-plan layout that would suit the way you want to live. Extending can bring you the benefits of open-plan living without the hassle and expense of moving.
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Many of our homes were built for a different way of life with cooking, eating, and entertaining taking place in separate rooms. Kitchens were purely functional and not spaces to spend time in and the washing facilities bore no relation to today’s sanctuary-style bathrooms. When your own house was built, it may have had no central heating system, and its insulation and glazing may be nowhere near modern standards even if it’s relatively new.
In the 21st century, many of us would rather opt for layouts that are more open – at least on the ground floor of our houses – and although it’s possible just to knock rooms through to create a less rigid layout, building a new extension will give you far more flexibility to rework the downstairs of your home, in addition, of course, to a larger total floor area.
Image Source: Graff Developments
Creating a new layout
When you’re planning the work, consider the ground floor of the house as a whole. Do you want to combine cooking and dining only? Is a relaxed seating area important, too, so guests and family can be with you if you’re preparing a meal?
Consider the natural light that reaches your rooms as well. Rather than have small, separate and darker rooms, creating a completely or largely open plan space that flows from your new extension can mean better illumination throughout the ground floor. You can maximise the effect by including a generous amount of glazing at the back and even at the sides of your extension. Folding, sliding doors or a similar design will allow you to open the space right up to the garden in the summer, and will maintain the link between the two spaces even when the weather’s cold. Roof windows can also be included in an extension design, which will also help boost the natural light coming into not just the new area but throughout an open downstairs layout.
It also pays to think about the views through the space. Going open plan can mean that rooms at the front of the house that only overlooked the street can have a perspective through other functional areas to the garden beyond.
Image source: Apropos
You’ll need to keep in mind the practical aspects of the open-plan layout you create. The working area of the kitchen needs to be well away from the areas that people will use to move through the room, for example, and doors to the garden must be unobstructed. Noise and privacy can also be issues, so consider if you’d like to include any half-height walls or other partitions to a TV area, or homework space. Make sure you pick an extractor that won’t drown out talk around the dining table or mean that the TV has to be turned right up while it’s running. If laundry appliances are going to be located in the kitchen too, choose the quietest designs.
Storage can also be an issue in open-plan designs with less wall space available for cupboards and shelves than in separate rooms. Plan for built-in pieces in the new extension and the spaces that will be opened up, so you don’t end up compromising the free-flowing layout.
Think about the area outside the extension as well. A patio or deck immediately beyond it can mean a space-enhancing blurring of the boundary between the two – especially if you choose a flooring that’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor surfaces so it’s continuous – while using a timber cladding for the outside of the extension and in the garden will reinforce the link.
Image source: Neville Johnson
Planning and building
Your new extension may not need planning permission if it falls under permitted development rules. However, this will depend on factors including the size of what you’re planning, where you live, and whether the house has been extended before. You would also need to adhere to the current criteria for it to be a permitted development. Always contact the planning department at your local authority to check before you go ahead.
Whether you need planning permission or not, it’s vital your new extension, together with any internal alterations to create the open-plan layout, complies with the building regulations. You can apply for approval through your local council.
Calling in professionals
To help you design your new living space, you can work with a builder who offers a design service, or an architect together with a builder. Ask to see examples of previous projects – especially those involving houses of a similar age, which can help you visualise what’s possible.
When it comes to costs, you’ll need to budget from around £1,800 per square metre for a single storey extension, plus the work involved with demolishing walls internally together with any structural support needed.