Researching home improvements: design inspiration

Many of us seek inspiration for our homes in the pages of interior magazines, the Sunday supplements or property shows on television, which can all be great sources of style tips. Quite often though,we struggle to see how examples may work in our own house or flat. Magazines often feature the spectacular or the outlandish, with homes similar to our own not always getting a look in.

You  will be glad to hear there is a great, free resource for finding out what you can do with a home just like yours. You won’t even have to travel that far or make too much of an effort to access this resource. Why? Because it’s simply your street and the ones that surround it.

The houses within your area will have the same look, dimensions and materials as your own, the architects are likely to be the same and you can be sure that those who live there have tried just about everything that can be done with a home just like yours.

Image Source: House To Home

Avoid wearing a striped jumper or carrying a bag marked ‘swag’ to avoid the suspicions of the local neighbourhood watch and simply set about a stroll around your local area, either with your partner or by yourself. Take a notebook and pencil, a camera or your smartphone and a willingness to be a bit more nosy than normal.

Researching style and trends in your neighbourhood means looking up, looking around you and, occasionally, peeking over the fence. Be as bold or as surreptitious as you like but be sure to take a good stroll three or four streets each way around your home if you can (and if you don’t live in a rural village). You will be surprised and pleased to find that every combination of windows, doors, colour palettes, porches and plant pots will have been tried out on the front of the houses that you see as you walk down your street.

Image Source: The Design Files

You can spot the prevailing trends, see what you love, what you hate and be inspired by ideas that you otherwise would not have thought of. You can fall in love with battleship grey window frames and pistachio door paint, develop a shameful love of pebble dash and even notice period features that may be missing from your own home. It is easy to spot the homes that really work and hold together as a piece of designed homeliness.

The real fun comes when you start to look beyond the facades and fronts of homes. Peering through the curtains may tell you what your living room may look like if you knock it through to the kitchen, but looking inside a home is an invasion of privacy of sorts. You’ll also learn more just by looking around the side and the back of neighbouring homes.

Image Source: Design Chic

You may just find an ingenious way to store your wheelie bins but you are most likely to see what has been done in the way of add-ons and extensions. This will give you an idea of the scale of what is permitted in your area but also what looks best. A two-storey extension may give you more room but will it overshadow your garden? Does your garden have space for a home office? Can anyone really create a well-designed garden in the space you have?

Take a partner or even a builder friend around with you if you don’t know what to look out for. At the very least you will get some good exercise, have the chance to meet a new neighbour and pet some local cats. With any luck, you may just find what you have been looking for…

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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