Space in a crowded city like London comes at a premium, but clever interior design can help you maximise the room you have. From mirror placement to lighting and bespoke joinery, Gerard Ellis and Malcom Thorpe from Jones Lambell LLP, a south London-based architectural and interior design practice, share their top five space-making tips
Lead image: Andreas von Einsiedel for Jones Lambell
1 Use mirrors
For narrow or small spaces, consider using mirrors to clad a wall, or a large framed mirror. Mirrors along a wall makes the space feel much larger and reflects light throughout. It can also provide an interesting feature. This often works well in an entrance hall.
2 Light colours
The use of colour has a large influence on the perception of space. Light, soft colours tend to make spaces feel larger as they reflect more light. Painting skirting boards the same colour as the walls can also increase the apparent height of the room.This being said, don’t be afraid to paint a really small space like a guest WC a strong, vibrant colour. Not only will this make the room feel sumptuous and grand, but it will make it a talking point.
3 Furniture placement
Get the scale of furniture right for the room. For low ceiling rooms, be aware of the height of your furniture. Consider a low bed or low sofa and a small bedroom or small living room will feel much larger. Often, large furniture can swamp a space. Also, don’t be afraid of mixing old and new pieces together.
Carefully consider your lighting, especially if you have a small living room or kitchen. The lighting layout should relate to the furniture layout where possible, and the use of the room. For living rooms and bedrooms, try to avoid over-populating the ceiling with spotlights. Subtle use of light and shadow can add depth and focus to spaces. Consider using wall lights and free-standing lights to create atmosphere.
5 Bespoke joinery
Consider how to utilise all the areas of a room, especially ‘awkward spaces’ such as alcoves and chimney breasts. Alcoves are great for integrated joinery units, which can be useful for storage, freeing up space in the rest of the living room.
Should I consider extending my home?
Of course, there’s only so much a clever colour scheme can do if your family is expanding. If the budget won’t stretch to a four bedroom detached home, then consider an extension. Get it right and you can you create significantly more space and boost the value of your property. But what kind of extension is suitable for your home?
Small extension and reconfiguration
A small addition like a side return or closet-wing extension can open-up the back of the house to create spacious family rooms with a direct link to the rear garden. Victorian properties, which often have a closet wing or narrow passageway along the side of the house, lend themselves to this. Combining a small extension with some internal reconfiguration, like moving a staircase, can create a stunning result for the sake of a minor intervention.
Rear in-fill additions to the ground floor and lower-ground floor have always been popular with period properties. If your property is part of a terrace, an infill extension between the closet wing and adjacent property should be easily achievable. In this situation a contemporary, lightweight design is often viewed favourably by the local authority. Rear extensions with bi-fold doors out onto the garden are a great way to maximise space and plenty of natural light into your property.
It is often possible to convert the roof space into an additional bedroom with an en suite bathroom. This is usually achieved in conjunction with an extension to the roof at the rear of the property. If your property is Georgian or Victorian and part of a terrace, a mansard roof extension would be a good option. A mansard roof is traditional on period properties and is common across London. It provides a further storey to the building and can achieve significant space internally.
A basement extension is a big undertaking and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it in terms of the space you can create and the uplift in the value of your property. 10 years ago the majority of our basement extensions were in Kensington and Chelsea, but now we’re seeing more of them south of the river, where the increase in house prices has made it a worthwhile investment.
Basement extensions allow you to create large open-plan family rooms and living space. It also frees up the house above from utilities and laundry rooms, which can be accommodated in the basement. Getting natural light into a basement extension the key to creating a comfortable, spacious living environment.
What if my property is listed?
There are a lot more constraints when it comes to listed buildings. You’re not generally allowed to add a basement below the property, but you can often create a basement extension under the rear garden (normally restricted to one storey and 50% of the garden area). With listed buildings, it’s usually a small extension to the rear, or an infill extension to the closet wing. If your property is not listed, but in a Conservation Area, there is much more flexibility to what you can achieve with internal reconfiguration and extensions.
Where do you start with a home extension?
The advantage of using a company like Jones Lambell is that we can assist through the whole process and can often achieve results above and beyond initial expectations. We like to work right the way through a project, starting from the initial ideas, achieving planning permissions, finding contractors and dealing with those contractors during the course of the works on site to achieve the best possible result.
Jones Lambell LLP is located at Studio 2, 1 Eastfields Avenue, Wandsworth SW18 1FQ. Call 020 7801 0822 or see jlad.co.uk