Thank you to Alasdair Melville of Hawk & Chadwick Estate Agents in Harpenden, Hertfordshire for this months Guest Blog – enjoy!
The question often arises after having bought a home, whether it’s your first or your sixth, of making modifications to the décor, the layout or even completely adapting the space to suit your needs and those of your family.
Our living space is becoming ever more personalized, and as the cost of materials and the cost of labour has dropped over the years, more and more homes are undergoing transformation to suit the widening demands of the modern household, from home office spaces to stunning bathrooms and using new materials and techniques to create stunning interior spaces that range from the functional to the impressive, and also from the sublime to the ridiculous.
A British Tradition
Home modification and property refurbishment is nothing new – many wealthy land owners in the 16th and 17th century engaged popular architects such as Sir John Soane to make dramatic and intriguing edits to grand mansions such as removing walls to create long galleries and installing extensions with additional rooms or secret passages, and a great deal of thought being installed into dramatic views across the English countryside.
Interestingly, at this period in history many of these modifications were not down to personal comforts at all, but merely embodied the insatiable desire to entertain and impress ones guests and visitors with ever increasing splendor and grandeur, even to the point where incredible edifices displaying innumerable wealth were constructed purely for entertaining, such as the famous Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire.
With the rise of the middle class and the rise of equality over the last 200 years, particularly after the building booms in the 1930s and 1950s, a huge number of us are lucky enough to own our homes, and the thirst for personalization has brought about an international interest in interior design – just look at the explosion of homewares sections in major retail stores and DIY outlets. You can’t walk in without being faced by a rack of cute cushions and glittery wooden signs with instructions on where to ‘bath’ or ‘relax’.
The choice of materials is now far greater, with a huge number of options for interior furnishings, as well as building and flooring materials allowing owners to create fantastic combinations which are aesthetically pleasing but also highly functional – something that wasn’t always possible in Soane’s time.
A Cash Cow
It’s true that property refurbishment in the home can be something you do simply to make your experience easier, or more enjoyable, but inevitably the ultimate question of money comes into play – and making modifications, if done sympathetically, will almost certainly add value to your home, unless you want something really unusual like a kitchen which is an exact replica of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, but on the whole creating a usable working space which flows well and sports elements of comfort for different occasions is likely to be a winner.
The biggest mistakes I’ve seen with home extensions and re-appointing rooms for different uses have solely been borne out of lack of funds or overly ambitious projects. Extensions to create an extra room are likely to cost at least £12,000 and will often require a somewhat laborious process of planning consents and building regulations approvals, but if well thought out and carefully planned, the results can be stunning and add a wow factor which will far exceed the outlay when the time comes to finally move on to your next project.
Is extending right for you?
Nobody can really tell you whether you should modify or extend your home as it’s an entirely personal choice dictated by your needs and your finances – certainly if you wanted a TV in the bathroom, a new window seat or a flashy new kitchen, that’s entirely personal taste and if carried out in a widely popular style it’s not going to put off anyone when you eventually sell, but if you’re planning something a little more ambitious such as a garage conversion, an extension or creating a fully operable flight simulator in the downstairs cloakroom, a good place to start is by understanding the current value of your asset, and look at where your market position might be once the work is complete.
Property refurbishment is no mean feat and should not be conducted in a slapdash fashion, as an increasing number of properties are unique and no two homes are the same, or have the same appealing features. An expert opinion on price will allow you to work out the sums and ultimately address whether your choice is one you’re making to add value, or just something you want to do because you’d like to make it your own and price isn’t an object.