The kitchen has risen to extreme prominence in recent years and has taken over from the living room as the hub of the home: a place to cook, chat, work, read and even for the kids to play. In the 70s and 80s everyone was knocking their living and dining rooms together for a through lounge, but now it's kitchens and dining rooms that are being combined as the very centre of domestic life, so it's really worth investing in this part of your home.
Increasing the connection between kitchen and garden through French or bi-folding doors and level thresholds is not only a clever way to blur the line between inside and out, it also injects a delightful spatial quality that's an absolute hit with buyers. Just be sure to use the correct supporting beam above the widened opening or you'll need an ugly column that interrupts the view you’ve just created.
Whether you are a minimalist, modernist, industrialist or traditionalist, you’ll find a kitchen design to suit you and your taste: from budget-friendly models at DIY stores like B&Q, through mid-range options like IKEA and Magnet, and right up to high-end luxury like Bulthaup and Poggenpohl. A budget either side of 5% of the value of your home - to include appliances - should net you a kitchen that will look great, be appropriate for your property, and win the hearts of buyers.
Choose the best appliances you can with your budget. They are better built, better functioning, longer lasting and more energy-efficient. If you want to save money, a good tip is to conceal appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, and fridge freezers behind cupboard doors and choose unbranded models from respected manufacturers. Alternatively, pick up mid- to high-end appliances that are 1 or 2 years old from eBay or specialist stores: they’ll still have plenty of life left in them and are a show of quality. Nobody needs to know that you didn't buy them new!
For worktops, think durability and practicality. Solid wood looks fabulous (but you need to oil and look after it), while marble, corian and quartz can be treated with utter disdain (but come at a hefty price). Composite stone is an excellent mid-range option, while cost-friendly laminates now come in a remarkable variety of colours as well as designs that emulate higher priced materials.
Glass splashbacks look super-sleek and are easy to clean with no grouting to discolour with the inevitable food splashes, while the hugely popular and versatile combination of white metro tiles with anthracite grouting goes with almost any style.
So what about the kitchen sink? A big porcelain Belfast sink is equally at home in traditional and contemporary designs; a deep black bowl is a bold choice for an industrial touch; minimalists or purists may stick with stainless steel as a material, but mounted under the countertop for cleaner lines.
Matching your taps to your handles is an easy way to create effortless synergy, with options now including copper, nickel and matt black as striking alternatives to standard chrome. For the ultimate streamlined appearance, go for handleless cupboards and drawers; or for something more earthy, leather pull tabs are a definite talking point.
The bathroom has a number of roles to play, from the place we get ready for work, to somewhere to wind down from the week, to bath time for the kids, to grooming for a night out.
If you plan to remodel your bathroom in a style that's different to the age of your home, opt for a look from a later period. Contemporary bathrooms look particularly fine in Victorian, Edwardian and 1930s interiors and make a wonderful combination alongside original architectural details.
Don't be afraid to replace the tub with a giant shower to reflect modern lifestyles. Most of us prefer the convenience and experience of a luxurious shower to a long soak, but bear in mind that a family may want a place for bathing small children. If that's the case and you have more then one bathroom, you only need a tub in one of them. For single bathrooms, consider adding a standalone shower cubicle or spend on a special shower fitting for over the bath.
To create the widest appeal while still reflecting your own personal taste, use walls, towels and textiles for your favourite bursts of colour, while keeping fittings, tiles and accessories to a monochrome or naturalistic design. One wall painted in a dramatic colour can transform an entire room in an afternoon and allows anyone buying your property later on to change the feel of the bathroom with minimal hassle or expense.
Tiles quite literally come in all shapes and sizes and you'll find all manner of plain and patterned designs to add personality to your bathroom without frightening anybody off. From Victorian encaustics to Moorish geometrics and contemporary porcelains, slates and ceramics: all are fantastic options. In fact, tiles can be an extremely cost-effective way of adding glamour to a bathroom while leaving more in your budget for high quality taps and fittings.
When it comes to accessorising, traditional homes can happily take Victorian or Deco style shower heads and taps, while contemporary bathrooms look their best with sleek modern brassware.
More space means more money: that's a fairly solid rule of property, so if you have the potential to increase the floor area of your home it's well worth exploring what's possible.
In Victorian homes, the side return in the back garden is often unused, but makes an excellent place for widening and extending the kitchen: imagine a glazed roof and a table below for dining under the sky, or installing a large and sociable cooking island for that authentic chef experience.
If there's a space to the side of your property - either at ground level or above a garage - adding extra rooms can introduce you to a higher price bracket and a whole new audience. Additional bedrooms will you open you up to larger households with more members, while new rooms on the ground floor can deliver a place to work, run a business from home, or simply an extra space for a larger family to spread out.
But not every extension needs to be big on size or an enormous project: a small single-storey extension to a living room at the back of a property can add extra space, extra light and an eye-catching architectural presence that takes the room beyond the building line and into the garden.
Making use of storage areas you already have and repurposing them for extra floorspace is a wise and nifty move. As well as giving yourself additional rooms, you'll add value to your property and avoid some of the planning issues that can come with extensions.
Thoughts will naturally turn first to the loft and most houses with a pitched roof will probably lend themselves to some type of conversion.
A particular favourite among homeowners and buyers is a sumptuous primary suite at the top of the house with a bedroom, dressing area and private bath, with extra points for a dormer and Juliet balcony, or even a private terrace cut into the roof line. Alternatively, if you've got a big household and teenagers wanting their own cave to retreat to, loft spaces convert well into a pair of bedrooms with a shared shower room.
However you choose to convert your loft, there's no need to worry about where to put your junk: the edges of the eaves are perfect for creating plenty of storage cupboards where the ceiling height drops below a metre.
But the roof isn't the only area that offers itself up for a transformation. If you have a cellar, there are numerous uses that can – with proper damp-proofing – take the space under your house from bunker and store room to something decidedly more modern and valuable.
For musicians, cellars can make an excellent production studio or rehearsal room where no light is required and where adding some extra soundproofing can deliver the ideal place to hide away and create.
Depending on the size of your cellar, you could go for a cinema room for the whole family, a playroom for just the children, or even a study, art room or a place for work and receiving clients.
If you want to inject some natural light, you have a number of options: walkover glass in the entrance hall; glazed risers in the staircase; or replacing the timber panelling adjacent to the cellar door with glass.
People are forever finding new ways for houses to retain their character while introducing contemporary design and lifestyle elements to improve and expand a home's functionality while remaining true to the original architecture.
The limit is really your imagination, but other ideas that have gone down really well with buyers and that add an extra quality and value to a home include:
- creating a downstairs cloakroom from an understairs cupboard. Great if you're cooking or gardening and don't want to have to dash upstairs, or for when the family returns from a muddy walk and you don't want footprints all the way through the house. Also to simply avoid being caught short when the main bathroom is occupied!
- turning the middle bedroom on the first floor of a Victorian house into a dressing room and ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom across the front of the house for a sumptuous sleeping sanctuary.
- enlarging the bathroom on the half landing by using part of the rear bedroom to allow for a standalone shower without sacrificing the number of bedrooms.
- adding luxury or landscaping to gardens where a surge in popularity has occurred since lockdown kept us all at home: even the least green-fingered buyers are seeing the value in having a personal place to get outside. Fire pits, outdoor dining areas, modern ponds and sophisticated audio/ lighting are all extremely photogenic options and elevate your garden beyond a straightforward lawn or patio.
So, are you inspired? Have we given you pause for thought, things to consider or ideas of your own to add value, design and beauty to your home? We'd love to hear what you're up to.