Create more space and add value with a loft extension
As a way to enhance your home and add extra floor space, a loft extension is a no-brainer. Popular since the Seventies, it's a sound investment if you get it right. But the attic room that Alison Burns, 49, and her partner, Paul Davies, 50, inherited when they bought a tall, skinny Victorian house in Highbury, north London, for £218,000 in 1993, was not right.
The roof had a very acute pitch so the room was about 15ft tall at its highest point, dropping sharply to waist height. It was also a difficult shape, with angles and odd corners making the positioning of furniture difficult. Its appearance was not helped by exposed service pipes and rows of wonky shelves.
With three other bedrooms to choose from, they could be forgiven for just leaving the space for extra storage, but what tempted them into action was one unique selling point: from the attic room, you could get to a small terrace overlooking the back garden, accessed via a set of French windows and with good views across the area.
For this reason, the couple, who share the house with their 15-year-old Tibetan terrier, Cally, wanted to use the attic room as their main bedroom. "It was a very awkward space," said Alison, who works as a volunteer for the charity Dress for Success (dressforsuccess.org.uk). "We put the bed in the dormer window at the front of the house but we regularly hit our heads when we got up, and it was all very, very ugly."
The rear of the room was taken up by a wooden platform, around 3ft high, edged with a bannister rail and accessed by steps. It had room for a desk and not much else. The space beneath it was dead, but it did provide access to the terrace.
In 2010, the couple decided something had to be done and enlisted the services of interior designer Kia Sunda (kiadesigns.co.uk). They simply found her on the internet and liked the look of her designs.
She drew up plans to enlarge the platform into a space large enough for a bed and side tables, and solved the problem of the lack of storage by building deep drawers into it. To save space, the bedside lights were wired into the wall, as was the TV.
Kia dealt with the ugly back wall by cladding it in stained oak panels, hiding a series of concealed cupboards and a grid of display shelves, then the wardrobe was built in a small gap beside the door.
Yellow is very much the theme of this scheme — picked up in the drawer handles, display shelves which give a splash of colour on the oak-clad wall, and the bespoke yellow and green rug and striped blinds. Designer touches include a modern cluster chandelier by Kathleen Hills (kathleenhills.co.uk) and a low bed from Warren Evans (warrenevans.com).
"We thought we were giving up space for the enlarged platform, but we have ended up with more storage than we need," said Alison. The fabric blinds were designed specially for the room's two sets of windows because of their unusual shape, and ended up costing about a quarter of the total budget, which was £17,500 — "But they look fabulous!" The couple said hiring an interior designer was worth every penny. "It was a difficult space to sort out," added Paul, who is a government adviser. "And we needed someone with fresh eyes and flair."
They paid Kia a one-off fee for the room of £1,500, plus a buying fee for the pieces that she helped them to source. "That was 20 per cent, but then she gets a trade discount, so it works out about even," said Alison.
Extending the plinth cost about £1,500, cladding the wall cost about £2,500 and the wardrobe was £1,400. The rest of the money was spent on those blinds, as well as furnishing and decoration.
Extra room at the top is a reliable way to add value
Adding floor space is the quickest way to increase the value of a property, with extra bedrooms particularly in demand. According to recent research by Savills and the Building Cost Information Service, which monitors the price of residential projects, a loft conversion, typically costing £40,000, can add around 10 to 20 per cent to the value of a property, making it a cost-effective improvement.
A conservatory will add between five and 12 per cent value, at a cost of up to £19,000, while a ground-floor extension could add up to 25 per cent to a property's value, at a cost of up to £18,000. A basement extension could add 20 per cent but will cost around £250,000 for a basic project.
Pictures by Charles Hosea