Across Australia, the drive is on to unleash our homes’ full potential and lifestyle value. Our renovation radars need to be focused on maximising the space, light and lifestyle appeal of what we already own.
Ask yourself how could a disused or neglected part of my home be made into a beautiful asset? Big-ticket items such as views, garages and pools are no longer the only assets. Rather in a hot property market, every inch counts. Once neglected areas such as side paths, old laundry rooms, tiny courtyards, overgrown yards and boxed in kitchens are now assets ready to be brought to life. In contemporary living terms, this means opening up and refreshing every inch of a space. Nothing has to be too dark, small or cluttered. Rather, emphasise what you already own.
One clear path to unleashing a home’s potential is through improving its floor plan. If you’ve ever attended an open for inspection it’s not unusual to hear buyers talking about knocking down a wall. No one wants to buy a place and be limited by a constricted floor plan. Removing walls is a well known strategy for transforming a space thanks to television programs like House Rules, Selling Houses, The Block and Grand Designs showcasing the results.
Knocking down a single wall, or numerous walls, has become a hugely popular solution for creating more light, space and value. Australians are world leaders when it comes to open plan living and there’s a huge premium placed on contemporary design to deliver free flowing spaces where the lounge room, kitchen and ideally, indoors and outdoors, merge.
There are certainly positives to rearranging a home’s floor plan through removing walls. But before you start knocking them down, please remember that when it comes to design, nothing is in isolation, rather it’s all connected.
Consider the following before undergoing your wall removal project:
- Acoustics: the more you open up a space, the more it creates echoes and noise problems. There is such a thing as too open when it comes to sound.
- Be careful about stripping a space of its character. Traditional buildings such as terraces, semis, cottages and pre-1960s apartments, were designed with separate rooms because privacy and warmth were of major importance compared to today’s premiums on light and space. With a traditional building, consider retaining the feeling of the building’s original spacing by leaving a beam where the wall once stood. Beams can also help give a sense of grace that suits traditional spaces. Sometimes, your mind wants to know that the beams are holding everything up so emotionally you feel safe and secure.
- Creating a social home that’s not too hectic. We all love the idea of the social home where the kitchen is at the heart of the action. It’s the place where everyone congregates and therefore it should be located in the best part of your site. In open plan living, the kitchen and lounge room create a feeling of connection rather than isolation. However, consider creating a sense of division somewhere amongst this openness once the wall/walls are removed. Try to create two living areas that give the opportunity for families to handle the complexities of sharing a space. For example, where are the kids going to play Lego where it’s not in the way of the adults? Perhaps consider a half wall, or a flexible solution like a bi-fold, which will give you the right amount of area division so kids have their own play space and aren’t on top of the adults. Then you have the best of both worlds.
At the end of the day, knocking down a wall can be all the difference in terms of space, light and a lovely home, but think very carefully about it, and do your planning, as you want openness but not over exposure.
—Joe Snell is an architect and judge on Channel 7’s House Rules, coming back to our screens soon. Read all articles by Joe.