How to incorporate awkward structure into your design

Don’t let a nuisance nook or bulky beam thwart your design plans – embrace them with our clever ideas.

By Seoana Sherry-Brennan, Fireplace | 22 March 2017

Don’t let a nuisance nook or bulky beam thwart your design plans – embrace them with our clever ideas.

How to incorporate awkward structure into your design 5

Image: Sharps

Self-builders starting from scratch have the advantage of carefully considering how structural elements will impact on the design and layout of their projects, whereas those who take on a renovation are often stuck with features they don’t know what to do with.

As open-plan living has become more popular, components that are necessary to the structure of your home that aren’t aesthetically appealing are a more common issue.

Whether it’s a steel support in the middle of a room or a sloping ceiling in a loft conversion, it can be both expensive and difficult to change or remove these architectural elements.

Instead, consider how to incorporate these structures into your design, to create either a useful feature or a new focal point.

Practical Pillars

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Image: Sue Murphy Interiors

A common and difficult structural element is a load-bearing pillar. When load-bearing walls are modified to form open-plan layouts, it often leaves columns that can’t be removed without compromising the stability of your property.

These can stick out from a wall or stand in the middle of a space and so it becomes necessary to find a way to include them in your design.

With kitchen and living spaces being the most common areas to employ an open-plan approach, it is often here you’ll find pillars. As well as taking up space, they can also affect the flow of a kitchen, so must be the first decision when designing a layout.

The best way to incorporate a column into a design is to make it functional. You can integrate storage, such as a bookshelf or wine rack, or position chairs and a built-in table around a pillar to form a niche seating area.

A key consideration in how you deal with a pillar is whether you want it to stand out in a space or blend into the background. By cladding it in a striking material or painting it in a bold hue, you create a stylish new feature that looks as though it was purpose-built.

Similarly, paint can be used to disguise a pillar and minimise its visual impact, either by using a uniform colour or tonal palette.