remodelled cottage with new staircase in Wandsworth, London

7 ways to remodel your home

Ideas for gaining space, light and a better layout

By Caroline Rodrigues | 7 March 2022

Sometimes reworking the interior arrangement and architectural elements of your home provides all the extra quality and functionality of space you need – without having to spend a fortune. But where do you start, when considering how to remodel your house?

‘Investing in spatial aspects such as openings between rooms, better glazed doors, a bigger roof-light that will bring more light into your home is worthwhile and will have a long-term value,’ says architect Kim Loddo of Inglis Badrashi Loddo.

First things first, will you need planning permission to remodel your house?

Aside from basements and some loft conversions, internal remodelling projects don’t usually require planning permission, unless your home is listed. But before you get too far down the line, check with your council and the Planning Portal.

For small projects you may only need a builder, but an architect or design-and-build studio will prove invaluable for reworking spaces and for complex projects. If you’re in a terraced or semi-detached house, any work that affects the party wall will require a Party Wall Agreement with your neighbours. And all work must meet Building Regulations.

ideas for remodelling your house: Mulroy Architects moved the staircase and created a basement extension

Mulroy Architects moved the staircase to a central position and removed a floor to allow views down into the new basement dining area in this four-bedroom house. Photo: Dan Glasser

1. Open plan or broken plan?

Weigh up the advantages of going open plan against the need for privacy and quiet areas – this will relate to the type of activities you will use the spaces for. Sometimes a broken plan layout is the answer, such as with a partial wall or level changes between spaces.

‘The separation creates areas for different uses,’ says Steve Clinch, Head Architect at Echlin architectural design and development studio. ‘A broken plan suits everyone from single people who don’t want a cavernous space to couples wanting separate areas for hobbies or work, and families who will use the spaces differently as kids grow up. It’s important to seek professional advice on the structure and building regulations implications.’

2. Moving walls

Reconfiguring a layout may involve removing one or more walls and building new ones. If you are taking down a loadbearing wall, the opening must be supported by a steel joist (RSJ). Seek professional advice from a surveyor, architect or structural engineer who can identify if a wall is loadbearing and oversee the work. Partition walls can be removed or repositioned without an RSJ.

‘Moving walls is a good solution when the budget is tight,’ says James Gostelow, director at Zaluga Developments. But knocking down the walls of a built-in cupboard may require you to replace the storage space you will lose somewhere else.

Zaluga Developments removed a structural wall between the dining room and kitchen in this Putney apartment

Zaluga Developments removed a structural wall between the dining room and kitchen in this Putney apartment. Photo: @andrewbeasleyphoto

3. Shifting the staircase

Altering the stairs can be one of the most effective ways to remodel your house. The options range from changing the position or direction of a straight run to installing a cantilevered stair, adding winders to create turns, or opting for a helical or space-saving spiral design.

It can be a tricky task since every detail is strictly regulated. Building Regulations control the height and depth of each step, the permissible gap between open treads, the rake – or angle – the headroom (which is usually 2m) and handrail requirements. Your architect or staircase supplier should take care of all of this.

Skylight above a helical timber staircase in this Knightsbridge house

Echlin moved the kitchen to a new basement level and added a skylight above the helical timber staircase in this Knightsbridge house. Photo: Taran Wilkhu

4. Taking out a fireplace

When not used for a fire or stove, the chimney breast of a period home can be removed to free up floorspace. As it is structural element, if you’re removing a chimney breast at ground or first-floor level but leaving any on the floors above intact, a structural engineer must calculate the support needed to secure the ones that remain. The exterior chimney stack can also be removed, and the roof repaired by your contractor.

Architecture practice Patalab rearranged and extended a Victorian cottage in Wandsworth to create more space

Architecture practice Patalab rearranged the layout of a Victorian cottage in London that was just 4m wide. The staircase was moved and a new two-storey extension added. Photo: Julian Abrams