Home renovation: open plan living

Next in the series of posts about our home renovation is our open plan space. Originally you came into the house along a tiny corridor which wrapped itself around the house - we’re talking flatten yourself against the wall and take a deep inward breath to let anyone pass tiny - off of which came the stairs and the kitchen, an L shaped lounge, a downstairs bathroom and a dining room (without any central heating very strangely). From the dining room you could then access our double garage and patio doors led you back out to the small courtyard by the front door. The flow in the downstairs was completely wrong and none of the rooms really worked or made full use of the space. The kitchen was bright orange and on the smaller side, there was a downstairs shower room (downstairs toilet, great, downstairs shower room, not so much) and the dining room was oddly located and absolutely freezing! 

The old living room

The old living room

The wrap around corridor with classic sixties room divider

The wrap around corridor with classic sixties room divider

The bright orange kitchen

The bright orange kitchen

The freezing cold dining room

The freezing cold dining room

We decided to completely overhaul the entire space: block up the front door, turn the dining room into the hallway and turn the stairs so that they would come out of this room, knock out the corridor walls, the kitchen walls and the entire downstairs bathroom to create one large open plan space coming off the hall. We then stole three quarters of the garage to create a snug, a utility space and a downstairs toilet. The remainder of the garage could only be accessed from the front of the house and acts as a great storage space. 

It was a pretty big job as we ended up needing to put 5 steels into the ceiling to hold the house up across the open plan area. As with all renovations we found a few things like supporting brick columns that needed new bricks being built into it because the wrong ones had been used! It also meant that we had to turn the gas and water off right at the start of the build so our plan to live around the builders for as long as possible went completely out the window and we had to vacate and stay with family. 

As with upstairs we wanted a Scandi look for downstairs with neutral colours (are you surprised?!). We also wanted to maximise as much light as possible - the back of the house is north west facing so whilst it’s lovely and cool on hot summer days, it doesn’t get a huge amount of light and not until the late afternoon. We placed floor length windows in the living room area and big French doors in the dining area. The kitchen window gets beautiful morning light which lights up the space so we’ve kept that window free of any blind. At one point we were tempted to get bifolds across the back space and whilst it could have been visually impressive I really don’t think they’re all that practical in the UK. 

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We had to replace all of the flooring and went for a light oak floorboard throughout the whole space (except the snug - that’s for another post). We spent a good while trying lots of samples in all the different spaces at different times of the day to really test the colours. I was determined to get one that would look as close to white oak as possible with no yellowing. I’m really happy with the colour we chose although if we did it again we both said we would put real wood down rather than an engineered wood and forego the underfloor heating. 

Sticking to the neutrals we have white walls everywhere - I think they’re such a good canvas to build upon with furniture and textiles. We chose a big comfy sofa for the living room and we’ve accented all those greys and dark blues with bright yellow cushions to lift the colour scheme. I never used to be a fan of yellow but it’s grown on me over the years and now I love it, especially against dark blue: they contrast beautifully and it’s such a mood lifting colour. 

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We had Schmidt design our kitchen and dining space which we absolutely love. The cupboards are a blue grey with a white marble effect worksurface and there’s so much storage space that we don’t need to worry about having to carefully stack things or stuff tumbling out everywhere. We went for a small island that helps to zone the space and the dining table then stretches out from this. We were worried that we might not have enough workspace in the kitchen so the island more than helps with this and gives us even more storage. Schmidt also designed us some shelving to go in the slightly odd wall space we had where the steels and supporting pillar created a small set back space. It’s worked perfectly as the colour of the shelving units ties in with the kitchen and provides a link between the two spaces. 

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For the hall we had white gloss cupboards fitted along one wall which provides us with great storage for coats, hats and bags and all the media equipment for the tv and sky box etc. It’s one of those less exciting elements that you still need to think about when doing a room: where are you going to put all the electrics and things like the dvd collection! The cupboard keeps all of this tidied away out of sight so we can keep those clean lines. It’s a real luxury as well to be able to keep all of our shoes and coats down in this room rather than having to store them in different cupboards around the house. The white cupboards also help to bounce around the very small amount of natural light that we get in this room. We added a full length mirror as a feature on one wall and managed to find the perfect bench in IKEA to fit the small space next to the stairs. I love this space: it’s so simple that it always feels calm when you come in through the front door. 

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The last space is the utility and downstairs toilet. There’s no natural light in these but it’s fine because they’re such practical areas that so little time is spent in. They are big enough to just fit everything we need: washing machine and tumble dryer, overhead cupboards for cleaning products, a full length cupboard for mops, ironing board etc and then a space for the toilet and small sink. All of the cupboards are white and the worksurface is a light grey so this space always feels clean (which is good for a space that’s used for cleaning and washing!). In the bathroom we have painted the wall opposite the toilet a dark blue and used mirrors to create a splashback behind the sink. They both make the room feel bigger: mirrors are a classic trick for this but the dark colour really lets your eye fall away into the wall rather than being bounced back by a lighter colour. We’ve hung a photo of a snowy mountain scene in a white frame on the blue wall which I absolutely love - it just finishes the room and connects the white walls to the blue wall. 

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The space is perfect for our lifestyle at the moment and it flows really well now. The open plan means that we can spend so much time together as a family no matter whether some of us are sat on the sofa whilst another is cooking in the kitchen. It also means I can always keep an eye on my son whilst he plays and I’m doing jobs which I’ve found invaluable. We keep tweaking little bits here and there and faffing with what to put on the shelves but we’re so happy that we did the renovation. 

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