I've said, since starting The Basic Principle, while personal tastes in design are as varied as the target market for TFL, I truly believe that there are some fundamental rights and wrongs when it comes to interior design. However in life not all things are cut and dry, black and white. As much as we'd like it to be that way at times, it's never really the case.
Consider this week's blog the "stay alert" to last weeks "stay at home."
Sticking with the same floor plan, and following on from the five points I went through on last week's blog, it's a bit of an either/or situation this week.
I want to try and keep things as universal as possible, however a couple of points in this post will focus on the conundrums specific to a terrace renovation. So if you live in a flat or a conversion of some sort, you can look away for those.
1. How cool is my TV.
Not being one to shy away from controversy, I believe the size and proportion of your television, in relation to the room it is in, says a lot about who you are as a person.
Let's ignore the Giles and Mary's of the world, who probably have a disproportionately small telly to their front room, and focus on those who feel that bigger is better. The people that feel the need to make it very obvious that this is a T.E.L.E.V.I.S.I.O.N room regardless of how out of place said TV looks.
Ultimately there is nothing wrong with wanting to go all nouveau riche on the size of your TV, and if you have a dedicated TV watching zone, such as the middle room in the plan above, then why not. Go as big as you can. However with great wealth comes great responsibility. If you want to go big, but don’t want the TV to dominate, the easiest way to make a large TV feel proportionate to any space, is to fit it into purpose built joinery.
Slapping down a 65" TV on a SWOON EDITIONS sideboard screams "I just won the people’s postcode lottery" so if you can afford to go big on the TV, you can afford to build it in.
If, like a lot of people, you only have one room for TV watching, the debate over size becomes a little trickier, as location within the room comes into play. It's no longer a case of popping a TV in the middle of a wall and building some units around it.
In these cases, I personally I feel a TV should never take prime spot.
If one room needs to function as two zones, TV watching and entertaining, placing a TV in an obvious, central location will always make the room feel in favour of TV watching, with a black box of an elephant in the room when guests are over and the TV is off.
Rather fit a TV within some niche shelving, as illustrated, and pay a bit extra for a good bracket so you can angle the TV appropriately. By doing so you are inadvertently allowing the space available within the niche to determine the size of the TV. Furthermore, the TV's positioning within the shelves means it's more easily disguised in and amongst all your bits and bobs. No more elephant in the room.
I have to say it, but a TV above a fireplace should be a last resort. Not only because this means the TV always sits too high, but unless you are installing a framed TV that reads as art, these look messy and over complicated.
I'm a minimalist when it comes to technology, and a recessed TV in a wall is a little too city slicker boardroom for my liking.
2. Turn up the heat.
I said this week's blog was going to be a bit of an either/or situation, and this next point is a prime example.
If you are doing a renovation, the chances are that you will be hit with the question, underfloor heating or radiators?
As a rule of thumb, and it may be a bit generalised, but if you are battling to decide, I always suggest that the ground floor, and all bathrooms, have under floor heating, with the rest of the top floor rooms having radiators.
Apart from any technical reasons such as floor levels or plumbing, the ground floor typically has more furniture in it than the upper floors, and therefore by eliminating radiators here altogether, it's one less thing you have to plan around.
Hey, no radiator in a sitting room! Might actually mean an extra bum on a seat...Becky
If however you do need to keep with radiators on the ground floor, for the love of God, spend the little extra on a column radiator. You can find decent quality ones everywhere now, even on high street plumbing stores.
The beauty of a column radiator is that they at least look good enough to be seen, so you don’t need to feel bad about them being visible.
Contemporary radiators are from the devil. Rather used colour matched paint if budget is tight, than buy a contemporary radiator for the sake of saving a few quid.
Obviously when it comes to planning radiator positions, technical things like BTU and output need to be taken into consideration, but don't just slap a radiator on any wall the builder suggests and worry about how you interact with it later down the road.
As illustrated in the kitchen, two smaller radiators side by side the dining table, look considerably better than one large vertical radiator off balance, but do the same job BTU wise. Similarly, a vertical radiator tucked behind a door in the middle room gives you more space for built in seating and things that really matter.
3. Stuck in the middle.
Terraces all generally have a very similar layout to start with. Front door with a hallway leading to some stairs, a front room to the left or the right, a second room just after that, and a kitchen at the back. However if you go down the route of doing a side return, and extending the house out into the garden, you end up creating a so called middle room.
Speaking broadly here, if you walked into a newly renovated terrace this middle room would, more often than not, be one of these two things:
1) The corridor to the kitchen, and by that I mean a wide thoroughfare with no real purpose other than to get from A to B.
2) As shown in the plan above, a windowless room, wedged in between the front room and the newly enlarged kitchen.
These rooms will always be awkward, and if they are treated as afterthought, they will literally suck the life out of your house. You can't predetermine which of the two routes the middle room will take (the architecture of the house does that) so you need to determine what the space is capable of, and fully buy into whatever outcome you will end up with.
It is imperative that this room, above all others is designed with intention.
As reflected in the plan above, this windowless room is a great opportunity for a family TV lounge or a separated kid’s play room. If you are going to end up with an over sized corridor on the other hand, make it the best oversize corridor ever. Like with the console table in the last entry, ensure that it doesn't become a dumping ground for clutter. Everything that goes in there should be off the charts on the “spark joy" scale.
One thing that both outcomes have in common, is the need for bespoke, purpose built joinery. Either way, these spaces are very often restricted in terms of width, so take some time to think how to maximize the space available. Of all rooms in the house, this is where it pays to have bespoke joinery.
As shown, a sofa recessed into joinery is a great way to include both seating and storage into narrow room without sacrificing too much floor space. Alternatively, turning the thoroughfare into a dedicated library or home office space, with floor to ceiling book shelves, at least gives the space some purpose.
A poorly planned middle room also runs the risk of creating a front room that feels disjointed from the rest of the house. So even if you aren't a Becky, and you can fit sixteen bums on seats at any one time, nobody is going to want to hang around in your front room if you have a vacuum of a middle room just next door.
4. Light at the end of the tunnel.
I won’t spend too much time on this next one, as I have already dedicated a whole blog post to Susan Boyle and secondary lighting, however these are just a couple of things worth mentioning when it comes to lighting hallways.
Don’t overdo it with the pendants. There are probably only a handful of cathedrals on earth that can pull of a consecutive line of pendants, so perhaps keep it to just one at home. Personally I like to have one at the front entrance, to add to the arrival experience, but I call it a day at that.
Thereafter I rely on a couple of wall lights. Take it from me, and learn from my mistakes, double check the dimensions of a wall light’s projection. That is how far it sticks out from a wall. You are trying to mood up a hallway, not create an obstacle course, so you don’t want anything that’s going to poke an eye out. I find that horizontal picture lights at about 2200mm from floor level are a good option, and being above head height any projection issues are negligible.
5. The downstairs f**king loo.
I know there is a whole blog post dedicated to this too, but I feel that for those who have yet to read it, a summary is in order.
The quality of the downstairs loo has become a litmus test to who we are as adult home owners. Have we done enough with our lives if nobody comments “love your loo babe” every time you have guests over? Forget the kitchen being the heart of the home. The downstairs loo is where lines are drawn between a normal house and a spectacular home.
Don’t let the team down with a shit down stairs loo.
I'm cracking on with the kitchen and dining area next. I have some very distinct views there, so look out for WWCD pt3 in the coming weeks.