Research, out last week, which was undertaken by RIBA and IPSOS Mori, has found that many new homes have insufficient space for storage, poor levels of natural light and a sub-standard electrical specification for modern living. So I thought it might be useful to explore how older, period homes compare to new builds and what role interior design has in improving both?
It’s certainly fair to say that most older houses have better proportioned rooms that allow for you to build in or place free standing furniture and cabinetry to provide essential storage.
Often there are small rooms that were specifically designed for the purposes of storage like cellars, broom cupboards and larders.
However, as our needs and requirements change we need to carefully plan out our storage needs and how best to adapt older houses to meet them.
An interior designer can work with you to identify what types of storage you need, where that storage would most usefully be located within the house and how best to arrange and organize it, designing shelving and cupboard layouts around your specific needs.
If you live in a Regency or Georgian home then you are fortunate to enjoy the classical proportions that were fashionable in those times. Windows are large on the ground and first floors in particular, often with built in shutters that fit neatly into the recess, maximizing the natural light when open. Even with traditional swag and tail curtains you can usually get more natural light into the room than in a modern house with a more contemporary curtain or blind.
However, its still often the case that in areas like the kitchen you may want to open up the room to more natural light, especially if this leads onto the garden. Modern extensions with bi-fold doors and skylights or a glass roof are very fashionable and desirable and, depending on the conservation status of your building, a sympathetically designed conversion or extension in this area can add value and a wonderfully contemporary update to your home.
These projects are most successful when designed by an architect and interior designer, working together, to ensure a seamless scheme both inside and out and harmony with the connecting spaces in your home.
If adding more natural light isn’t possible then use ambient and task lighting – and keep colours light – to ensure that you never have a dull day like these fabulous kitchens here.
This is where a period home often falls down over well designed modern houses. These days we can have all the modern cons of online connectivity throughout the house, cable and satellite with large screen TV’s, video phones and remote security systems, as well as touch pad music systems for multiple rooms and lighting effects that change the mood of a home according to the time of day and occasion. But to retro-fit this into your Regency or Georgian home can be extremely disruptive and costly.
That’s not to say that it isn’t worth doing. It can be the single most effective way of bringing your home into the 21st Century and make a really positive impact on your experience of living in your home. The key to this is to work with an interior designer or specialist audio-visual technician who can establish your requirements, plan out what you will use, how and where and design a holistic scheme that works in harmony with your room layouts. An interior designer can also advise you on how to future-proof your home so that any technological developments in the future can be plugged into the system that has been installed.
Here are the essential systems you should be aware of;
Category 5 Wiring
Faster and more reliable than ordinary phone wiring, low-cost, high-tech copper wiring (Category 5 or better) should be installed in every room in the modern home. It’s what is needed to carry voice, data and other services from where they enter the house to every room, and from any one room to any other.
It’s prudent to also include conventional coaxial cable for video distribution, particularly cable TV. This has the capacity to handle well over 100 TV channels and the more bandwidth-consuming high-definition television (HDTV).
Stylish TV mechanisms
Most excitingly of all, especially for designers like me, there are now various, stylish and tasteful designs and mechanisms available for concealing plasma TV’s, from mirrors to picture frames, to cabinetry all of which reveal the plasma only when you actually want to watch it. To my mind this is so much more sympathetic to older character buildings.
Lighting and security control systems
Convenient and sophisticated controls for your homes’ lighting and shades can be installed that are integrated with security and audiovisual systems. Control panels can be placed wherever is most convenient in your house, including on the wall by your bed and even in your car.
Energy saving light control systems for multiple light settings with numerous pre-set scenes can create dramatic environments whilst reducing energy expenses.
Of course installing new electrics is most effective when planned out for whole house at the same time. There are economies of scale to be had, greater effectiveness in design can be achieved and it’s a one-off disruption. Afterwards you’ll need to re-decorate so planning it for a time when you’re wanting to refresh your home is ideal, and if you’ve got the interior designer working on your electrical specifications then you can get them developing décor designs for key rooms to maximize the improvements you are making.
There are some amazing products on the market now in bathrooms. Like the custom shower system controls that deliver water with music, ambient lighting, chromatherapy and steam sleek showers all controlled by an intuitive digital interface
Are period homes more fitting for modern day living?
All in all I’d say that if you’re living in a Regency, Georgian or other period property you are much better able to create effective storage solutions and you do enjoy superior levels of natural light in your home. With good planning and effective design this can be maximised. Where you may be able to make a dramatic different is in updating your electrical specifications to not only cater for todays needs but to future proof for additional capacity and requirements for many years to come.
If you’d like more information or have a project requiring any aspects discussed here I offer full design services, half day mentoring sessions or simply an hours workshop which can help you in any project that you are embarking on. Please visit my website http://www.lathaminteriors.co.uk for more information on fees and services.