How to win the space race in your own home

You can set up an office on the landing if it is big enough.
You can set up an office on the landing if it is big enough.
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by Robin and Patricia Silver

the Home, Salts Mill, Saltaire

In the late 1950s, at the height of The Cold War, the Russians and Americans embarked on a competitive adventure to explore space. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. Round one to the Russians and the Space Race was well and truly under way.

In 1969, the Americans beat the challenge to land on the moon and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went down in history with the former’s immortal words “one small step for a man…” No doubt the Russian cosmonauts were disheartened and very angry.

Today there’s new heat in the Space Race. Spacex Chief executive Elon Musk has announced that there will be a space colony on Mars by the 2030s and that a man will land there by 2024. That’s only five years away and the launch of “Falcon Heavy” to orbit Mars after a journey of about nine months and a voyage of up to 140 million miles makes this more achievable.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia would beat the Americans to Mars. Russia doesn’t want to beaten again.

But there’s another Space Race underway. It’s the race to create more accommodation without moving home. This is partly fuelled by rampant house price inflation over the past few years and partly by the high costs of moving house. Think legal and survey fees, mortgage arrangement costs and Stamp Duty, as well as making the new home just right for you.

So, instead of moving, the challenge is to create more space and one answer is to build an extension, a loft or garage conversion, knocking down walls to make one big space or adding a conservatory or garden pod. There’s also the added bonus that this may also increase the value of your home.

However, don’t forget that this increased value may lead to raising your Council Tax band and so you could be stung with an extra tax burden for years to come as well as having to pay more for heat and light, additional maintenance and cleaning.

An alternative would be to re-assess the existing space that you have. That landing could easily become a small study area. All you need is a comfy chair and a little table or desk for your computer and a cup of tea.

A little used dining room could be reconfigured to provide an additional living area for teenagers or a play room for smaller children. Box rooms don’t just need to be storage dumps: they’re often big enough to become a second bathroom or additional toilet but can also be a home office, a quiet zone or even a tiny bar. Not having a window could become an asset.

Sometimes just re-arranging furniture can reveal more space than you thought you had by simply maximising what’s already there.

If, however, you’re determined to increase the size of your property, please make sure that the extension or loft conversion fits in architecturally with the rest of the house. All too often flat-roofed additions clash visually and stylistically with existing homes and projecting dormer windows can interrupt and ruin the lines of a gable end or the flow of a roof line.

Choosing the right materials that blend with those of the existing property also helps to create harmony between the old and the new. This type of development may well conform to Building Regulations and be approved by planning authorities but should also pass the test of aesthetic sensibilities. This can help to add value not only to an individual property but also to your whole street.