George Clarke on Making a Small Space Bigger


Want to know how to make your home feel bigger? We asked architect and presenter of The Restoration Man, George Clarke for his top tips.

Declutter

George says: 'It's a bit of a house doctor's tip, but get rid of as much stuff as possible. I'm always amazed how much we hoard, but we could all get rid of a lot of stuff, easily. Doing so clears the mind as well as creating space. When we go to a house to do a renovation for The Home Show, we clear everything out, then only bring back the essentials and important bits of furniture - we are quite ruthless at getting rid of unnecessary stuff. If you're doing a self build, it's a really good opportunity to have a clear out, but even if you're doing a building project in your existing house, and you're going to live in while the builders are there, it makes sense to declutter anyway.'

Use White Paint on your Walls

George says: 'Getting as much natural light as you can into your home will make it feel bigger. One easy way to do this is to use light, reflective paint colours on your walls, and particularly to create white rooms. My favourite part of the whole show is the white out. Go to my house and everything's white. It's not that I struggle with colour. I just think that every colour that's darker than white will make the space feel smaller. For me, the architecture makes the most of space, and it's the personal possessions, such as rugs, colourful lampshades or art, that bring the colour to the rooms.'

Keep the Flooring Light

George says: 'Light floor finishes help stretch a space, too. Oak boards, stone tiles, light ceramic tiles, light coloured carpets are all good choices, even though the latter can be a nightmare to maintain if you put it in the wrong space. I've got oak boards in my home, and neutral grey carpet in the bedrooms. It can take a little bit of stick but it's not so light it shows every single mark. Put down anything dark and it absorbs daylight - keep it light and it reflects daylight, helping the space feel bigger.'

Drop Floor Levels

George says: 'Dropping floor levels will give your rooms increased height. You can have a ground floor literally dug out. Houses with suspended timber floors are a good example of where this works - they can be ripped out, dropped by as much as a foot and replaced with a concrete floor to make the whole space feel bigger. If you're going to do this, go to town - put a proper concrete slab in so the space is fully damp-proofed and invest in underfloor heating, too.'

Reposition a Staircase

George says: 'On narrow houses, look at repositioning the staircase. On my house the stairs took up quite a bit of living space - I've moved them over to make the living room feel wider. Any move you can make to make house feel higher or wider will increase the feeling of space.'

Go Open Plan

George says: 'Take down and reposition walls. Doing so will make spaces feel as big and as light as they can possibly be. Be aware of the pitfalls of open-plan living - such as noise and lack of privacy - and also be aware of the way you live and the zones you need. What I mean is - zone your rooms so that each area is designated a purpose. For example, a big long living room, I treat as two zones. One end is tv area, the other is a reading area. I've seen thousands of homes where they've knocked out walls but not thought about how to furnish or use the new rooms properly. That's just a waste of space.'

Improve Lighting

George says: 'Add skylights, glaze floors and ceilings, get your artificial lighting right and, where possible, replace walls with windows. All this will bring more light into the house and make it feel bigger.'

The Restoration Man synopsis

George Clarke helps rescue neglected architectural treasures across Britain

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