We bought our current house nine years ago. We came to view it when I had just found out I was pregnant with our eldest son and we were living in a one bedroom flat at the time. Having put the (trouser) horse before the house cart there was a certain degree of urgency to our search. We had seen a number of other properties and all were either out of our budget or in budget but with rooms that only a hamster would describe as spacious. After 5 minutes looking around we decided to put an offer in because, to quote Clint Eastwood in ‘Bridges Over Madison County’ ', this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime. Or put another way, within 5 minutes of a viewing when you encounter a house that has four genuinely double bedrooms.
The previous owners did have a penchant for painting rooms sanitary pad purple but shades of Always Ultra aside it was in the kind of condition where you could move straight in. The loft had already been converted so we had all the bedroom space we needed. The two most obvious “big jobs” that needed doing were an update of the bathrooms and a reconfiguration of the downstairs space to create a more open plan kitchen diner.
The Victorians may have given us the railways and the Royal Albert Hall but they did not bestow generously sized kitchens upon us. When we moved in we had the fairly classic Victorian lay out of a long narrow kitchen which some dude in the 1980s had then latched a conservatory on the back of. Getting out into the garden was like a challenge on the Cystal Maze involving having to shoulder barge a cheap UPVC door that often swelled shut. With son number 2 on the way we drew up plans to get rid of the conservatory and replace it with a proper extension. In an ideal world we would have liked to extend the kitchen to the side but Enfield council have an enormously annoying policy that prevents this unless your neighbours are doing it at the same time. GIven we had trouble persuading our then neighbours not to call each other mother f’ckers within earshot of our kids it was safe to say they weren’t the kind of people who would obligingly whack up an extension to their kitchen for us.
That meant we had to extend outwards at the back rather than to the side. We replaced the conservatory with a proper extension so that this space became part of the house instead of a room that you only went in during the summer if you were trying to recuperate from hyperthermia and therefore needed to sit somewhere the same temperature as Mars. We also knocked the wall down between the kitchen and the “dining room” to get more light into the kitchen and create more of an open plan layout. Those changes brought us to our current floor plan which is below.
As you can see we have a separate front room and then one big L shaped open plan room which is used as kitchen diner and second, less formal familiy living space. This is where the kids watch TV, cover every surface in butter or banana and have their toys. Whilst the changes we have made (including adding a downstairs loo under the stairs) have radically improved how this house works for us as a family, there is one missing room which I can’t stop hankering for: a utility.
That’s right, my greatest desire these days is not to lick Nutella off Brad Pitt but to possess a room in which to process my laundry and store the hoover. Although obviously the dream would be to lick Nutella off Brad in said utility room and be able to pop his Hazelnut covered smalls straight in the washer dryer afterwards. I want to reclaim the spare room from the drying rack which is almost permanently erected in it trying to keep pace with the volumes of pants, school shirts and football kits that having three sons generates.
Mr Malmo is unsurprisingly not as obsessed with creating a #placetoputapulley but luckily I know an interior designer with an architecture background or two (ok just one but a really bad ass one) who was willing to play around with some floorplans for me to work out how we might be able to squeeze one in. The interior deisgner in question is the wonderful Rebecca Wakefield of Studio Fortnum who has built up an instagram following of over 20,000 people who love her signature stylish, calm and unpretentious interiors as much as I do. She came up with four layouts for me which explore different potential locations for a utility.
As a person who struggles to visualize anything unless it is right in front of me, having floorplans to look at was an amazing way to get to grips with the changes we would need to make to fit a utility in and the impact it would have on how we currently use the space. It rapidly became apparent (looking at Option 3 for example) that if we squeezed one in without also extending the kitchen space to the side, we would be left with a significantly reduced second living space. However whilst we now have neighbours who are much less likely to call each other MoFos and are also open to a mutual side return situation, it would still be a fairly major investment to gain the utility of my dreams.
Of the three remaining options (all of which assume a side extension) I think my favourite is Option 4 as it gives the biggest /best layout of utility. But I do worry that we would still be sacrificing quite a bit of the space where the sofa currently sits in the living room and that it might potentially make that room feel cramped. A completely different plan which would preserve all of our current living space and potentially work out cheaper than adding a side return, would be to build a garden room at the end of the garden and relocate the washer dryer out there. But perhaps that is a discussion for a different blog
Whilst we continue to mull it over I would love to know what you guys think? Do you have a utility room, do you understand my laundry room lust? If it were your house which one of the options would you go for? Or do you think pursuinh my utility dreams would compromise the space we have? Would love to know your thoughts! In the meantime thank you so much to the layout legend that is Rebecca Wakefield . If you have your own interior dilemma or project I cannot recommend Studio Fortnum enough.