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How to add space to your home without building a big extension

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The ‘race for space’ has been the big property story over the past year as people have rushed out of cities for larger homes in the country, or plonked on extensions like there’s no tomorrow.

But every home has unused square metres lurking within it. 

Here are five clever and cost-conscious ways to squeeze in another room or two. You’ll wonder why you never did it before.

Transformed: A basement kitchen conversion in Greenwich by houseUP. But digging down is about the most expensive way you can enlarge your living space

Transformed: A basement kitchen conversion in Greenwich by houseUP. But digging down is about the most expensive way you can enlarge your living space

Knock out chimneys 

For those who live in period properties with open fires, there’s nothing quite like a warming blaze in the winter.

But nowadays, most fireplaces are blocked up, central heating having taken their place. The chimney breast is all that remains, taking up floor space.

Knock it out, and as a bonus you could sell the original bricks to an architectural salvage yard for about £1 each.

John Daborn owner of J.J. Renovations, says: ‘If the fireplace is a sizeable one, you can reconfigure the room to work much better. There are lots of situations where removing it transforms the room.’

Cost: £2,000 to £4,000.

Convert the garage

We needed them once, when cars rusted at the mere sight of rain. But now they can sit happily on the driveway, the garage has become a repository of old paint cans and rarely used tools.

It’s fairly straightforward to add a door into the main house and damp proof and heat the space.

Up and away: Extending upwards into the attic is one of the most cost-efficient ways of adding square metres to the house, and lowering ceilings could solve the headroom issue

Up and away: Extending upwards into the attic is one of the most cost-efficient ways of adding square metres to the house, and lowering ceilings could solve the headroom issue

‘Converting the garage is definitely a good idea if you have enough head height, and the subfloor is the same as in the main house,’ says Paul Gjecaj, MD of Fairview Construction Team Ltd. 

‘In that case, the cost will be half what it would be to add an extension of the same size on the back of the property. In the end, it will feel like another part of the house.’

Cost: £10,000 to £20,000.

Lower the ceilings

Extending upwards into the attic is one of the most cost-efficient ways of adding square metres to the house.

The biggest barrier is a lack of headroom in that space. You can get around this by lowering the ceilings on the rooms below but it’s only possible in rooms with high ceilings.

‘You want at least 2 m of headroom at the highest point,’ says Malcolm Newman, managing director, of the Premier Loft Company.

‘If you won’t get that, then lowering the ceiling below is doable. But it’s subjective; some people are happy with less height.’

Cost: £22,000 to £32,000.

Bijou bathrooms

Many older properties lack a ground-floor toilet, which is especially annoying for families with young children.

There are many clever space-saving lavatories, including units where the sink is on top of the cistern. These can be shoehorned into small spaces, such as cupboards and staircases.

‘Normally you’ll need a space at least 1.5 m x 0.8 m for a bathroom,’ says David Ridgley, chief designer for The Small Bathroom Company. ‘That’s compact, but comfortable. We find people are being brave with converting cloakrooms.’

Cost: £2,000 to £4,000.

Dig out a basement

Digging down is about the most expensive way you can enlarge your living space. After lifting out all the soil, you’ll need to tank (waterproof) it and possibly find a clever way to bring in natural light, such as a lightwell.

‘The finished product is often the nicest part of the house because it’s so quiet,’ says Vincenzo Palomba, managing director of basement conversion firm houseUP. ‘There are two types of clients. 

The first are looking to add a bit of space, but never end up doing the project because they are going to spend £300,000.

‘The ones who go ahead are the ones who have thought about the lifestyle in the house and want a quiet space to read, or a private area for themselves.’

Cost: £1,500 sq m if you have a cellar to convert, £4,000 sq m if you have to dig the space out. 

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Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

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As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

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Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

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Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

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Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

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“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

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