Renovate Or Relocate: The Challenge Of A Growing Family

One of the things I’ve realised since having kids is just how much space they take up. Granted, at around 100cm tall and 15kg in weight, they don’t occupy that much physical space, it’s more the plethora of things they accumulate which is the trouble.

Well, with our house about to burst thanks to the kids, we’ve recently had a decision to make – do we renovate or do we relocate? It’s a bit like our very own version of Kirstie And Phil’s Love It Or List It (what do you mean you’ve never watched it before?!). I did come up with a third option of getting rid of the kids, but this was deemed to be ‘inappropriate’.

I guess it’s hardly surprising (that’s the lack of space, not keeping the kids). Since moving into our home 10 years ago, we’ve added a dog, a daughter and a son to the household. We’ve gone from having no possessions and too many rooms to know what to do with, to our current position where everything is on top of each other and we really could do with more space.

We bought our house – a three bed, mid-terrace – back in 2009. After having the purchase of a flat in London fall through, we decided to reevaluate things – this led to us leaving London, moving to leafy Hertfordshire and becoming commuters! At the time, our current house was rented, in need of some TLC and was quite bleh – I can only assume this is why it hadn’t sold.

Anyway, we decided to pounce and managed to bag ourselves a great first family house, in a nice part of the country, for a good few thousand quid below the asking price. We always saw it as a starter house and one we’d probably move out of in seven or eight years. Well, 10 years on, we’re still here!

This is mainly due to two reasons – (1) we are (pretty much) a one-income household so aren’t on the same financial trajectory we were as mid-twenty-something first-time buyers, and (2) house prices have increased drastically in the area. Both of these factors combine to mean that we just can’t afford to make the next step up on the property ladder.

Sure, we could pack up and move to somewhere else in the country where we’d get more for our money. But, we’re very settled here – L is at a great school, we have friends, we love the area, it’s a good location etc. Despite having no connections to our town before moving here, it really does feel like our home and leaving just doesn’t feel right.

This basically rules out moving house in the local area and moving house to somewhere further afield. That leaves only one real option for us – renovate our current house. But, it’s not that easy. Previous owners have already extended the kitchen, added a downstairs WC and converted part of the loft.

As a mid-terrace, we obviously can’t extend sideways, plus there’s no space in our already compact (and recently transformed) garden. That’s not to say we can’t do anything though. Having thought about what extra space we’d like and how our house could accommodate this, we’ve figured out that there’s a way to renovate, extend and improve our current living space. This will consist of three main things:

  1. Convert the integrated garage into the new kitchen and knock through the adjoining wall to the living room to create an open plan kitchen-diner-living room.
  2. Remove the existing kitchen and turn it into a multi-purpose room (play room / guest room) with the addition of a separate WC.
  3. Remove the existing (and broken) downstairs WC and knock through to double the size of the entrance.

Renovate Or Relocate The Challenge Of A Growing Family Current Garage

By converting the garage and tinkering with our current layout, I think we’ll gain the extra space we’re craving. Our garage isn’t used for a car and is basically a dumping ground, so converting this into usable space and knocking through the internal wall into our living room makes sense. We should also be able to utilise the space under the stairs with some clever storage solutions to make a utility area.

Renovate Or Relocate The Challenge Of A Growing Family Current Kitchen

Moving the kitchen into the garage is arguably a bit of a hassle and some people may not do it, but as the existing kitchen is at the back of the house, we think this will create a better flow with the living and dining area. Our existing kitchen is fine, but it’s a bit cheap and dated so replacing it would be on the cards regardless of where in the house it’s located.

Renovate Or Relocate The Challenge Of A Growing Family Current Living Room

By turning the existing kitchen into a separate room, we’ll be able to move all of the toys out of the living room into a dedicated space, plus have a specific guest room for when anyone comes to stay. For far too long, our living room has been part play room, part living room and part dining room, so it’ll be good to reconfigure the layout and focus on the latter two.

Moving the downstairs WC from the entrance to the multi-purpose room also makes sense, because (a) it’s broken, (b) it gives guests a separate toilet, and (c) it won’t be too long before we’re potty training the little lad (*Gulp*). By doubling the size of the entrance (which is currently very small), we’ll be able to have some funky storage solution for coats, bags, shoes etc, which we currently lack.

It’s obviously not the largest building project ever carried out, but it’s quite a big thing for us as we’ve never done anything like this before. The closest we’ve come is when we landscaped the garden and when we had a new bathroom put in, however this feels on another level to those.

As such, there’s been a bit of a steep learning curve, which has included finding a builder, sussing out building regulations, planning a kitchen and figuring out money, among other things. With a start date pencilled in for late September, we still have time to figure out some of the minutia, but I think we’re well on the way. It’s now becoming more exciting and less daunting. I think.

In an ideal world, we’d have won the lottery and I’d have been able to buy the house up the road which I’ve always had a crush on – incidentally, it’s just come on the market for £1.5 million! However, coming back to reality, extending our house in this way seems to make the most sense to get the extra space we’d like.

I’ll probably be sharing the progress as we renovate on the blog and social media in due course, so keep an eye out if you’re into your houses and home decor and stuff. If not, then that’s no skin off my nose. Just be warned – kids will soon be taking up all of your much loved space, so it might not be too long before you’re having to think about proper grown up things like this!