Time to extend into your basement?

Written on 4 June 2013 by Alistair Boscawen in London


If you need to create a new room in your home, then using the basement can be the perfect solution. Make sure you watch out for new council regulations…..

In a quest to create more space in their homes, many of London’s most affluent residents have taken to digging deep. Those living in London’s more well-heeled districts, such as Kensington and Chelsea, have developed a trend for digging up to four storeys below their sprawling mansions to create extra living space. It makes sense, because if you can’t build up, why not dig down? How else could you build additional rooms within your home when space is so restricted?

After all, living space is 10% smaller than 30 years ago and London’s properties are more confined than anywhere else in Western Europe. However, the days of building obscenely spacious conversions are coming to an end, with the council banning the creation of these so-called ‘iceberg homes’ and the building of basements of any more than one storey. This means that residents of Kensington and Chelsea need to find new ways to maximise the space in their basements, without digging below.  

Digging road sign

Goodbye to ‘iceberg homes’

Sadly for the residents of Kensington and Chelsea, the days of installing huge basement conversions are over, as the council has drafted new rules to prevent the building of basements of any more than one storey. Many celebrities have recently undergone multi-storey basement conversions, including Russian Billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich, TV chef Nigella Lawson and socialite and TV personality Tamara Ecclestone.

Canadian cable TV boss, David Graham wants to create a four-storey basement beneath his Knightsbridge home, complete with a ballroom, a luxurious spa and a full-size swimming pool. Not to mention a further 12 bedrooms. His plans may well come to an abrupt halt if the council has its way, and like other residents of Kensington and Chelsea, he may be forced to find alternative ways of maximising the space in his basement.

Creating a basement conversion

If you live in Chelsea or Kensington and are put out by the council’s decision to ban basements of any more than one storey, then don’t be too down-heartened. If your home is no bigger than a Tube carriage and you’re desperate for extra space in your property, then converting your basement is still wholly worthwhile, even if it’ll just be the one storey. Not only will a conversion turn an under-used basement into a prime living space but it can increase your property’s value substantially.

 In times gone by, a suspended ceiling, a bit of panelling on the walls and a portable television on a stand constituted a “finished” basement conversion, but these days most homeowners have much higher expectations. For a modern and attractive lower level worth using regularly, you’ll need to ensure that your basement conversion is built with a number of considerations in mind. For a refined conversion, opt for drywall instead of panelling as the latter looks dated and ultimately less appealing.

For an opulent look, drywall is the material of choice for finished spaces. In terms of a ceiling for your one storey basement conversion, know that suspended ceilings are very much ‘out’. They have a tendency to make a basement look even more like a basement. Instead, choose tray ceilings, which are more attractive and a higher-quality product.

Although the trend of digging below ground to create lavish multi-storey basement conversions is coming to an end due to stringent laws passed by Kensington and Chelsea council, it’s still possible to create a stunningly attractive and highly-functional one storey conversion. Basements continue to provide the perfect means of creating much-needed space within a property. And for those in Kensington and Chelsea, where space is at a premium, they are valuable assets.        

image from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Alistair Boscawen

Alistair has 32 years’ experience as an estate agent, starting in the country house department of one of London’s main international agencies before moving to the Knightsbridge house department of the same agency and learning the difference in values between freehold, long lease and short lease houses in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea and Mayfair.

All articles by Alistair Boscawen

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