Not far from the office is a beautiful, 16th Century, Grade II listed, thatched Hall House. Its listing means that every external change - and some internal ones - have to be approved by the Heritage people as well as the local Planning Authority.
But not all cottages are listed. curtain wall doorOwners of some have tastefully introduced new features to complement the original ones. For example, who amongst us would like to install a typical 18th Century farm worker's cottage kitchen or do away with bathrooms?
There are different degrees of modernization to apply, depending on taste, budget and confidence. It is generally accepted that an old cottage facade should remain as true to its origins as possible, with wooden window frames, a solid wood front door and reclaimed or reproduction roof tiles, if needed. Inside or at the back of the house, particularly when extending the building, we are more adventurous.
An old terraced cottage can be depressingly dark inside. Rooms are often small and so are the windows. If it hasn't already been extended to accommodate a kitchen and bathroom, there are two choices - traditional or modern. Depending where you live, the cottage may have been built with bricks or local stone, older houses may be rendered over wattle-and-daub. Providing there are no restrictions (heritage listing, conservation area, national park, etc.) it is often better to contrast the extension rather than attempt to match it. If you don't have the skilled workforce and budget and if you are not forced to build a traditional extension from reclaimed materials, why not give the property a practical, modern look with a WOW factor?
The width of a typical old house will be twelve feet or more. You can probably extend outwards by four metres or more at ground level, which could deprive the centre of the house of some natural light. If there is a smaller or no extension upstairs, a glass roof or skylight windows could be considered but keeling the glass clean could be difficult. With careful design, these may not be necessary at all.
To maximize the amount of light that can enter the property and bounce it around the rooms, use reflective colours and materials, such as vanilla silk wall paint, mirrors, glazed picture frames and glazed or high gloss door fronts to cupboards plus low level furniture where possible. Avoid dark colours and light-absorbing fabrics.
Instead of internal walls, consider a glazed partitioning such as bi-folding doors or 'glass curtains', which have the benefit of stacking against side walls to facilitate open plan living when required. For total privacy between rooms, bi-folding doors can often be purchased with integral blinds. Alternatively, for a softer look, a curtain track across the ceiling will facilitate fabric drapes to be drawn, whether the room dividers are open or closed.
Bi-folding doors usually have a traditionally opening single door, just like any other room door, that can fold back onto the next panel, leaving the rest of the 'wall' in place until such time as its presence is no longer required, when it is a simple matter to unlock the panels and fold them, concertina-style, out of the way. You can choose a natural wood colour or, if you prefer a low thresh-hold, go for powder-coated aluminum with a striking frame colour.
The most stunning option would be to install Glass Curtains.These are toughened 'unbreakable' glass panels that are fixed to runners along the floor and ceiling and have no side frames, forming a 'wall' of clear glass. Like bi-folds, there is a main door then each panel slides individually enabling 'doors' to be opened almost anywhere in the wall, as required. The panels can all slide and turn to be stacked at the edges when open plan living is the order of the day.
These same options can apply to the rear walls of the house or extension. As they are almost all glass, there is very little to disturb the traditional look of a cosy country cottage. The frames are available in a range of colours - you can choose a sepia brown, bronze or moss green, whatever blends in best to enhance your home.
The benefits are many: good insulating qualities, an abundance of natural light, clear open views from the house to the garden - a feeling of light and space that is often not apparent in small cottages with low ceilings and small room sizes.
With the bi-folding doors fully opened, the room's dimensions grow to the size of your patio or garden!
According to most Local Authority Planning rules in the UK, the dividing wall between the house and conservatory should be the equivalent of an outside wall - or external doors, such as patio or bi-folds. Of course, 20th Century sliding panel patio doors are the last resort as they restrict access between rooms, even when open.
Bi-folding doors fully comply with Building Regulations for this purpose and can replace a whole wall, if required, to provide maximum visibility into the conservatory and beyond. The doors come into their own, however, when fully open, giving maximum access space between the two areas as if they were a single room.
Depending on your house style and conservatory design, bi-folding doors can be supplied with leaded light or Georgian panels. The frames can be supplied as standard white to blend with a pvc conservatory, a deeper colour to blend with wooden surroundings or choose from a wide range of RAL colours to complement a painted wrought iron structure.
We are not suggesting that you should fit a cheap, ugly PVC front door to a thatched cottage, nor would we want you to rip out beautiful mullioned windows but, subject to specific planning or heritage listings that may apply to your property, traditional buildings can be tastefully enhanced with innovative features, such as good quality bi-folding doors, to provide practical lifestyle benefits.