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I am considering purchasing a house that for the past ten years has been an HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy - so each room is rented separately, with a shared kitchen). I'm in the UK.

Because of this, what would have been the two downstairs reception rooms are currently styled as bedrooms, complete with en-suite shower room each. The ground floor of the house also has a bit of a weird flow to it (no floorplan available so I drew one based on a video tour of the house. thin lines are windows, open lines are doors; it's not to scale. red line shows original house before extension. The image is oriented with East at the top, and the back garden is east-facing. All dimensions are height x width as far as I can tell):

enter image description here

Upstairs is fine, it's just a typical three-bed house (one en-suite and a family bathroom); all above the original home (i.e. the extension is single-story).

I'm not against knocking down walls etc. What can I do to make this house feel like a family home, and flow better between rooms; and also get light into the dining room?

My initial thoughts are:

  • Move the front door to the right of the stairs, and extend the dining room down into the hallway (remove the wall to the left of the dining room door, add a wall joining to the under-stairs cupboard with a door in it)

  • Remove the en-suite in the lounge and the dividing wall, and have patio doors out into the garden at the top of the image. From what I can see from old pictures, the lounge used to have that configuration anyway. I could then additionally add a door from the removed en-suite into the dining room, near the kitchen and block up the current door into the lounge.

OR, perhaps, to make it more of a Q&A type question, what in general gives a family home good "flow"? or Would the suggestions I have made be feasible, what sort of costs would I be looking at, and would they help the flow?

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  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I'm not sure what you mean by a "1-unit" and "2-unit"? – simonalexander2005 Jun 11 '20 at 15:01
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    I'm having a really hard time figuring out how this isn't an opinion based question. Designing a house from scratch or as a remodel is based entirely on the opinion of the owner. The architect will come up with a design, but it will be based on the desire of the owner, and will be modified exclusively (except for code/structural requirements) based on the opinion and desire of the owner. There's no way we can provide a definitive answer to this question, and that makes it OT at an SE site. – FreeMan Jun 11 '20 at 15:33
  • My opinion is to leave the front door where it is, take out all the walls inside the red rectangle (except for the existing bathroom in the top-left corner), leaving a large family room/lounge and informal dining area. Convert the "Second Lounge" into a formal dining room by removing the bathroom. See, my opinion is different than yours, the only one that matters, though, is yours. Get yourself an architect and an engineer and work it out. – FreeMan Jun 11 '20 at 15:36
  • Was the building built initially to be two flats/apartments/whatever you call them? Or was it originally one larger home? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 11 '20 at 15:51
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica it was originally one house (the red square), which was then extended and let as five separate rooms with shared common areas. – simonalexander2005 Jun 12 '20 at 7:07
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I used to live in a house with a dining room that had no outside windows (Also in the UK). Similarly to yours it had a kitchen extension behind it (SW-facing. It had a big window between the two, and a partially glazed door which we replaced with a fully glazed on (lots of little panes). At the front we had a slight advantage over you - the dining room was semi-open-plan to the living room (it had a half height wall). There was an RSJ as the original wall had been taken down.

The dining room was very dark when we moved in. Just replacing the dark wallpaper with pale paint in the dining room itself and the lounge made a huge difference. Improvements we made to the kitchen helped too.

In your case, I'd look at:

  • Removing walls that have been added (e.g. probably those between bedrooms and their en-suites)
  • Adding internal windows between the living spaces. In fact it might be a matter of restoring original windows in the S (right) wall between the DR and lounge 2, as that was the original external wall, though L2 might have been converted from garage to a bedroom given the size and location. Depending on how much light comes into L2 these will make a big difference (while L2's windows face S, they're neither front nor back windows so could well be shaded by next door.
  • Adding internal windows/glazed doors (maybe double doors) between the dining room and hallway. I wouldn't knock the wall down even if it's not structural: A front door and stairs in the living/dining room can be perceived as belonging to a cheap house, can be draughty, and with your open-plan layout into the kitchen could lead to cooking smells in the bedrooms.

These ideas would be a little cheaper than yours while still opening the house out into something that feels more like a single home.

On thing to watch with HMOs is that extensions may have been built or garages converted on the cheap with little insulation in the right place, so before you get too far you should check.

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You need to decide what you want, but do consider the following:

Make sure you know which walls are structural - these cannot be removed easily. Looking at the upstairs layout may help with this - if you are not sure then get a professional.

Which walls have pipes (heating, hot & cold, waste) and electrical services in them. How will these need to be addressed?

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If the kitchen is flat-roofed put in lantern lights (shown in yellow). Remove the kitchen and decorate as a large central lounge. Put only low seating in the former kitchen end, to avoid blocking light from the lounge. Knock through the study and bedroom 2, put a new kitchen in the study end and the dining room in bedroom 2. Where you have "4.4m height here" as it's single storey you might also put in lantern lights or sun-pipes, and then have a new window wall between the new lounge and new dining room. You'll probably need a structural engineer to calculate the steel required for the lintel.

This work will be subject to Building Regulations and will require a building regs application to your local authority.

amended floor plan showing lantern lights or sun pipes

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