Top Ten Post Lockdown Refurbishment Tips

By Decorcafe Expert, Architect Keith Malone, with intro by Debbie Blott.

Nearing the end of the third month of lockdown we are pondering the question of what impact the pandemic will have on the look of our homes. What will the new normal look like? Importantly, if you are considering a refurbishment how can you maximise the value of your house in the post-lockdown future?

We spoke to Keith Malone of Malone Architecture and interestingly, and somewhat reassuringly, discovered that he is experiencing an increase in project enquiries. We asked him to share any changes he has spotted in the briefs he has been receiving and his own views and top ten post lockdown refurbishment tips:

1. Kitchen

From my own experience, having made an effort to eat more fresh produce in recent years with our young family, the size of our larder/ dry storage space in our kitchen had become modest. Cupboards are filled with a bread-maker, a juicer and an array of coffee making gadgets. Most of our weekly shopping delivery is fresh and goes straight into the fridge.

The size of fridge-freezers has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades, and the American style units have become a standard request from our clients. However, if you have to isolate for a couple of weeks and delivery companies are limiting the number of items they will let you buy then a lack of cupboard space for long-term storage becomes a problem pretty quickly. Going forwards, increasing larder space is definitely a priority.

2. Family Entertainment

With all this time at home, less time travelling to-and-from work, we may find that having a space to come together as a family and enjoy a movie or a TV programme is important and possible in our daily lives. There are some fantastic large format ‘smart’ television products (essentially computers) on the market and cinema projectors which continue to improve in quality and conversely reduce in size.

We are often asked to include these items within large multi-function open-plan kitchen-family rooms. It is important to take the time to detail furniture to conceal the technology when not in use or include recesses within walls to accommodate hinging support brackets. Key is the flexibility to transform these spaces to the chosen activity.

A couple of families with teenage children have enquired with us recently about feasibility studies to provide a separate television or cinema room. They would also serve as a place for gaming, perhaps a more solitary pastime and certainly not something everyone wishes to listen to, especially if they are not involved! Garages, lofts, new basements or a new garden out-building are all possible locations.

3. Health and Wellbeing

Gyms, swimming pools and flexible open-plan spaces with multi-purpose functions are at the forefront of peoples minds whilst they spend more time at home than they may every have done. We have received a number of enquiries, since lockdown, for garden buildings. This is a great way to increase the amount of space and create a destination in the garden. Keeping the use of these additional spaces flexible is key. They can be: a gym, a garden office, a den, a playroom and a cinema all in the one day.

4. Inside-Outside Space

I have been wondering what life would have been like these past three months if we had experienced the more usual wet Spring weather. I like to be outside, in many of my projects I’ve designed transitional spaces where you can shelter from inclement weather but still enjoy fresh air. The Edwardians loved their ‘loggias’, we come across them on old houses every now and then. These spaces inspired some of our designs with overhanging roofs where a café table or sofa can be placed to enjoy the garden from a place of shelter. We extend our indoor space with a large umbrella which gives us protection from both sun and rain.

A covered outdoor space with a rooflight in an overhanging canopy

A covered outdoor space with a rooflight in an overhanging canopy

Pocket sliding floor-to-ceiling doors to a family room opening onto the garden

Pocket sliding floor-to-ceiling doors to a family room opening onto the garden

House refurbishment and extensions in SW20, ground floor spaces transition onto the garden terrace.

Ground floor spaces transition onto the garden terrace.

I stumbled on an outdoor jacuzzi being delivered to a house during lockdown, during an exercise break – I’m sure it will be enjoyed in all weathers!

5. Workspaces

The word in the newspapers and lifestyle magazines I read is that it’s not good for our well-being to work in our bedroom during the day and also sleep there at night. Having worked from an office in my own home for over a decade I fully appreciate this finding. I need a space which is dedicated to my own creative work. Mixing family time and business can lead to doing neither particularly well. My usual routine is to walk the kids to school in the morning, when I get back I make sure I go straight into the office to avoid distractions. We have kept up this routine in lock-down. We take a long morning walk and return to our respective desks with a focus in our minds. On weekends the office door remains shut, a place to be avoided when possible. I find this separation of functions important for both work and family life.

In this project the entrance hall panelling conceals a secret door leading to an office, hidden out of view.

Entrance hall with secret door leading o home office

Entrance hall with secret door leading to home office

Hidden home office revealed

Hidden home office revealed

6. Connectivity

Back-to-back Zoom calls and streaming of video lessons have resulted in a huge demand on our domestic wifi system here. We recently upgraded our system with booster units around the house. In future, we will wire each room with an ethernet cable to reduce the reliance upon wifi. It’s fine for small hand-held devices but when you are streaming lots of data to a large desktop computer or laptop the technology, in its’ current form, is not up to providing stable connections for numerous devices.

7. Security

With all of this expensive technology in our homes we will want to make sure that our homes are secure. We have invested in a new CCTV and alarm system which connects wirelessly to the internet. We get motion alerts to our mobile phones and can talk to people at the doorbell from remote locations, giving the impression that we are at home but can’t get to the door at that particular time. With increasing online shopping frequency this has been a very useful upgrade. There are numerous systems which can control, gate and door entry, external and internal CCTV cameras, household alarms and home safes. However, the most important part of the package is the large yellow sticker which makes people aware that these systems are in place – this deterrent is your first line of defence.

8. Basements

Pressure on space is leading to an increased demand for basement extensions here in SW London. Usually the preserve of more central London boroughs, we are receiving regular enquiries to upgrade existing cellars or create new basement structures. These projects are very time-consuming and require complex structural and hydrological engineering. Many London boroughs require fully detailed engineering information to accompany the Planning application. As land values increase in Greater London suburbs investment in basements becomes a good way to maximise space and also increase the value of your home.

A basement family room with a TV lounge, gym area and table-football under a new-build house in SW20

A basement family room with a TV lounge, gym area and table-football under a new-build house in SW20

9. Kids

Like adults, kids really need a separate space for schoolwork away from the bedroom. Many of them will be working online for the first time and picking up skills to access the delights (and dangers) of the Internet. With both of us working full-time here we have doubled up computers at a single desk in the office so that we can keep an eye on progress and support learning whilst getting some work done ourselves.

The garden, however, has become a multi-purpose play park as we try to limit their demand for more screen time and encourage healthy living. Garden games here include: cricket, football, rugby, tennis, badminton and volleyball. There have been water fights, Nerf wars and hide-and-seek as well as some classics such as boules and quoits. In terms of space, we have found that a large central lawn covers most of these sports and games. I do not know how we would have coped without a garden space. I read now in the property press that feedback from new instructions is that potential purchasers have gardens as their top priority.

Gardens are also great places to learn about nature and plants. We rebuilt some neglected raised beds for vegetables and the children enjoyed planting the seeds and small plants. Whether we can convince them to eat some of their produce is another matter….!

The Good Life in SW London

10. Process

One of my biggest fears as we went into lock-down was that the Planning system would grind to a halt and new projects would stall at the point of statutory approvals. Remarkably, however, we were pleased to receive Planning permission on a number of projects as Planners relocated to their homes, spent less time travelling themselves and got down to work. They may be receiving less applications from the commercial world for offices, hotels and retail outlets but I’m sure, if our experience is anything to go by, that the residential market of SW London is more than making up for that change in workload.

Whatever our houses look like post-COVID there will undoubtedly be a need for increased storage space, better connectivity, improved security and comfortable spaces for both living and working. We will instinctively wish to be well-prepared for any future lockdown, if it comes, so that we can move swiftly and seamlessly into a different mode for day-to-day life.


Any questions or project enquiries, please contact Keith directly for a free consultation keith@malonearchitecture.com

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