Bob Andrew, Managing Director at Elfin Kitchens, discusses how the increase in short term holiday lets puts a focus on quality and durability in refurbished projects.
Spring has sprung and the UK is bathing in balmy temperatures reaching the mid-twenties – even since the end of April! This time of year is also the perfect time for homeowners to start worrying about rapidly growing lawns, drives riddled with weeds and all the other jobs that have been put off until finer weather appears. For builders, however, spring also represents a ramp up in enquiries for home improvements, alterations and extensions.
One popular and growing approach by many property owners is adapting an unused space, such as an expansive garage, vast loft or empty outbuilding, and turning it into short stay lets or holiday accommodation. This is a direct result of the growing trend for the Great British staycation, which is becoming commonplace up and down the UK – whether it is to attract tourists to central London, the hills of the Lake District or the beaches of Devon and Cornwall.
You may be asking “Really, is this actually happening up and down the country?” Well, host listings on Airbnb alone totalled 168,000 across the UK last year, contributing £657 million to local households. And the size of these properties covers a broad spectrum, from single rooms in shared houses, to garden pods or even loft apartments.
Of course, any alterations in compact areas need to be carefully designed and considered to balance practicality with the space available. So, any products specified by builders could have a major impact on the success or failure of a project, making it important to identify all the options before taking the traditional route.
One crucial factor when preparing a floor plan for a compact property is the kitchen. Ultimately, this needs to provide guests with the ability to store, prepare and cook food – much as they do at home, but in a much smaller environment. Traditional kitchen cabinetry can often be incredibly restrictive – and almost always requires an element of ‘adaptation’ to ensure standard unit sizes fit a space correctly. As a result, this approach is becoming less common, with builders and property owners instead looking to simpler and more functional alternatives, including pre-built compact kitchens.
These days, the latest pre-built kitchens offer a wide range of options, including refrigerated food storage and full cooking preparation, alongside a complete offering of appliances. The benefits to this type of purpose-built design is the ease by which they can be incorporated into a project from the outset. Installation is also incredibly simple, with models usually available as ‘plug and play’ options.
To illustrate this, Elfin Kitchens recently supplied one of its compact kitchens to a refurbished holiday cottage in Yorkshire. The area had limited space to incorporate a wide range of facilities, so the property owners opted for a ‘Premium 1500’ model, which featured a built-in 30L combination microwave, oven and grill, an integrated refrigerator, two ring hob, as well as a sink, tap and drainer.
The resulting installation allowed the property owners to maximise the space available, with a well-equipped kitchen which was perfect for the intended use.
Another important aspect of any prospective refurbishment or extension project of this type is choosing durable products, especially in spaces where a rental income is expected. To withstand regular use by multiple guests throughout the year, products need to be manufactured from robust materials that will not be damaged easily. From a kitchen perspective, this is often the failing of traditional cabinetry, where laminated chipboard or MDF can easily chip, splinter or warp – making the area look tired and unattractive in a short space of time.
Some compact kitchens, such as those from Elfin Kitchens, are manufactured from powder coated steel and feature stainless steel tops, a combination which offers incredible strength, rigidity and longevity. They also limit the need for long term maintenance costs and keep a rental property looking smarter for longer, which are vital for any business-focussed project.
A final note on making the most of a compact space is to introduce a bit of colour. Bright colours often make a small area more interesting and can add a focus to a space, so considering alternatives to the standard whites and greys can make a big difference.
There is no doubt thoughts of home improvements and extensions move to the forefront of homeowners’ minds during the spring and summer months. And now there is an added incentive, for many, to turn alterations into a business opportunity, by joining the staycation revolution and the thousands of other ‘hosts’ up and down the country.
However, maximising the potential of any rental space requires careful planning. Where functionality and longevity are required, such as a kitchen area, attention should be paid to the materials of a manufacture to guarantee a long working life expectancy. Ignoring these factors can be the difference between a project’s financial success or failure.