If your kitchen is tiny and extending outwards isn’t possible, why not consider going underground? A cellar kitchen/diner will give you all the space you need to enjoy entertaining friends and family members.
But before you start planning your culinary creations, it’s important to understand the rules that apply when you’re converting or excavating a cellar. Read on to discover what’s involved and how to prepare properly.
Do I need planning permission?
If your existing cellar only requires waterproofing and minor changes you probably won’t need planning permission. However, even if you think the work falls under Permitted Development rules, the government’s Planning Portal advises confirming this with your Local Planning Authority. For extra peace of mind, apply for a certificate of lawfulness before you begin.
Excavating a new basement or making alterations that change the look of your house will definitely require planning permission. While it’s possible to apply for this yourself, you might prefer to employ an architect or a specialist basement company, as both of these will be aware of local planning regulations and successful local projects.
Do building regulations apply?
Because you’ll be using it as a living space, your converted cellar will need to comply with building regulations. If you’re using a dedicated basement specialist this will be part of your package. If not, ask a surveyor to draw up plans.
Fire escape routes, ventilation, ceiling height, damp proofing, electrical wiring and water supply all need to comply, and any structural work (e.g. steel beams to increase head height) must be checked by a building inspector.
What about the neighbours?
If you’re excavating, underpinning or extending an existing cellar, you’ll need to reach agreement over any shared walls. Notices need to be issued and consents obtained at least two months before work starts. Is a contractor managing your project? Then they should deal with any party wall agreements. If not, you need to instruct a surveyor.
While your neighbours can’t stop you from making lawful changes to your property, they can have a say in how and when the work is done, so it’s worth gaining their approval from the outset.
How can I introduce light?
Installing high level windows or enlarging existing ones is a good way to allow more natural light into a cellar. If you want to provide access to the garden, you could even add a glazed sliding or bi-fold door leading to a sunken courtyard.
Solar tubes are also an excellent option, as they use glass panels and angled mirrors to pipe light into your home. Alternatively, how about installing a glazed floor in the room above the cellar? Position this beneath a roof light or window to make the most of the light.
As well as introducing more natural light, it’s worth adding under counter lights and some ambient lighting, such as a pendant above your dining table. Choosing counters and cabinets with stainless steel, lacquered glass and mirrored surfaces will help to bounce extra light around the cellar.
Layout and decor
When it comes to designing the layout of your kitchen, we suggest reserving well lit areas for cooking and eating. Darker areas can then be used for storage. To keep the space clutter free, choose roomy base cabinets with sliding doors and keep wall cupboards and tall units to a minimum. You could also include a kitchen island.
While pale coloured walls will help your kitchen seem bigger, they can also make it feel cold. To create a warmer, more welcoming ambience, why not opt for in timber cupboards, colourful soft furnishings and a couple of rugs?
Have we inspired you to convert your cellar into a kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.