Once upon a time, if you added a conservatory to your home you'd be the envy of the street. Neighbours would dash round to marvel at your woven furniture and the views of the garden. You were the bee's knees.
But not any more. New research from Halifax Insurance reveals that if you want to keep up with the Joneses, or even BE the Joneses. The only way is... down.
It has been delving into the nation’s historical planning data and found that home-improvement applications have soared 27 per cent in the last five years. But it's basement projects that are truly booming, with an incredible 183 per cent increase in planning applications since 2012.
'The way we live in our homes is evolving,' says Melanie Backe-Hansen, historian and author of House Histories. 'Take the example of basements and the trend for extending downwards: this – is probably down to a lack of space in our cities and towns, and it represents a big shift in the way we think about our homes.
'If we look back to Georgian and Victorian times, the basement is where you’d have found the kitchen and the servants’ quarters and was certainly not viewed as a space to be used for family life.'
Single-storey extensions – mostly consisting of kitchen extensions – and loft conversions are also big winners, up 49 per cent and 43 per cent in the past half-decade. But it seems conservatories and porches are no longer the done thing in many parts of the country, with a drop of 3% in applications, countrywide.
It gets really interesting when you start to look into projects by region. While conservatories seem to be falling out of fashion overall, the news has yet to reach the homeowners of Wiltshire and Cornwall and they remain popular.
See more of this beautiful space: Take a look around this bright and inspirational conservatory
The Cornish also seem to be big motoring enthusiasts, with 61 per cent more applications for garages and car ports than the next highest local authority. Edinburgh leads the way for kitchen applications, and the people of Derby put in the most application for bedroom and bathroom projects. Not entirely surprisingly, it's London, where space is at its biggest premium, where those basement extensions are the most popular.
As part of its study, Halifax also asked homeowners what would be their dream improvement to their home. A new kitchen came out top with 37 per cent of the popular vote. Next up were bigger rooms (22 per cent), extra bedrooms (19 per cent) and extra bathrooms (17 per cent).
'The place of the kitchen has changed dramatically,' adds Melanie. 'In this study it takes the top spot on Britain’s ‘dream home’ wish-list, yet in historical terms the kitchen is a relatively modern invention. Where once you’d be lucky to have running water, today it is the ultimate status symbol and where we do most of our entertaining.'
One thing that hasn't changed however, is that men and women have very different priorities when it comes to home improvements. Double the number of women as men value a separate utility room. A games room, on the other hand, is very much a boy thing, with twice as many men requesting one.
Inspired? Check out: Games rooms for an entertaining space with style
What do you think? Is this really the beginning of the end for conservatories? Or just a passing fad? We'd love to get your views.
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Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
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