Bought new - you may have bought small

Families find various ways to cope with a home that’s bursting at the seams.

But it’s not just growing children, bigger TVs and other paraphernalia which are putting space at a premium – homes have actually shrunk!

A new report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), has revealed that new houses are generally smaller than they were 30 years ago.

On average, a new three-bedroom house in the UK is eight per cent smaller than the recommended minimum size.

“Our new research confirms thousands of cramped houses – shameful shoebox homes – are being churned out all over the country,” says Harry Rich, chief executive of RIBA.

Nationally, the organisation found that the missing space was equivalent to a bedroom capable of taking a single bed, bedside table, wardrobe, desk and chair.

New homes in Yorkshire and Humber are the smallest and those in London the largest, according to the research by RIBA, which looked at 3,418 homes in England.

Its recommended minimum size for a three-bedroom home is 96 sq m, yet the average sizes across the UK are:

l East of England: 88 sq m

l East Midlands: 87 sq m

l North East: 89 sq m

l North West: 84 sq m

l London: 119 sq m

l South East: 96 sq m

l South West: 87 sq m

l West Midlands: 94 sq m

l Yorkshire and the Humber: 83 sq m.

But instead of despairing or considering an expensive house move, it could be time to consider whether you’re using your current space wisely.

“If your home is not as large as you’d like, every bit of it has to work for its keep,” says Elizabeth Wilhide, whose inspiring book Small Spaces is packed with clever ideas.

“You may be able to discover hidden space in homes that’s been overlooked, as well as using space more effectively. A spare room could double as an office, a breakfast bar might improve a kitchen and a large bedroom could be divided.

“Storage can work wonders, too. Space under the stairs could provide an additional seating area, or be a utility cupboard. Stair treads can be transformed into drawers and a landing could be utilised for storage or a fitted desk.”

Designers, recognising the growing need for compact or multi-functional pieces, have used their talents to create ingenious products for the space-starved.

“Small space living is something to celebrate. It doesn’t have to mean settling for second best,” says Wilhide.

“Focus on the benefits rather than the frustrations. Smaller spaces are easy to clean and cheaper to heat and run. With a more flexible approach to arranging your living space, you may find it suits you after all.”

“Make the most of every inch of space with integral storage solutions, such as pan drawers, curved corner units and cantilever carousels,” advises Jude Keenan, kitchen planner at John Lewis’s Oxford Street London store.

“To make the most of small spaces, it’s important to consider the place as a whole,” says Eleanor Davies, group buyer for The Conran Shop. “Instead of thinking of conventional rooms devoted to separate functions, arrange whatever space you have in a flexible way.”