18 Amazing Design Ideas for Urban Homes

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(Image credit: IQ Glass)

With high properties prices and space at a premium, self-building, renovating or extending in the city can be a tricky thing to get right. 

From eking out the most of tired terrace houses to squeezing a family home onto a garage plot, urban self-builders and home improvers often come up with ingenious solutions to combat challenging properties. 

Making the most of the location, the house's size and position can make the design process tasking, but get inspired for your own project, big or small, with these incredible urban projects.

1. Delve Deep into the Basement of Period Urban Homes

(Image credit: deVOL)

While many period houses (normally Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian terrace or townhouses) might feature a cellar, lower ground floor or basement space these are not usually ready for domestic use. 

Clarence & Graves renovated this townhouse's lower ground floor by excavating the garden by a metre to create a new patio area, installing new patio doors and adding a new kitchen. The result is the perfect family retreat from the city sitting. 

(MORE: How to convert a basement)

  • Cost: Unknown
  • Location: London

2. Add a Little to Gain a Lot with City Extensions

(Image credit: Create Bespoke)

A tiny side-return extension transformed this family home from dark and dated to light, bright and easy to use. The trick with this project was to create views out to the garden (a vista many urban homes would like to capture) while still remaining faithful to the traditional home. 

  • Cost: Unknown
  • Location: London

3. Raising the Roof with Loft Conversions

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

A mansard loft conversion and complete renovation of this Edwardian flat has created a light-filled, eclectic home. Plus, a new roof terrace (below) has provided the homeowner with incredible views across the cityscape. 

  • Cost: £100,000
  • Location: London

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

4. Self-building in a Group for Bespoke Housing

(Image credit: Morley von Sternberg)

After deciding their apartment was too small for their growing family, Adam and Billi Street convinced their neighbours to knock down their 1950s council block and rebuild at double the size, selling the surplus flats to finance the project. 

Each flat has floor-to-ceiling windows to bring in much more natural light than before plus ever slat has access to either a balcony or terrace. 

  • Cost: £6.5million
  • Location: London

5. Transforming a Garage into a Family Home

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Buying a dilapidated city-centre garage without planning permission was a big risk for the homeowners but the gamble paid off in dividends in the shape of their three-bed family home. 

Keen to stay true to the industrial nature of the site, full-height sliding glass doors (below), a polished concrete floor and exposed floor joists add to the industrial style. 

(MORE: What is a brownfield site?)

  • Cost: £400,000
  • Location: London

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

6. Self-building on the High Street

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

This 100m² oak frame self-build is hidden down a mews alley just off a high street. The plot's position lead to access issues but the resulting home proves that tight plots can provide beautiful homes. 

  • Cost: £175,000
  • Location: Staffordshire

7. Connecting an Urban Home with Nature

(Image credit: Salt Productions and Henri Brendenkamp c/o Studio 30)

A side infill extension and a dormer loft conversion have been added to this terrace house, but it's the remodlling of the layout which really makes the difference to this family home. 

All of the spaces, old and new, are arranged to create a sense of flow towards the garden with natural materials throughout to create the illusion of outdoor living. 

  • Cost: Unknown
  • Location: London

8. Converting a Shop into a Modern Home

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

What was once an old, derelict newsagents is now a contemporary home (built on a budget of just £35K, no less). A timber frame extension was added to add some much-needed space and a fabric first approach ensures the new home is warm and efficient. 

  • Cost: £35,000
  • Location: Shrewsbury

9. Adding a Courtyard Garden in an Urban Home

sash windows double glazing

(Image credit: Fulham Performance)

With a traditional front elevation inspired by the original property which once stood on the plot, this contemporary home utilises every inch of the tiny site (at some points just 4m wide). 

Attention to details sets it apart, including the natural light that floods in through the internal courtyard (below). 

  • Cost: £450,000
  • Location: London

(Image credit: Fulham Performance)

10. Self-building a Eco Home in the City 

An eco-friendly self build terrace in Sheffield

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

This three-storey end terrace has been designed to fit into the streetscape without emulating the neighbouring houses. This was achieved through matching the brickwork to other houses on the street and choosing a complementary dark stain for the Siberian larch timber cladding.

  • Build cost: £139,000
  • Location: Sheffield

11. Creating a Contemporary Home on a Corner Plot

A contemporary cedar clad house, utilising every inch of a tight corner plot in London

(Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

Occupying a tight corner plot, this striking cedar-clad self-build is 100m², including a sheltered courtyard. The triangular plot encouraged innovative design solutions including minimal street-facing glazing, but the result is a light and spacious, highly insulated timber frame home.

  • Build cost: £350,000
  • Location: London

12. Making the Most of a Tiny Site

A Stand-out Self Build

(Image credit: Tom Gildon)

Born out of the constraints of a small site, this striking home uses a flat roof to minimise its impact on the local surroundings.

  • Build cost: Undisclosed
  • Location: Camden, London

13. Self-building on a Garden Plot

A low energy demand, high design family home on a tight site in London

(Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

This self build on a former garden plot is packed with exciting features — including a hidden entrance. The addition of a basement was necessary to create a the 159m² family home on the small London site.

  • Build cost: £525,000
  • Location: London

14. Creating Wow-factor in the City Centre

Stylish Contemporary Home in Notting Hill

(Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

A grill-like window structure adds architectural interest to this end-terrace home in the heart of London. The small site was split into two vertically detached houses, thanks to the corner location allowing the creation of two separate entrances.

  • Build cost: £100,000
  • Location: Notting Hill, London

15. Remodelling for Modern Living in the City

A Remodelled 1960s Semi

(Image credit: Ben Morgan)

Frameless glazing, crisp render and an extension have taken this home from a dull semi to a modern villa. Stunning bifold doors on all levels provide wow-factor worthy of the plot. 

  • Build cost: £700,000
  • Location: London

16. Extending the Basement of an Urban Home

Extension for Victorian Basement

(Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

A large glazed basement extension offers additional family living space in this terraced home in the heart of Oxford.

  • Build cost: £4,118/m²
  • Location: Oxford

17. Digging Down with an Urban Self-build

A contemporary custom build home in Kensington that is largely underground

(Image credit: Tim Crocker)

Two-thirds of this subterranean home is hidden from view at street level in order to comply with the strict planning rules in this London Conservation Area.

  • Build cost: undisclosed
  • Location: West London

18. Fitting a Self-build onto a Small Plot

A modern timber frame home on a tiny urban plot

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Hiding this 75m² London home behind a high perimeter wall offers privacy for both the homeowners and their neighbours. It also helped to mitigate concerns from neighbours and planners about the property’s external appearance.

  • Build cost: £170,000
  • Location: London
Amy Reeves

Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.