1930s apartment redesign

By converting the loft into a top-floor living area, Joanne and Stuart McGee created their perfect home without having to look for a new property

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Everything happens for a reason – including disappointments, believes Joanne McGee. ‘We’d been living in a single-level flat and wanted more space, so we started looking for a house. We got as far as selling our place and an offer being accepted on a property we’d seen when, suddenly, our buyer pulled out. It was after this that we struggled to find another.’

The McGees started considering alternatives, and turning the flat into a two-storey maisonette by converting the loft was soon on the agenda. ‘It seemed an ideal solution, partly because we loved the area we lived in,’ says Joanne. ‘Plus, we’d noticed while house-hunting that most rooms in the houses we viewed were smaller than the ones in our flat. In many ways, it seemed crazy to move and, with hindsight, we’re relieved the house sale fell through because we’ve ended up with more space than if we’d moved!’

Fact file

  • The owners: Joanne McGee, a picture librarian for a publishing company, lives here with her husband, Stuart, a roadside technician for a travel assistance firm, and their daughter, Meggan, one
  • The property: A two-storey 1930s maisonette
  • The location: Bromley, south-east London
  • What they spent: The couple bought the maisonette in September 2004 for £180,000 and spent around £62,000 converting and furnishing the loft. The property has recently been valued at around £300,000

Planning the conversion

Having decided to convert the roof space, the McGees considered having two bedrooms and a bathroom in the loft, retaining a third bedroom downstairs and extending the original kitchen by knocking through into the spare room. Their plans changed dramatically, however, when they visited the National Home Improvement Show and booked a consultation with Hugo Tugman from architectural services company Architect Your Home.

‘Hugo considered all our ideas before coming up with an alternative solution. He suggested we turn the loft into one open-plan living space and keep all the bedrooms downstairs,’ explains Joanne, who admits she wasn’t initially convinced. ‘Once we got home and started thinking about Hugo’s suggestion, it made complete sense. We didn’t have our daughter Meggan at that point, but having children was part of the plan long-term, so splitting bedrooms over two floors didn’t seem right.’

To maximise the space, the McGees wanted a rear dormer and hip-to-gable conversion instead of only a rear dormer. This added cost would stretch the couple’s finances to the limit, so they employed loft conversion company Econoloft to design and build the shell and staircase.

loft extension

A rear dormer and hip-to-gable conversion designed and built by Econoloft has maximised the available space in the couple’s loft

loft extension storage2

loft extension kitchen

The handleless cream gloss kitchen design from Wren Living, including the curved units in the island, provides ample storage space. The Neff oven has a Slide&Hide door, designed to provide more room to move around the area

Completing the project

To finance the loft conversion, the McGees remortgaged for the cost of the shell plus several thousand pounds on top. ‘We didn’t really set a budget,’ explains Joanne. ‘Knowing it would be a slow job, we were able to pay for much of it as we went along. As we were intending to stay in the property for a while, we were happy to spend money on the project, although we didn’t go mad. I could have done, though – especially when it came to the wonderful kitchens and accessories I saw.’

Joanne is particularly proud of what Stuart has achieved throughout the project. ‘It’s amazing, considering he’s never done anything like it before – after all, a house is quite different to a car!’ The kitchen worktops are an example of his fine work. ‘Having paid a lot for them, we arranged for a carpenter to install the worktops because we didn’t want to end up ruining them. But when that fell through and we just wanted them finished, Stuart decided to have a go himself. He watched lots of YouTube videos showing the job being done, bought a router and started cutting,’ she says.

Despite the challenges along the way, the hard work and time put in has paid off, and the McGees couldn’t be happier with the end result. ‘I’m so pleased that we decided to listen to the advice and use the top floor as living space rather than bedrooms, because it’s so light and airy,’ enthuses Joanne. ‘We spend all our time up here, which is exactly what we wanted.’

The costs

Loft conversion£36,600
Plastering, skirting and insulation£4,000
Walnut flooring and workstops£3,500
Automatic opening vent£1,400
New roof£1,300
Tools and materials£570
Heating (cast-iron radiator)£420