Kathryn and Iraj Darbandi’s house has changed considerably since they first bought it, as they’ve adapted the layout to work better for a family with two growing boys. The house was built by a developer on the site of a cluster of farm buildings, using bricks reclaimed from the original buildings. The layout was traditional, with a dining room positioned between the kitchen and living room, and there were four bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs.
‘We were attracted to the house because of its location close to York, but it’s very private as it’s in a small cul-de-sac,’ explains Kathryn. ‘It also had a large garden, which was important to us with young children.’
The owners: Kathryn Darbandi, a retail director, and her husband Iraj, area manager for a pharmaceutical business, live here with their two sons, Zak, 13, and Max, 11
The first project the couple completed was to reconfigure the ground floor, creating a more open-plan space. Kathryn and Iraj redesigned the layout by dividing the kitchen in half to create a utility with cloakroom. The kitchen door – the second entrance into the house – was moved to the utility and the old door turned into a window. A wall between the kitchen and dining room was then taken out to create an L-shaped open-plan living space.
‘This was perfect when the boys were younger because I could easily keep an eye on them,’ recalls Kathryn. ‘It also brought more light into the house. The old layout seemed dark and dated, but these changes really opened it up.’
While the new kitchen was fitted, the family used a cooker and a microwave set up in what is now a small home office. At the same time, an en suite shower room was created in Max’s bedroom. For eight years, the house worked well, but then Kathryn wanted to be able to work from home, so she turned a small ground-floor playroom into a home office. By this time, the garden had also been developed with new decking and landscaping, and Kathryn wanted to create a stronger link between indoors and out.
‘As the boys grew older we needed different things from the house,’ explains Kathryn. ‘A home needs to evolve and develop to get the best from it, and we felt that extending would give us all a lot more space.’
They planned to extend the house at the back by almost a third as much again, and the new area would create a modern family room linking the house directly to the garden, transforming the way they lived there. ‘At first we planned to have only a single-storey garden room, but my brother-in-law, who is a builder, said a two-storey extension would be more cost-effective,’ says Kathryn. ‘We wanted the extension to be modern and different, but to link seamlessly to the main house.’
The couple contacted York-based firm Native Architects, who came up with a design that included a sweeping curved wall to complement the contours of the garden. The materials for it would include reclaimed bricks to link it with the original house, aluminium windows, a canopy over the patio and cedar cladding. They got three quotes for the building work – including one from brother-in-law Nick Coates, who they eventually chose – while they gained planning permission for the extension. This went through without any complications.
‘We knew it could be tricky involving family in the build, but Nick had a lot of experience and we knew he would do a good job,’ says Kathryn. ‘He is a brilliant project manager with high standards and attention to detail, which suited us perfectly.’
Most of the building work, which took around three months, was completed before the walls into the main house were knocked through, minimising disruption to family life. ‘There was very little upheaval with the extension,’ says Kathryn. ‘There was a lot of dust for a couple of weeks, while everything was finished off, but we took it in our stride.’
Nick started the work by creating a structural reinforced concrete raft foundation with a steel mesh; a hole was then created at the back of the house to expose the steel joists running through what is now the dressing area, and the new floor joists were positioned on top of the existing ones. The curved exterior wall was built using curved Thermalite blocks and is faced with narrow reclaimed cottage bricks, while the straight wall is timber-framed, faced with cedar cladding. The cantilevered overhang, on steel posts extending from the bedroom floor, is supported by a steel post fixed to a steel plate in the ground. The flat roof is built with roofing-grade plywood, covered with a rubber membrane and faced with powder- coated aluminium, with a secret gutter around the edge.
With the shell complete, Nick moved inside, removing walls, supporting them with RSJs and making good the new openings. His team then laid the floorboards, plastered the new rooms, and fitted lighting, radiators, plus the new en suite sanitaryware.
A curved extension could have limited the design options, but Kathryn sought inspiration from local interior designer Joy Plaskitt, whose ideas included the large corner sofa, positioned towards the centre of the room, and soft furnishings that give the family home a sense of streamlined comfort. ‘We wanted the house to be light and modern with clean lines, but not to look clinical,’ says Kathryn. ‘The bold wallpapers, well-proportioned furniture and lighting help to achieve that balance.’
Upstairs, the dressing room was created in an old bathroom, and is now a practical entrance to the new bedroom suite. The en suite, with a freestanding bath and curved window, is one of Kathryn’s favourite features. ‘We positioned the bath near the window to give it garden views,’ she says.
‘The whole focus of the house has changed to incorporate the views at the back,’ adds Kathryn. ‘When we moved in, the house and garden worked separately, and the house was linear and predictable. The first phase of work made better use of the space downstairs, but the extension has given the house a new dimension, opening up the living spaces further so that they flow more naturally.
‘In good weather, we open the bi-fold doors in the family and living rooms – which lead to the decking – so that we have another room outdoors. The extension has given us exactly what we wanted.’