A modern extension for a traditional cottage

Anna and Matt Gatter's extensive renovation project turned their dream property into a reality

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Owning this period cottage has been a long-held dream for Anna Gatter. Often driving past the property, in the pretty village she and her family have lived in for the last 10 years, and wishing she could make it her own, Anna was thrilled when it finally came on the market.

‘I always loved the look of the exterior and it was on a great plot, set back from the road with a mature back garden,’ she says. ‘It looked so quaint, and I couldn’t wait to make an appointment to view it.’

Knowing that the cottage would need work to turn it into a more modern family home, Anna and her husband Matt took along a builder and an architect to their first viewing so that they could discuss the various possibilities.

‘Both myself and Matt came away that day full of ideas for how we could transform the cottage,’ Anna recalls. ‘Even though the interior was dark with dated furnishings, fake beams and a very small 1980s kitchen, we knew we could turn it into a huge, light-filled space. We were so excited by the possibility that this could become our next family home.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Anna Gatter and her husband Matt, who both work for their family-owned electronics company, live here with their children Olivia, 19, and Charlie, 16
  • The property: A cottage dating from 1920, which has been extended to create a five-bedroom home
  • The location: Near Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
  • What they spent: The couple bought the house for £485,000 in 2011 and have spent around £320,000 on extending and renovating it. It is currently worth around £850,000

After putting their own property on the market, and following reassurances from the estate agent that there was no other interest in the cottage, the Gatters went on holiday, only to return to see a ‘sold’ board outside their dream home. ‘I was devastated,’ admits Anna. ‘I was so desperate to buy the house that I knocked on the door to personally speak to the owners.’

Anna talked the elderly owners through the plans she had for the house, and they told her they would think about the existing offer they had received. ‘I’m not particularly proud of this fact, but we basically had to gazump the other buyers and offer the full asking price to ensure we got the house,’ she admits. ‘I was prepared to do whatever it took!’

By financing the purchase with the help of a loan against their company, the couple were able to buy the house, even though their previous home hadn’t yet sold. They continued to live in their existing home while work started at their new property, before moving in with Matt’s parents for the last 10 months of the project.


Project plans

The couple’s plans for the house included opening up the warren of small rooms, as well as adding a single side extension to house a utility room, and a full-width rear extension to increase the size of the kitchen/dining/living space. A double-height extension at the other side of the property to the new utility would create space for a garage and games room on the ground floor and a master bedroom suite above. The loft space would also be redesigned, turning the small rooms into a large bedroom and en suite for daughter Olivia.

‘We approached architect Tracy Longworth to take on the project, as she’s based in our village and we liked the work she had done on another house locally. I also know her personally, as our children went to the same school, so we were really keen to work with her on our project,’ explains Anna. ‘We spent a lot of time talking through what we wanted from the space, and she explained to us what would and wouldn’t be possible.’


Open-plan living

‘The aim of the project was to maintain the traditional character of the front of the house, but transform the rear so that it would be more in keeping with modern open-plan living,’ explains Tracy. With the plans drawn up, it took several months for the Gatters to receive permission for the project. ‘We had to make some amendments to the plans and re-submit the application, as there were objections to the balcony that we wanted to include at the rear of the new master bedroom,’ Anna explains. ‘In the end we unfortunately had to remove this from our plans so we could get approval.’

Work on the house began in August 2012 once planning permission had been finalised, with the couple hiring the same building company, Knight & Newman, that had completed an extension on their previous home. Anna managed the project alongside builder Martin Knight, visiting the site every day to check on progress. ‘I was so excited by it all, but I didn’t realise how many decisions were going to be needed on a daily basis. It was overwhelming at times,’ she admits.

The entire back wall of the original ground floor had to be removed, with a steel ‘goal post’ frame installed to support the weight of the upper floors before the new extension was built. ‘Martin said it was the biggest piece of steel that he’d ever used on a project!’ recalls Anna.


Creating a pitched roof

As Anna and Matt wanted a pitched roof on the new rear extension, rather than a flat roof, the windows on the first floor had to be made smaller to accommodate the necessary pitch. Anna has no regrets about this compromise, though, as she’s thrilled with the overall aesthetic of the finished extension, including the new slate-effect roof tiles. ‘They’re actually made from reconstituted slate and simply lock together,’ says Anna. ‘The only problem was that once the roof on the extension was completed, it made us realise how awful the original roof of the house looked, so we took the decision to replace the existing slate tiles with the new versions, too. It was an extra cost we hadn’t accounted for, but I think it was worth the additional expense.’

Elsewhere, the original entrance to the house has been moved from the side of the property to the front, with a new porch re-balancing the front facade. All the windows have been replaced with modern uPVC designs, which Anna was keen to include. ‘Both the architect and builder wanted us to specify a timber style to suit the period look of the property, but I was adamant I didn’t want the hassle of maintaining them,’ she says. ‘I chose these designs as they replicate the look of timber windows but are also low-maintenance.’


Interior design

To improve the interior layout, the old dining room at the front of the house has been turned into a spacious hallway, and the staircase has been moved to one side of the space, creating room for double doors leading through to the main open-plan living area. Here, folding-sliding doors offer immediate views of the pretty landscaped garden.

When it came to designing the interior spaces, Matt was happy to hand over control to Anna, who had an overall vision for the schemes she wanted to create. ‘Although I love open-plan spaces, I like them to feel cosy,’ she says. ‘I also prefer neutral backdrops that I can add personality to with pictures, clocks and mirrors, as I think it’s far easier to update schemes that way if you grow bored with them.’


A family home

A visit to a local showroom proved to be successful as Anna was able to source all her kitchen and bathroom fittings in one place. The striking slate feature wall in the kitchen was part of a display, and Anna loved the effect so much that she decided to incorporate the same design in her own home. ‘It creates real wow-factor,’ she says.

The family moved into their home in June 2013, just in time for daughter Olivia’s 18th birthday party. ‘It was a great way to celebrate finishing the house,’ says Anna. ‘We had all the doors open, and there’s lots of colourful lighting in the garden at night, so it was like having our own private nightclub once the music was playing through the built-in audio system, which is Matt’s favourite gadget.’

Having lived in the house for a year, the Gatters say that it has lived up to their expectations, making all the hard work worthwhile. ‘Completing the renovation has been a very humbling experience,’ says Anna. ‘So many people have stopped outside the house to tell us how much they love what we’ve done and to ask who the builder was and where we sourced things, such as the windows.

‘The lady who used to own the house came round with her son once we had finished the work, and they were thrilled with the changes we made. It made us feel very proud of what we’ve achieved.’

The costs

Building work£195,000
Fixtures and fittings£32,000
Folding-sliding doors£13,000
Architect’s fees£6,500