When Kathryn Paul first viewed the village house that would become her home, she knew her husband Graham would love it. ‘I went to see it on my own and it was everything we were looking for,’ she explains. ‘We had been thinking of moving for a while and had seen the house from the outside when we met up with friends at a local pub. Its location is perfect; I can walk to work, the station is within easy distance for Graham to commute, plus it is close to schools.’
The house had been built as a grocery shop in the 1920s; some years later it became a specialist map shop, then it was converted into a house around nine years ago. ‘When we bought it, all the fundamental basics, such as the damp-proofing, re-plastering, rewiring and re-plumbing, had already been done and new windows had replaced the old shop windows at the front,’ Kathryn recalls. ‘It wasn’t in bad condition and simply needed some general cosmetic work, such as redecoration.’
The owner: Kathryn Paul, a teacher, and her husband Graham, a solicitor, live here with their children, Caitlin, nine, and Isla, five
However, there were two projects that the couple were keen to complete before they moved in with their young family. They wanted to convert the loft and planned to knock through the small kitchen, its adjoining dining room and a ‘snug’ that used to be the shop’s office and turn it into one large family space.
‘We hadn’t sold our previous house at that point and were in the lucky position of being able to stay in it while the work was being carried out here,’ admits Kathryn. ‘I started trawling the internet for a company to convert the loft and when I found A1 Lofts & Extensions I asked them to come round and give us a quote for the work.’
The couple had already project-managed building work in their previous home, but as Kathryn and Graham were both working and had two young children to look after, they wanted to hire a company that could oversee everything. ‘We had quotes from other loft companies, but we liked what A1 offered, plus they assured us there would be no hidden costs,’ says Kathryn.
The main front door leads straight into the living room, which had once been the shop area, but Kathryn and Graham felt the house would benefit from a side entrance where they could store coats, shoes, the girls’ dancing and horse riding kit, plus all the other things that a busy family accumulates. Therefore, in addition to the loft conversion and the kitchen and dining room redesign, the couple asked the loft company to build a small extension at the side of the property to create space for another entrance with a utility room and lots of built-in storage space.
The loft company organised the planning permission for the couple, but, due to the house’s location in a https://www.realhomesmagazine.co.uk/how-to/expert-advice/conservation-areashttps://www.realhomesmagazine.co.uk/advice/project-planner-conservation-areas-explained/, they had to revise their plans before the build project could begin.
‘Originally, we were going to have the loft extended with dormer windows so that it could be turned into a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom, but because of Conservation Area restrictions we discovered we couldn’t change the roofline,’ explains Kathryn. ‘Plus, any windows in the loft space had to be non-opening with obscure glazing. The local authority later agreed to allow one window that could be opened if there was an emergency, but not for general use.’
Kathryn and Graham had a rethink and decided to turn the loft into another living room with a sofa bed for guests and storage space at one end, plus a home office at the other end. The builders replicated the spindles of the original staircase leading up from the ground floor to match the new one to the loft, so it is virtually seamless. The couple had all the windows in the house, except the large front ones, replaced with double-glazed, wooden sash windows. An old lean-to at the back of the kitchen that was once an outside WC, but had been used by the previous owners to store the boiler and washing machine, was knocked down to open up the garden. ‘The builders then filled in the doorway and fitted a window to match the others in the kitchen,’ says Kathryn.
With the three rooms knocked into one, the couple could see what space they had to work with. There was a half-height wall at the bottom of the stairs in the snug area, which had to be built up to full height due to building regulations for the loft conversion, so that the kitchen space could be separated from the stairwell. ‘We were worried it would make the space feel dark and didn’t want to block it off completely, so we had a fire-resistant glazed window put in the new wall,’ explains Kathryn. When it came to choosing the kitchen, Kathryn found an advert for a local kitchen and bathroom company in a magazine. She went along to the showroom and ended up finding the perfect kitchen as well as the bathroom and en suite fittings. ‘I didn’t want a kitchen that was too modern, plus it needed to suit the style of the house,’ she says. ‘I like simple lines and the showroom offered lots of sample doors in its range.’
The couple had a stroke of luck with the worktops. Kathryn had seen a smart matt surface in one of the displays, but it wasn’t within their budget and she had to choose a similar, less expensive style. The two other options she had shortlisted were out of stock, however, so the supplier ended up offering her original choice at a lower price.
Since buying the property, the couple have found out some of its history. ‘Our neighbour Peter’s grandfather built the shop and house and lived there for many years,’ explains Kathryn. ‘Peter has shown us old photos and can remember sheltering in the cupboard under the stairs with his brother during air raids in the Second World War. We found the noughts and crosses games they scratched on the wall. I could never paint over them; they are part of the house’s character.’
The shop’s original marble counter was still in the living room, with cupboards underneath, which the previous owners had added. Although the Pauls didn’t want to get rid of it, it took up an entire wall, so the builders suggested using the marble to make a garden table and inset some of it into a coffee table. The old butcher’s hooks are still hanging from the ceiling in the living room. Although the couple wanted to keep them as part of the décor anyway, Kathryn admits that removing them could have been difficult. ‘It would have meant taking the whole ceiling down,’ she says.
With the building work and redecorating completed, the family moved in five months later. ‘It’s amazing how much space we have gained from opening up the three rooms and converting the loft,’ says Kathryn
|Kitchen cabinetry and appliances||£16,500|