Sitting at the dining table in Polly and Sean Birrane’s kitchen and looking out through the large expanse of glass, you’ll see the London skyline in the distance.
The owners: Polly Birrane, a blogger, photographer and stay-at-home mum, lives here with husband Sean, who works in contruction, and their son Sonny, 12, and daughter Evan, 10
The property: A four bedroom Victorian terrace in East Dulwich, London
Total project cost: £166,200
Not only are they lucky to have such a great view of the capital from their home, but the design of their rear extension maximises the benefits.
‘We did consider moving the main living spaces into the loft and creating an upside-down house to make the most of the views, but decided it wouldn’t be practical for us,’ explains Polly.
‘Instead, we decided a side-return extension would give us space for a bigger kitchen, plus more light and the access to the outdoors that we wanted.’
‘The existing kitchen had a narrow, galley layout and felt separate from the rest of the house – especially as there were stairs down into it from the hallway, as it’s lower than the ground floor.’
Sean, who runs a construction company, searched on a local community forum for a designer and found Sam Selencky, of Selencky Parsons Architects.
Professional fees: £10,200
Decorating & furniture: £8,000
The brief was to create an extension that had strong lines, inspired by a piece of artwork in the house, as well as a flat roof with added interest, lots of glazing and a seamless link to the garden.
Sam came up with a scheme that would not only frame the London skyline, but provide space for cooking, working, entertaining and relaxing.
The design featured a series of stepped roof planes and clerestory windows to allow light to enter.
A new, second entrance to the kitchen-diner would also be created from the living room to create a better sense of flow.
By the time the design was finalised and planning permission granted, the family had moved into the front part of the house and upstairs, setting up a makeshift kitchen in the lounge.
Sam recommended a structural engineer to assess the works, who advised on the supporting steels needed to link the extension to the house, while the couple found their builders, Cobalt Construction, through a friend. Sean managed the project himself.
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‘We compared quotes from many builders; the one we went for wasn’t the cheapest, but we knew that he was hardworking and reliable,’ explains Polly.
‘Inevitably with a project of this scale, things will go wrong, but having a team of professionals that you can trust is key.’
Next to be decided was the style of the new kitchen. ‘I wanted it to be bold and modern but also practical,’ she adds. ‘The old units were very tall, so I needed easily accessible cupboards and drawers. I also wanted the kitchen units to look like part of the furniture in the rest of the space.’
After visiting many showrooms, the couple worked with a designer from DesignSpace London on the best layout. They opted for grey wall units, a large island in black and integrated appliances, creating lots of room for preparing meals, cooking and eating.
Polly designed the rest of the interior, which has a neutral base with concrete floor tiles, a blue feature wall, plus wooden furniture and copper accents to warm up the scheme.
'I’d describe my interior style as characterful, modern and curated,’ she adds.
The extension and kitchen were completed within six months and on budget.
The finished design has given the family space to enjoy time together, as well as making the most of the links to the garden and the city views beyond.
- Architect: Selencky Parsons
- Builder: Cobalt Construction
- Project management: Bright Tiger
- Kitchen: DesignSpace London
- Glazing: Essex Woodcraft, Sunfold