Converting a basement studio into a family space

Caitlin Phillips and Rob Wood knocked through three rooms in their dark basement to create a light-filled contemporary kitchen-breakfast room with high-gloss finish floor-to-ceiling units and integrated appliances

TODO alt text

‘This property’s previous owners were an artist and his jeweller wife, who were both in their sixties,’ says Caitlin. ‘The basement kitchen was a small room with an Aga, which suited them fine, but we needed to free up more space to create a good sized kitchen for our growing family so we could all eat together.’

When Caitlin and her partner Rob moved into their new home, they planned to tackle the kitchen straight away.

‘It was the only major structural work that needed to be done in the house,’ says Caitlin. ‘With three children under six and a fourth one on the way, it was a real priority.’ The couple’s plan was to knock through two small rooms in the basement, which had been used as an artist’s studio and a sitting room, and link them with the kitchen to create one large space. As the basement was suffering from damp, it needed to be damp proofed, then rewired before the rest of the work could go ahead.

Fact file

The owners: Caitlin Phillips, a resource advisor, and her partner Rob Wood, who is a business developer, live here with their children, Evie, six, Theo, four, Cecily, two, and Samuel, three months

‘Luckily, we had hired our builders a few months before the completion of the sale, so they were ready to start three weeks after we moved in,’ Caitlin explains. ‘We’d also been busy researching new kitchens and had asked three local showrooms to come up with some designs for us.’

The couple eventually settled on a scheme devised by Helena Flahive of Fabrico Designs, as they were impressed with her creative flair and enthusiasm for creating the perfect family kitchen.

‘She visited the house several times during the planning stages,’ says Caitlin. ‘Once she had produced the final designs, she invited us to the showroom to present her ideas via a computer demonstration so that we could get a feel for how the space would work.’

Helena encouraged the couple to be bold with their choice of features. She suggested incorporating a large island unit to create generous work space and to house the sink, dishwasher and waste bins.

Caitlin and Rob wanted to break up a wall of units on one side of the kitchen by placing a stainless steel fridge-freezer there. Helena, however, thought they should retain the streamlined bank of cupboards for a more contemporary finish.

‘We were worried that a wall of cabinets might be too overpowering, but when she showed us on the computer we realised she was absolutely right,’ says Caitlin.

Meanwhile, the build project was well under way to turn the three small rooms into one large space. The work also included underfloor heating, plus new French doors to bring natural light into the basement and link the space to the garden.

Caitlin and Rob had already chosen simple yet stylish white units and white worktops for their new kitchen and were thinking of painting the walls off-white. Helena, however, felt that it needed an injection of colour.

‘Helena suggested painting one of the walls red,’ Caitlin explains. ‘We thought it would darken the room – but it has finished it beautifully, bringing warmth and personality to our living space.’

The couple’s kitchen project took four months, including the structural work, kitchen planning and installation and decorating. Caitlin and Rob were pleased that it all went smoothly and there were no unforeseen extra costs, so they managed to stay within budget.

‘Our kitchen-breakfast room is a fantastic living space and we spend a lot of time down here as a family,’ says Caitlin. ‘It is the heart of the house, easily accommodating the children’s play area, with plenty of room for cooking and entertaining.

‘It is so much brighter than we had expected from a basement room – but most of all, it has real wow-factor.’


Kitchen, including worktops£20,988
Walls and flooring£1,211
Furniture and accessories£450