Converting a living room into a kitchen

Changing the layout of their home allowed Karen and Gavin Ferguson to create a traditional, family-sized open-plan cooking and dining space. The couple decided to convert the living room in their Victorian farmhouse to create a kitchen and dining area perfect for family life

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‘We fell in love with this house from the very moment we pulled up to the front door in our car,’ recalls Karen. ‘It was a classic Victorian Highland property, with a beautiful exterior and a pretty courtyard. I remember the estate agent who showed us around commenting on the higgledypiggledy interior as if it was a negative, but Gavin and I found it absolutely charming.’

The couple’s previous home was located on a housing estate, but they were looking to move to a more private, countryside location near to a major town. ‘Gavin had been brought up in the country, and this influenced our search for the new property. He was particularly keen for our children to have the same rural upbringing as he had enjoyed,’ explains Karen.

The Fergusons were initially content to live with the existing layout of the five-bedroom farmhouse. ‘However, after a couple of years we suddenly decided to change everything to suit our own taste,’ explains Karen. ‘Although we had fallen in love with the house as it was, we wanted to put our own stamp on its design.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Karen and Gavin Ferguson, who own a wine retail business, live here with their three children, Amy, 10, Josh, eight, and Olivia, six
  • The property: A five-bedroom detached farmhouse, built in the 1800s
  • The location: East Lothian, Scotland
  • What they spent: The couple’s kitchen project cost around £65,000

The kitchen

The original kitchen was located in the oldest part of the house, and although Karen considered it adequate, she never felt that it worked for them as a family. ‘I always felt rather isolated when I was preparing meals, so I never warmed to the old kitchen,’ she says.

‘There was a huge living room area located in an extension built in the 1950s. Matching brickwork had been chosen that was sympathetic to the original building and I had always thought it would make a fabulous open-plan kitchen-diner. We had no need for a grand living room, but we did need a more sociable space where we could prepare meals and spend time together.’

Planning the design

Plans were drawn up to include an extension to create a link from the former living room to an indoor swimming pool extension. The living room space remained largely unchanged, apart from the removal of a chimneybreast and fireplace, and the creation of a squared-off entrance made by knocking down an external wall.

‘Planning approval went through smoothly, and we moved into a nearby cottage while the builders rewired and re-plumbed the whole house,’ says Karen. ‘A dilapidated greenhouse attached to the outside wall was demolished and RSJ beams were installed to support the large entrance to the new link room and the swimming pool, which would be clearly visible from the new kitchen.’


Work begins

Work started in May and the Fergusons were able to keep an eye on the building work thanks to the close proximity of the cottage to the house. As the builders began the extension, Karen turned her attention to the kitchen design. ‘I had strong ideas and wanted a kitchen with good-quality appliances and a large table where we could eat, work on craft projects and bake together, or where the children could do their homework,’ she says.

‘I love modern design, but felt that a more classic style, with contemporary details, would complement the house better. We decided to go with the company that made the kitchen in our last house,’ Karen adds. ‘Alison Howard of Christopher Howard had the “can do” attitude that meant we were able to achieve everything we wanted.’

With plans in place to create a clear view of the swimming pool from the new kitchen, Karen took inspiration from the colour of the water and asked Alison to include a blue-painted island unit in the layout. ‘The island was always going to be the lynchpin of the design,’ she says. ‘It is at the heart of the kitchen so that whoever is cooking will always feel connected. Its position also takes advantage of the views out onto the courtyard, through the magnificent feature arched window.’

A tall housing unit was positioned on a flat wall – a space created by removing the fireplace and chimneybreast. ‘I wanted all the major cooking appliances in a single unit for convenience,’ says Karen. ‘Both Gavin and I enjoy cooking, and the variety of appliances we were able to integrate means that we are able to be creative with meals, making food preparation so much more interesting.’

With the house and kitchen work finished by October, the family moved back into the house, although building work for the swimming pool extension wasn’t to be completed for a further six months. ‘We taped up the entrance to the link room so that we weren’t unduly troubled by the continuing building work,’ explains Karen.


Interior design

With the kitchen in situ, Karen sourced the finishing touches. ‘The oak dining table is great for family meals, and the chunky legs are amazing,’ she says. ‘I was advised to buy heavily upholstered seating to help with the room’s acoustics, but I’ve always wanted the beautiful Ghost dining chairs and I don’t regret buying them.’

A portrait of the children, painted while the family were on holiday in Australia, is a treasured addition to the kitchen. ‘I love it, and the fact that the vivid blue sky matches the island,’ says Karen.

With a strong sense of family and an eye for detail, the Fergusons have created an open-plan kitchen-diner that succeeds in reflecting their personalities and yet remains respectful to the period origins of the Victorian farmhouse. ‘I love that it’s such a fantastic family space,’ says Karen. ‘I feel happy and relaxed knowing that it has been perfectly designed to suit us.’

The costs

Fixtures, fittings and appliances£27,656
Kitchen units and island£22,775
Furniture and accessories£3,800
Kitchen installation£3,055