Extending a galley kitchen

Clair and Simon Wills extended the rear of the property to change their galley kitchen into a contemporary open-plan kitchen-diner. After an electrical fire in 2013, the couple had to re-decorate their extended kitchen, finally achieving their dream space

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‘After an electrical fire caused a great deal of smoke damage in our newly extended kitchen-diner, we had to decorate the space all over again,’ recalls Clair Wills. ‘It finally gave us the impetus to sort out the room once and for all and give it the wow-factor we had been dreaming of.’ 

The couple had bought their home in 2009 because of the potential it offered. ‘It was ripe for remodelling and extending,’ says Clair, ‘but we knew we had a big job ahead to turn it into the home we wanted.

‘The kitchen was a tiny, galley style, typical of the type in 1940s houses,’ she adds. ‘It was too small for a property of this size, and not at all suited to the way we wanted to live in the house. We were keen to have a large, open space for eating, cooking and relaxing, with direct access to the garden.’

Fact file

The owners: Clair Wills, a medical PA, and husband Simon, a music company director, live here with their son Archie, nine, and daughter Lola, six

The couple had plans to double the size of the house and alter the dimensions of almost every room, with a huge new kitchen-diner at the rear forming the main living space, as well as a loft conversion to create two bedrooms each with their own en suite (as featured in the May 2014 issue of Real Homes). ‘We planned to extend to the rear by eight metres, giving us a massive space to work with,’ says Clair.

As Simon knew that their planned extension would fall outside the limits of permitted development, he arranged a meeting with a council planning officer to find out what might receive permission. ‘Simon gained lots of information, which was great as it meant we didn’t waste valuable time and money coming up with plans that were never going to stand a chance of being passed,’ explains Clair.

‘We were told that we couldn’t extend out by the full eight metres across the whole width of the property, so, after the kitchen-diner section, the extension cuts back in towards the house to form the living area. This is actually quite nice, as it creates an obvious break between the two spaces,’ she continues.

One particularly useful tool that the couple discovered during their project was Google Sketchup. ‘You can use it to create 3D drawings, so it allowed us to really understand what was possible with the space,’ says Clair. ‘There was no need to download the professional version costing several hundred pounds, as the free, downloadable version was more than adequate for us. It was simple to use and we were quickly able to build up an idea of what the extension would look like.’

After putting together a feasible plan, Simon checked his ideas with a structural engineer, and then took the plans to an architect, who drew them up to be submitted for planning permission. The plans were submitted in the spring of 2010 and, thanks to the advice the couple had received beforehand, were passed within the standard timeframe. The build got underway in May 2010 and lasted nine months, eight weeks of which the family lived with Simon’s father to escape the worst of the work.

When it came to choosing the new fixtures and fittings, the couple wanted to keep everything light and contemporary, so they opted for simple white gloss units. ‘We were really keen to have a clean-lined design, so we didn’t want any visible handles,’ says Clair. ‘We searched online for white handleless units and narrowed it down to one company that had reasonable prices and which offered a wide range of units, from pan drawers and floor-to-ceiling cupboards to stand-alone cabinets, so we had plenty of options.’

With the walls painted white to enhance the feeling of space, Clair and Simon chose dark wood-effect flooring as a contrast to the walls and units, as well as new sofas for the seating area. ‘We didn’t get round to thinking about the rest of the finishing touches, however. The space was great, and the bi-fold doors let in a lot of light, but the décor wasn’t right. We’d kept our old chunky wooden table and chairs, but they didn’t work with the contemporary feel we were trying to achieve,’ explains Clair. ‘After such a costly project, we needed a rest and had to stop spending money on the house, so we lived with the kitchen as it was for the next couple of years.’

The electrical fire in January 2013 changed the situation. We needed a specialist fire team to deal with it. ‘It was frightening, but the main thing was that no-one was hurt,’ says Clair. ‘There was a lot of damage, which was mainly due to the smoke. We lost everything, including our clothes, soft furnishings and the flooring, and had to move back in with Simon’s dad for a few months while it was all re-done.’

Thankfully, they were able to salvage the kitchen units and worktop, which only needed a really good clean, but the rest of the space had to be redecorated in May 2013, with all the walls re-painted white. They had new flooring fitted, but in the same style as for the first redesign, as they had been happy with how it looked.

‘With the basics back in place, we took a long, hard look at the kitchen-diner and identified any last-minute impulse buys that didn’t really work, or items we’d brought with us from our old house that didn’t go with the new scheme,’ says Clair.

The chunky wooden table and chairs were replaced with a handmade wooden table in a more contemporary style, and then it was teamed with white designer chairs to make a statement. ‘The old wooden stools were given to us by a relative who was moving home, and, thankfully, they had survived the fire, only needing a clean. The lights needed sorting out, though – we’d had simple blue and black shades, but I wanted a more glamorous design, so I sourced glass chandelier-style lights instead,’ says Clair.

‘After the fire, we decided to go with a grey-and-white scheme to add depth and contrast to the room,’ she adds. The design element that provides the finishing touch is the rear wall of the kitchen, now painted a dramatic shade of dark grey. ‘We tried a variety of greys, but I loved the near-black shade, as it created instant impact. I was nervous about how it would look when we first started painting, but as soon as it was finished, I loved the results.’

Having worked hard to re-do the room following the house fire, the family are once more able to enjoy the space. ‘I’m so pleased we decided to create a different look in here following the fire,’ admits Clair. ‘We still spend all of our time in here, and now, not only do we have the space we need, but it also looks very stylish.

The costs

Units and worktops£14,000
Folding-sliding doors£5,000
Furniture and accessories£2,850
Wall and flooring£1,700