Extension to a semi-detached house

Desperate for extra space, Lucy and Russ Davies converted their loft, plus built an extension and converted their garage to create a stunning open-plan kitchen-diner

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Moving back to London after living and working in Australia for a year, Lucy and Russ Davies were surprised how small and cramped their three-bedroom house felt. ‘Coming home was a real shock,’ remembers Lucy.

‘For a while Russ was talking about the possibility of us emigrating long-term as he loved the feeling of how spacious the Australian properties are and really couldn’t see us settling back here in the UK.’ The couple considered moving to a bigger home for a fresh start.

‘Everyone thought we were mad as it was 2008 and the housing market had crashed, but it made sense to us. We might have lost some of the capital in our house, but it meant that our budget could stretch much further than we’d hoped,’ explains Lucy.

Fact file

  • The owners: Lucy Davies, a viewing assistant for an estate agent, and her husband Russ, an IT management consultant, live here with their three children Louis, eight, Rosie, seven and Max, two
  • The property: A three-storey, five-bedroom, Victorian semi-detached house
  • The location: Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
  • What they spent: The couple bought the property for £545,000 in 2009 and have spent around £250,000 on renovations. The house has recently been valued at around £950,000

open-plan kitchen dining area

Gaining planning permission

‘Three architects visited us to talk through ideas, but they just didn’t take on board what we wanted to do; it was very frustrating,’ recalls Lucy. ‘A friend then told me about her neighbour Anna, who is an architectural designer. She visited us, and as she has a young family of her own, she understood what we were looking for.’

Plans were drawn up for a two-storey side extension with a single wrap-around ground floor extension at the back, plus a loft conversion, but things got off to a rocky start when their first planning application was turned down. ‘We wanted a hip to gable loft extension, to make the best use of the space, but it would have been different from the style of the house next door. We appealed the decision but lost,’ says Lucy. ‘It felt unfair and was stressful at the time, as other houses in our road had already done the same style of conversion.’

Anna changed the plans so they were for a hip roof, which was approved, but the planning process had taken around eight months. Luckily, the rest of the project went smoothly. Lucy and Russ contacted Ron Klingenberg from construction company Inner Space Developments, who came highly recommended after working on the neighbouring house. The couple had seen his work and, although they had several quotes from other companies to compare prices, they got on well with Ron and asked him to take on the job.

Staircase in redesigned home

The build

‘Ron started work in February 2011 and he advised us to move out while the work was being carried out,’ says Lucy. ‘We stayed in the property during the first six weeks of the project, but the living areas we could use were getting increasingly smaller. It was actually more cost-effective for us to rent a house nearby for six months, as the builders could rip everything out in one go and start in earnest, rather than having to try to work around us.’

The roof was off for around three weeks and the couple decided not to fit a canopy over the house. ‘It would have cost an extra £3,000, but the walls of the house had been taken right back to the brickwork, so we felt it couldn’t get too damaged,’ explains Lucy. ‘We were lucky that the weather stayed dry.’

At ground level, the two-storey side extension wraps around the rear of the house to create a spacious open-plan kitchen, with room for a utility area and home office at the side, while the second floor has gained two additional bedrooms and a family bathroom. The original front and rear bedrooms have remained the same, with the old bathroom now an en suite for the guest room. The small third bedroom was used to make a hallway to the two new bedrooms and bathroom.

‘With the property taken back to the bare brick, almost everything was redone or replaced, from the plastering, wiring and plumbing to the new box sash windows,’ says Lucy. ‘Unfortunately, when we bought the house there were no original features left, except fireplaces in the living room and in Louis’ bedroom, which I wanted to keep as they are part of its history.’

Sourcing materials

The couple sourced a lot of the materials themselves, such as the bathroom suites and tiles, but they did have some bad luck along the way. ‘We had paid a deposit for a new kitchen from Moben, but the company went bust shortly afterwards, so we lost our money. It was a setback, but thankfully Ron’s company was able to hand-build us exactly what we wanted to our own specifications,’ Lucy explains. ‘I asked him for as many floor-to-ceiling cupboards as possible, with a big island unit. Ron then suggested spraying the units a dark grey to match the sliding doors. He had great vision and often gave us design ideas when we were stuck. I chose the white worktops, although Russ was sceptical as he thought they would become very stained, but they are made from Corian so they are really hardwearing.’

It was also Ron’s idea to build a unit on the ceiling to hide the extractor above the island. Lucy had seen a picture in a magazine of a design that was flush to the ceiling, but the couple couldn’t achieve this look in their house as the ducting was too deep to sit between the ceiling joists. Lucy and Russ felt that suspending a chimney above the island would spoil the view of the garden, so Ron designed a bespoke housing unit at ceiling height to box in the extractor. Then, they decided on the design details. ‘I originally wanted lime green splashbacks to add some colour, but Russ felt we should go for a more subtle shade. I’m pleased with our choice now, and we can always change the colour in the future if we want a a different scheme.’

Bathroom in redesigned home

The finished project

With the project finished, Lucy is thrilled with the results but wishes they had been able to extend the front living room, as she explains: ‘We looked at ways of making it bigger but nothing really worked. It’s a nice little room to relax in, and is mainly used by the children to play in or to watch TV. It’s also quite a cosy, quiet space to sit in with a coffee and a magazine.’

Any thoughts of emigrating have become a distant memory and the family are settled in their home. ‘We are so happy here now,’ says Lucy. ‘We don’t miss the garage at all and the extra space makes the house feel much more relaxed.’

The costs

Building work, including bespoke kitchen and appliances£215,000
Timber windows£16,000
Sliding doors£8,000
Architect’s fees£3,000