Extending for extra space

Boris and Lizz Petric’s 1930s house was too small for their growing family, so they decided to improve rather than move, creating an open plan layout with a series of major extensions

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When Lizz and Boris Petric upgraded to a three-bedroom semi-detached house from a three bedroom maisonette flat in 2002, they felt that they’d gained a substantial amount of space. They had a garden for the children to play in and the main bedrooms were far bigger than those in the maisonette.

Best of all, there was a conservatory attached at the rear of their new home, which they believed would provide a much-needed extra living room.

As Boris explains, however: ‘Although the conservatory was a good size and well heated, it felt very disconnected from the rest of the house, as it was only accessible via a small doorway. We found that anyone who went in there was totally cut off from the rest of the family – it was quite an antisocial space.’

Fact file

The owners: Lizz Petric, a community nurse, and her husband Boris, an architect and design manager, live here with their children Anna, 11, and Maria, eight

As is quite typical of 1930s-built houses across the UK, the outdated layout meant that the family found, over time, the conservatory became a kind of unused dumping ground. Lizz and Boris realised that it was taking up quite a large part of their home’s footprint, but the space was totally under-used. The house actually felt a lot smaller than it was.

The couple were feeling the lack of space all the more as their daughters were getting older, with Anna fast approaching her teens and both girls needing more storage space for all their clothes and books. On top of this, Boris’ mum is a regular visitor from Croatia and stays for long periods with the family. For every visit, the girls were having to double up, to free up one bedroom, and the bathroom had to be shared between five people.

Wary of the uncertainties in the UK housing market, the Petrics decided this time to stay put rather than looking at buying a larger property. As an architect, Boris was certain they could make the most of the house they were in. He worked out that the existing roof pitch and height would allow for a generous attic conversion and, at first, he drew up plans for a large, luxurious private master bedroom for himself and Lizz, with an en suite shower room. Tempting as this option was, it would have meant that the house would still only have three bedrooms, because the smallest of the existing three would have to be lost to accommodate the new staircase leading up to the loft.

Instead, the couple chose the more practical option of creating two new bedrooms and a shower room, for the girls, in the loft. One of the remaining first-floor bedrooms would then be used as a much-needed guest room.

Next, Boris addressed the issue of the conservatory – by knocking it down. He decided that opening out the rear elevation and extending into the garden would mean he was able to create a large open-plan kitchen-diner/ family area. The space, being relatively deep, draws in natural light in the middle via a large square rooflight over the island unit and breakfast bar. An entire wall from the front of the room to the back comprises white-gloss units, and there is a bespoke utility unit housing the washing machine and dryer behind blackboard-painted doors. ‘I had originally put a separate utility room in the plans, by extending sideways up to the party wall,’ explains Boris. ‘Then we found a Thames Water manhole in that location serving several properties. This would have been very expensive and complicated to move, so we scaled back the extension and lost the utility room. On the plus side, we have access to the rear garden from the front, which is quite useful.’

The extension looks out onto the garden and a new rear glazed wall of folding-sliding doors opens up onto a decked terrace area. In the past, the family often shared their evening meals in front of the TV in the living room, to avoid going into the uninviting conservatory. Now, though, they regularly eat al fresco on the terrace. ‘It’s a little reminder of the summers we spend on the Adriatic coast in Croatia, where Boris is from,’ says Lizz.

‘We created a cool, contemporary style throughout the house,’ she adds, ‘with white units and furniture. With it being a family home, we also wanted to add some warmth both inside and out, and we achieved this with the wooden work surfaces and floors, and external timber decking and cladding,’

The couple wanted a modern look without the inflated price tag and so IKEA features heavily. ‘We invested in a few expensive items, like the full-height glazed rear doors and new oak flooring throughout, while keeping other costs down. This way, it’s possible to achieve a contemporary feel at a reasonable price,’ says Boris.

The family only had to move out of the house for three nights during the construction works. Certain nuances in Planning and Permitted Development law meant that the attic conversion and ground-floor extension were done separately in two phases, with a long gap of a year in between. ‘That was not ideal,’ continues Boris, ‘but we had no choice due to the complications with planning. Since then, the laws have been changed and if we had to do the same thing again today, we wouldn’t have had any problems.’

Potentially, the couple could have also saved 10 per cent of their overall budget if both sets of works had been done simultaneously, because the contractor would have doubled up on many of his costs and logistics. With regards to living on a building site, Boris says: ‘The attic conversion was more painful to live with than the ground-floor works, as it took four months and was quite messy. We’re really delighted with the finished result, though; it’s such a great use of the space. The ground-floor extension took just seven weeks and we were away for part of that time while the kitchen was being installed, so it wasn’t too bad at all.’

As well as adding the crucial rooms they needed to accommodate their changing family needs, Lizz and Boris have also created an open, light and warm space that they can now enjoy as a family. ‘We all hang out in the living room, which we’ve decorated in a modern style to complement the period features – or in the new kitchen area,’ says Boris. ‘While Lizz cooks, Anna and Maria put on their CDs and I relax with the paper – at least until the girls get tired of my silly jokes. Then they can always escape to their rooms.’


Structural work£40,000
Misc. work£6,000
Windows & doors£10,000
Kitchen, inclu. appliances£7,000