12 year passion project: how we built our perfect kitchen

James Hewitt and Pamela Sampson have spent 12 years renovating their Victorian home – carefully selecting new, vintage and reclaimed pieces for their long-awaited kitchen extension

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James and partner Pamela have spent more than a decade painstakingly renovating their Victorian house, completing much of the work themselves to reduce costs. 


The owners: James Hewitt, an IT consultant, lives here with partner Pamela Sampson, a former graphic designer and vintage clothing dealer, and their daughter Tilly, 16, plus Copper, the poodle

The property: A five-bedroom, semi-detached Victorian house built in 1896 in Ashtead, Surrey

Total project cost: £131,600

When they finally came to add their dream kitchen extension last year, which the couple, who love vintage, reclaimed and antique items, knew that off-the-shelf products and a run-of-the-mill design weren’t for them. ‘Part of what we enjoy so much about renovating the house is researching and sourcing the perfect, one-off pieces,’ explains James. 

‘Hardly anything in here is new, and it’s given us scope to put together items that we really love and that have a story behind them. By taking our time and waiting for items we really want, it’s also proved more cost effective than buying everything new.’

Dining area with statement seating in a kitchen extension

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

The dining table looks out over the garden through the new glazed doors. The zinc-topped table, Tolix chairs and vintage sideboard were all bought at auction. The vintage 1960s hanging chair is from Ebay. The Capiz shell chandelier is from Graham & Green 

When the couple moved into the house 12 years ago, they were upsizing from a similar but smaller Victorian house nearby. ‘We love period properties as they’re so solidly built, but we were quite fussy about what we wanted so it actually took us six years of house hunting to decide on this place,’ explains James. 

‘The longer you look the fussier you become!’ With its suburban location, garden big enough for a vegetable patch, and plenty of scope to extend, they fell in love with this five-bedroom semi. 

But its condition left a lot to be desired. ‘The house had only had three owners since it was built and had been in the same family since the 1960s,’ he explains. ‘It hadn’t been updated since the 1980s and the décor was interesting to say the least!’   

Before shot of the rear of a Victorian house

The original kitchen at the rear of the house was cramped with one small window and no direct access to the garden

The whole property was systematically stripped back and renovated, with a slate roof installed, the electrics, plumbing and insulation updated, plastering completed, and features such as cornicing and skirting boards replaced. ‘We started at the top of the house and worked our way down to try and stop the dust travelling down into areas we’d finished,’ explains James. 

The original kitchen was ‘the worst room in the house’, with no heating, polystyrene ceiling tiles, and no link to the garden. ‘We knew that by extending to the rear and out into the side return, we could create an open-plan kitchen-living-diner that suited our taste and lifestyle much better,’ recalls James. 

Architect Perry Barnes was asked to create the architectural designs, and gave great advice on issues such as accommodating the change of floor level from the extension to the house, locating the exposed steels and the importance of factoring existing pieces of furniture into the layout.

Steel framed doors and windows in a kitchen extension

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

James spent hours researching steel-framed doors and windows and eventually settled on these designs from Clement Windows, which complement the retro-style kitchen. The exterior of the extension is finished in grey engineering bricks, which contrast with the original Victorian red-brick property

One of the key influences on the design was the desire to create better links to the outdoors. This has been achieved through steel-framed glazed doors and a rolling rooflight, which can be opened up when the weather is good to let fresh air into the depths of the room. 

As the extension exceeded the size allowed under permitted development rights, planning permission was needed. ‘We were keen for the extension to create a modern contrast to the Victorian property, rather than being a pastiche to it,’ explains James. ‘Luckily the planners liked the contemporary design we’d suggested and approved the planning permission relatively quickly.’ 

The couple found builders S&R Construction through their architect. ‘We couldn’t afford to move out while the work was completed so we were fortunate that they did everything they could to make life comfortable for us during the six months of structural work,’ says James. 

Industrial style kitchen in with open shelving and vintage lighting

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

James was keen to create a commercial look in the kitchen, and sourced reclaimed Moffatt Multiplex Modular units from secondhand catering suppliers, which he altered to fit the space. A new stainless-steel worktop and sink, made by Moffatt, pull the look together

The kitchen itself was a labour of love for keen chef James, who knew exactly the look he wanted. ‘I’m a huge fan of kitchens with a commercial feel, and wanted stainless-steel Moffat Multiplex Modular units,’ he explains. However, at £1,000 for a single unit and with 10-12 units needed, he simply didn’t have the budget to buy bespoke. 

‘In the end, I bought the units a few at a time from commercial kitchen auctions,’ he says. ‘I altered them myself, before commissioning a stainless-steel worktop to tie them together.’ 


Building work: £91,000

Glazed doors and windows: £13,200

Professional fees: £9,600

Furniture: £8,000

Kitchen: £6,800

Electronic rooflight: £3,000

With their passion for bargains and love of Mid-century design, the finished space features plenty of  quirky details, including ceiling lights reclaimed from a dress shop, and a 1930s haberdashery unit that the room was designed around.  

‘An off-the-shelf kitchen full of new furniture wouldn’t have suited us at all,’ muses James. ‘We absolutely love every element of the new space and it’s so rewarding looking around and knowing the research, hard work and, of course, the bargains, that went into making it a reality.’

Industrial style kitchen extension to a Victorian home

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

Two Le Corbusier sofas create a comfy place to relax – one is from The Conran Shop and the other is from Ebay. The grey sofa is from Dwell. The vintage 1960s coffee table was bought at auction

Vintage glazed dresser unit in an industrial style kitchen extension

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

The couple already owned this original 1930s Dudley & Co dresser and they designed the kitchen layout to accommodate it; for similar designs, try Ebay