A family property
When Tim and I saw the house, we knew it was right for us,’ recalls Charlotte, who felt that the grand Victorian property where they now live would be the perfect family home. ‘There were six big bedrooms and a lovely walled garden, which is great for the kids and their friends, and the location means that, while we have peace and quiet at home, we are also close enough to the buzz of local shops and bars.’
With a traditional red-brick exterior, the house is nestled in a leafy south London road, near the local high street, and the couple couldn’t resist its original features. Most of the house only required a touch of paint and some modernisation, but the existing kitchen simply didn’t work for Charlotte and Tim, who love to host dinner parties and entertain friends. A small room at the back of the house, it was filled with dated pine and Formica units and the dining table could only seat four.
A space for entertaining
‘Generally, people come round at least twice a month, and family and friends often visit us at weekends,’ says Charlotte. ‘The original kitchen was so cramped that whenever we had guests, we all found ourselves squashed in there like sardines.’
The Fleetwoods therefore took the decision to add an L-shaped extension by knocking down an old garage to make way for a large, open-plan kitchen-diner. ‘Creating a completely family-friendly space was at the forefront of the project. I didn’t want to constantly worry about what the kids were doing, so it had to be practical as well as stylish,’ Charlotte says.
Problems with planning
When the local planning office rejected Charlotte and Tim’s initial plans due to the height of the roof lantern, they contacted side-return extension specialist Build Team. ‘We underestimated the length of the planning process,’ recalls Charlotte. ‘We assumed that we would be able to start the project within six weeks of moving in; we didn’t even properly unpack our kitchen items. After we’d contacted Build Team, it was smooth sailing from then on.’
Designing the extension
The couple wanted not only to add an extension for a new kitchen-diner, but also to dig down, creating a wine cellar. ‘Tim had always dreamt of having one and, as so much work was already being done, we thought that it was the right time.’
One compromise that the couple had to make was moving the cellar from its planned location below the kitchen to under the living room, because of a large water pipe running under the house that hadn’t shown up on any of the surveys.
This discovery meant that the structural footings had to be redesigned and some of the support beams modified to reinforce the surrounding load-bearing walls. ‘We had hoped to keep the cellar beneath the kitchen, but it was just one of those things. Luckily, the builders were on hand to explain our options, so it didn’t slow down the project,’ says Charlotte.
Once the plans were in place and the location of the cellar decided, the diggers moved in. The project was completed only weeks before Christmas, so the pressure was on to finish the room as the couple were due to host 30 people for lunch.
‘Before we had started, I’d already seen my dream kitchen, with beautiful pale blue units, a big island and lots of storage. Unfortunately, it was out of our price range, so I scoured the internet for a more affordable option and came across Underwood, which specialises in creating bespoke kitchens and furniture,’ says Charlotte. ‘The team have created a one-of-a-kind kitchen that really works. They also achieved the perfect shade of blue and I really do love it.’
Not only is it the right blue hue, the kitchen includes a built-in larder and a boiling hot water tap. The impressive cellar, with a spiral staircase and recessed lighting, holds 1,500 bottles of wine and can be found beneath trap doors under the living room floor.
With time of the essence, Charlotte worked with interior designer Zara Kaba to decorate the open-plan space. ‘When the structural work was finished, we were still using the living room as a kitchen. Suddenly it was all go and we needed to get everything ordered as soon as possible,’ says Charlotte. ‘Zara helped me to source some of the key items, which saved us money and encouraged me to make more daring design choices. She commissioned a rug especially for the room based on a drawing by our daughter Arabella and it’s now one of my favourite pieces in the room.’
When planning the rest of the room, storage space was key, so that when Charlotte and Tim have friends over they can quickly hide away the children’s toys. The builders created a wall of shelving and cupboards, as well as a built-in bench.
The finished project
The Fleetwoods’ family life at home has completely changed since having the extension built. ‘Before, we were always in separate rooms. Arabella might have been playing in her room while Freddie was in the garden, and there wasn’t anywhere we could all spend time together. The new kitchen gives us all enough space to do our own thing while also being together, which is a lovely feeling,’ says Charlotte.
The project has added an impressive 50 square metres to the house, and a seven-metre run of bi-fold doors leads out onto the patio and walled garden. The old kitchen has now been renovated to give the children their own playroom and also houses a useful utility room.
Although the couple went over their planned buget, the addition of the cellar, and last-minute changes to the specification, meant that it was clear where the extra money was spent. ‘We thought that as we were doing all this work and going through the hassle of living with the house in such a mess anyway, we might as well get exactly what we want,’ Charlotte explains. ‘We don’t plan on doing such a big project again. ‘Since finishing the extension, we have completely fallen in love with the space,’ she adds. ‘It’s fantastic for entertaining and our children have plenty of space to do homework and play with their friends.’
|Sunken wine cellar||£25,000|
|Exterior landscaping and terrace||£15,000|
|Flooring and decorations||£7,500|
- Extension, staircase and wine cellar: Build Team, 020 7495 6561
- Interior design: Zara Kaba, email@example.com
- Kitchen: Underwood
- Bi-fold doors: Grabex
Featured image: The light and airy space benefits from a large roof lantern, designed by the architects. The chairs are from Ochre and the throws by Klippan. The dining table, a wedding present, was sanded down and revarnished in a paler colour