Maximising space in a four-storey home

Having previously lived in small apartments, when Kate Dauth and Mike Dines bought their first house together, a Victorian terraced home built in the 1890s, they wanted to utilise every room, from the attic to the basement.

Relocating from the outskirts of London to Manchester, Kate Dauth and Mike Dines soon found they missed the outside space they had enjoyed previously, when they were living in their tiny garden flat in the south.

‘We had moved to a city-centre loft apartment, but it had its limitations,’ recalls Kate. ‘In the past, we’d been able to have friends round for barbecues in the garden, but in our loft apartment all we had was a balcony. We yearned for some outside space and the opportunity to make our mark on a property.’

Fact file

The owners: Kate Dauth, who works in patient liaison for an NHS clinic, lives here with her partner Mike Dines, who is a construction director

The logical step was to buy a house and so Kate started looking in the leafy suburbs of Manchester. She found what appeared to be the ideal property on the internet, in Stretford, in the Trafford area to the south-west of the city centre, and the couple wasted no time in viewing it. ‘I immediately liked the area; it had the same feel as where we’d lived back in London,’ recalls Kate, who came to the UK from Brisbane, Australia, 12 years ago. ‘When we walked in, we both agreed that the house was right for us – despite it having been empty for 18 months and being in need of an update. It had so many good-sized rooms and offered us the blank canvas we were looking for,’ she explains.

Kate and Mike’s offer was quickly accepted and soon they set about a full renovation of the house. Their plan was to upgrade all the fixtures and fittings. With Mike’s contacts in the building trade, getting the work done by good, reliable people wasn’t a problem. Mike project-managed the whole thing and brought in tradespeople whenever they were needed. ‘One of the best things about buying such a big house was being able to do a lot of things we simply haven’t been able to before,’ says Kate. ‘Buying here just gave us so much freedom and scope for creativity. We couldn’t wait to get started.’

Kate and Mike stayed in their city-centre flat for two months while they stripped the house themselves and got the major structural work started. Having always lived in small apartments, they intended to take full advantage of the extra space now at their disposal. One of their main priorities, therefore, was to take out the wall between the groundfloor reception rooms so as to create a larger open-plan living area.

The couple also saw the potential of the property’s dry cellars and had the basement level dug out to raise its head height. This was done early on in the project, but the full conversion of the space – including installing new plumbing and insulation – wasn’t completed until later on, after they had moved in. The new sub-ground-floor storey was divided up to create a utility room, a shower room and an extra reception to be used as a sitting room.

The kitchen had already been extended, but it needed a complete overhaul and Kate and Mike reworked the layout to make it more practical and up to date. The ceiling in the extension was taken out to reveal the sloping line of the roof. An old sliding door was then replaced by huge double-glazed doors with side panels, to bring in as much natural light as possible. ‘The original kitchen was not to our taste at all, with dark units and quarry-tile flooring. With the roof height being quite low, too, it felt claustrophobic. So we set about giving it a feeling of height and space.

‘We wanted a modern, easy-to-manage kitchen with everything at hand,’ Kate continues, ‘so we designed the layout of the working part of the room first and decided to keep the far end as a casual eating area.’

The couple made their first bold colour statement with their choice of a gloss laminate kitchen with units in shades of cappuccino and lime green. ‘In our last apartment, the kitchen units were light turquoise – something we’d never have purposely chosen, but they looked great. Mike had sourced a selection of units and I was told I had to make a decision quickly, and this worked out really well. I love collecting pieces in coloured glass, so I wanted subtle shades that would reflect the light here. I really liked the way these colours worked together. Instead of tiles, I chose the greeny-blue glass splashback and a Corian worktop to give the kitchen a seamless finish. I think that the end result shows that you can use colour effectively in a kitchen design without going over the top.’

The main bathroom was another space that Kate was keen to transform, although it had been refitted recently by the previous owner. ‘I think the bathroom had been a bedroom at some point, as it was so huge, but the way it had been fitted out made it feel empty and cold. The only thing we kept was the bath and we added a double walk-in shower. To give the space a more fluid look, we built in the toilet and basin around lots of fitted storage. This was actually created from kitchen units,’ she reveals. ‘It has a completely modern feel now and it’s the perfect room for relaxing in.

‘In total the work took just over a year, but we moved in as soon as the major structural work had been completed,’ says Kate. ‘We then spent months after that finishing things off. We did all the decorating ourselves. We used the fact the house didn’t have many original period features to our advantage, adopting a more contemporary approach. Many of the fittings, such as the kitchen units and some of the floor tiles, were of such poor quality that we didn’t feel guilty about ripping them out. We were able to be quite brutal to achieve the look and feel we wanted.’

Kate and Mike wanted the house to have a fluid design throughout, so Kate stripped off all the old wallpaper and the walls were re-skimmed with plaster. She then set to work painting every room in matt white emulsion. ‘White is the only colour for me, because it creates the perfect backdrop for all our vibrant and colourful things throughout the house. It also makes decorating so much easier, because there’s none of those agonising decisions over whether a certain shade will look right in a particular light.’

Kate has emphasised the feeling of light and space by opting for white painted shutters at the lounge and bedroom windows. ‘I got the idea for the shutters while I was living in London and they appeal to my sense of neatness,’ she explains. ‘They are a great way of maintaining privacy, as you can keep the bottom shutters closed while allowing the best natural light to come into the room through the top half. We don’t have any curtains in the house at all, in fact, because I find fabrics too fussy. Also, curtains are expensive to change if you get fed up with them later on.’

Having created their blank white canvas, Kate and Mike have injected their personalities into colourful schemes throughout the house, with influences from Kate’s home country of Australia and Mike’s roots, which are in South Africa. Consequently, their home is filled with an eclectic mixture of antique and designer furniture, eye-catching artworks and textiles they have brought back from all over the world, including Kate’s prized collection of coloured glass and pottery.

‘Even though the house is painted entirely white, I’m naturally drawn to colour in objects,’ she explains. ‘I go through phases where I love grouping certain colours together. We had glass shelves specially made to fit in the alcove in the lounge, so I could display all my glass with a light underneath it, creating a lovely atmosphere.

‘We’ve only lived here for three years, but we’ve accumulated so many things in that time. Whenever we go on holiday, we always bring back parcels in unusual shapes and sizes. For example, the South African masks and the Aboriginal painting in the dining room, which is from North Queensland and was bought when we were visiting my family.’

Their home is a very personal space for Kate and Mike, who feel that they have now achieved the look they always wanted. ‘Our house has got that nice terrace feel that is always so welcoming,’ concludes Kate. ‘It’s now a bright and colourful home and, on a grey Manchester day, that’s just exactly what you need.’


Building work and plastering£8,000
Plumbing and heating including radiators£7,000
Kitchen including appliances£10,000
Basement, shower room and utility£16,000
Wood flooring, tiles and carpets£6,000
Decoration and shutters£5,000
Garden landscaping£7,000