The owners Teresa Shaw, an IT testing manager for a software company, her husband, Matt, a graphic designer, and their children, Isabella and Henry.
The property A five-bedroom detached Georgian house in Hertfordshire.
Project cost £186,076 for the extension and interior fit out.
For Teresa and Matt, it was a massive leap of faith when they moved into a house stuck in a 1950s time warp. Completing the first phase of the renovation with Teresa’s brother-in-law, a builder, the brave trio converted the disused third floor into bedrooms and a bathroom.
Three years later, Matt met local architect Jane Duncan and was so impressed that he appointed the firm to design a contemporary extension that signaled the beginning of phase two of the extensive renovation works. Here, Teresa explains how the couple tackled the build.
'We moved here when Henry was just nine months old and Isabella was two,’ Teresa says. ‘I felt very daunted on our first morning here. Matt left for work and I was alone on a freezing cold winter morning with the children scraping their knees on splinters on the floorboards.
The entire house was in a state of total disrepair and the top floor was uninhabitable with cracked windows, lifted floorboards and crumbling plasterwork. The wind whistled up through the floorboards and mice would pop by for a visit. I’d never seen so many massive white cobwebs! We lived on the second floor while we updated all the gas and electrics, installed new windows, insulated the walls and floors and renewed the joists.’
‘The extension was a great labour of love. We set out a written brief, addressing points with our architects. We envisaged a space where we could all be together as
a family. We wanted the kitchen to be classic in design, with no glass boxes or formal entrances that could compromise the feel of the kitchen, and doors leading out on to a south-east-facing patio.'
'We immediately struck up a strong rapport with our project architect, Ian. We wanted to knit the building into the landscape and gardens, and the architects had the idea of building an extension in the form of a linked annexe. It’s easy to see what’s old and what’s new, but the two work together to create an integrated living environment.’
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‘Because we were building on clay, which is the worst soil type, the foundations had to be piled. When the piling company didn’t show up to the site, our builders hired a different contractor, which resulted in a delay, so they turned their attentions to working on the ground floor inside the main house, which was a real bonus. We only had to move out for 10 days and we lived with my parents nearby.
'Matt project managed and to save costs, we decided to burn all the old timber on site, rather than skipping it. Some sparks blew over to a compost heap and we soon had flames 15-feet high, wiping out our hedge. Luckily we’d just had a pump fitted to boost our water pressure, so I managed to put the flames out with the hosepipe!
‘The architect chose materials that matched the existing house, like yellow stock brickwork, clay roofing tiles and oak details. They’re all naturally durable and don’t require much maintenance, plus they’ll mellow with age to tie in even more with the original house.
'We sourced the kitchen from True Handleless Kitchens. The designer incorporated a bespoke polyurethane island with anthracite cabinets, topped with two different types of worktops. The showroom had such an amazing range of surface materials and colours on display – the designs were just what we had in mind for our new space. The designer was a great help in ensuring we got everything just right.'
‘As soon as the kitchen was finished, Matt’s mum bought us a new set of saucepans for our induction hob. Matt felt completely lost – it had been so long since we had cooked in a fully functioning kitchen that we’d forgotten how to do it! We love our new kitchen, especially the oak trusses – they’re a real piece of bespoke craft. ‘Before this house, we’d lived in east London for 10 years. I dreamed of owning a large country house where I could grow vegetables in the garden and watch our children run in plenty of outdoor space. It’s a secluded spot and the views across the fields from the new extension are out of this world. We bought the house knowing that we would have to renew everything, and we’re thrilled with what we’ve achieved.’