Mike and Sasha’s search for the perfect family home brought them to the pretty Kentish town of Cranbrook, and the imposing Victorian semi they now call their
own. The couple were keen to balance out the floors, reversing the ‘top heavy’
feel of the house and adding a modern kitchen extension.
Mixing minimalist design, clever glazing and antique bargains, they created an open-plan kitchen that’s perfect for relaxed dining and summer parties. Mike reveals how his directing expertise helped him get hands-on in the design process.
Mike and Sasha thought outside the box when it came to creating more space. If you are inspired to start extending your home, we have plenty of ideas and advice on how to do it. For more completed projects, head to our hub page.
The owners Mike Martin, a film director, and wife Sasha, a PR executive, live with their children, Beatrice, Nell and Henry
The property A five-bedroom late-Victorian semi in Cranbrook, Kent
Project cost £110,000
‘The layout of the original kitchen was very traditional. In the past, it had been used mainly by the domestic staff,' reveals Mike. 'Clearly, it wasn’t going to work for a modern family in the 21st century! The obvious answer was to add a side extension, take down the external walls and open and rationalise the space. The back of the house is north-facing and was quite dark, so we decided to use structural glass to bring in the maximum amount of light.
‘Our initial ideas sprung from seeing the Hastings Contemporary gallery. We liked the dark-tiled exterior and use of materials and how it worked with the traditional buildings around it.’
‘We turned to our family friend and architect Richard Gill, whose practice is based in Cranbrook. He suggested creating a glass link between the existing house and the new building, but that turned out to be difficult to construct within our budget. We initially wanted it to all be structural glass, but the cost was prohibitive and the build was then delayed while we searched for a cheaper solution. Eventually, we opted for solid walls, with a glazed section to make the best use of the early morning light.’
‘Having experience of lighting sets for work, I designed the lighting plan and chose as much non-directional lighting as possible. In the evening this gives the room a great soft glow.
‘We added bi-fold doors at the rear of the extension for access to the patio and outdoor dining area, and a large box window in the side wall, which provides light and has a window seat, too. It has a scissor-action opening mechanism that allows the glazed panel to be extended outwards for ventilation. We were so pleased with the final result – it’s a great place to sit and read.’
‘I designed the kitchen with Richard, doing as much as the work myself as possible to eke out the money as best I could. The space is entirely open with a single pillar supporting the upper floors. It rises out of the central island, which is our main food prep area, as well as where we house the oven, hob, sink and dishwasher.
‘We built a breakfast bar and storage into the opposite side of the work zone. For a streamlined finish, we used touch catches on all the doors, and instead of having laundry appliances on show in the kitchen, we’ve retained the original scullery as a laundry room and a cloakroom.’
‘The project was challenging at times, partly because of delays caused by a tight budget, and partly because of my inability to let quality slip to get things done on time! To add to the pressure, Sasha insisted that she’d celebrate by having a Christmas party – for the last three years, we’d been reluctant to invite anyone round to our house because of all the mess. Our kitchen worktops were installed on Christmas Eve. It was a nightmare at times, but we kept our sense of humour – and we’re delighted with the result.’
Subscribe to Real Homes magazine (opens in new tab)
Want even more great ideas for your home from the expert team at Real Homes magazine? Subscribe to Real Homes magazine and get great content delivered straight to your door. From inspiring completed projects to the latest decorating trends and expert advice, you'll find everything you need to create your dream home inside each issue.