Kate and Andy Stoddart and their young family are living the rural dream. Their home might not be a typical country cottage, but as Kate is an architect with her own practice and plenty of new ideas to try out, ‘typical’ wasn’t part of the brief.
The couple had been looking for a village home within easy reach of London for many months when a 1960s three-bedroom detached house came up for sale not far from Andy’s parents. ‘I’d be lying if I said it was love at first view, but I was excited because I could see exactly how we could make it work for us,’ says Kate. ‘I started sketching up my ideas as soon as we got back from the viewing, and, before long, I had a really clear idea of what we would need to do to transform it.’
- The owners: Kate and Andy Stoddart live here with their children Tom, five, and Ava, three. Kate runs her own architectural practice, and Andy offers a project management service
- The property: A detached five-bedroom home built in the 1960s
- The location: Farnham, Surrey
- What they spent: The couple bought the property for £440,000 and have spent around £190,000 on the extension and renovation work. The house has recently been valued at £975,000
Besides uniting the house with the two different sides of the plot, the new extension allowed Kate and Andy to create some interesting variations of floor and ceiling levels inside. For instance, two oak steps lead from the entrance hall down to the new downstairs living space to enable the sliding doors to be flush with the garden, while upstairs, the master bedroom suite is up two steps.
The result in the new room downstairs is an unusual ceiling line, with three different heights — the highest at the far end of the room, where a log burner creates a focal point, framed on either side by a wide bench from Ikea and topped with a plinth, custom-made in situ by Andy, in cast concrete. Kate chose taller than average sliding doors (2.4m high rather than two metres) to allow more daylight into the room and to balance the extra height in this family space.
The middle section, with the lowest ceiling, is the cooking area, where a vast island work space houses an induction hob. Like the bench at the other end of the room, the kitchen worktop is cast concrete, which Andy found relatively easy to make. The lower ceiling height here allows for specific task lighting in the preparation area, and means the extractor is more accessible. ‘The different parts of the room each need their own style of lighting, and it works very well to divide and define the space in this way,’ says Kate.
A further change of level creates additional height in the dining area, where, positioned higher than normal, a letterbox-shaped window illuminates the space, but prevents people looking in on the Stoddarts’ family mealtimes. ‘The house is on a bridle path, though, and the window is at horse’s head-height, so occasionally we get some unusual passers-by as we’re eating our lunch!’ says Kate. In the evenings, a one-off colourful chandelier provides softer light.
Other personalised touches that Kate and Andy were able to incorporate at the planning stage include an alcove outside the bathroom, specifically to allow a favourite wardrobe to fit flush with the wall, and above the double-height glass at the front of the house is a concealed blind, which folds up into a recessed space in the ceiling. In the master bedroom, a three-quarter-height stud wall behind the bed conceals an open-plan dressing area, with no space lost to wardrobe doors.
Windows and doors
As the house is effectively a showpiece for her practice, Kate was keen to try out new ideas. The windows have lacquered plywood sills, a stylish contrast to the grey aluminium frames that reference the house’s 1960s roots, whereas for the doors it’s the reverse: grey painted MDF architraves for the oak doors.
The concrete worktops were also an experiment, and priced at just over £750 for the island and the bench in the living area, proved to be cost-effective. ‘Cast concrete is not a faultless material, such as Corian, but it was surprisingly easy to work with and it’s wearing very well,’ says Kate. The newly positioned stairwell is louvred with two layers of laminated plywood, in keeping with the window surrounds — an idea Kate had seen used elsewhere, but in a more expensive solid oak.
Kate Stoddart offers her advice for a successful build
What I’ve learnt
‘Andy learnt a huge amount because he did all the steelwork, tiling and plastering, as well as fitting the kitchen and bathrooms. The cast concrete was a new material for him and he had to act quickly once it was mixed, but now he would be confident about using it again. It’s also great to have an option for quick ventilation in a kitchen. So many people build a big extension with a set of glass doors at one end, forgetting that it’s good to have a window you can open near where you’re cooking or sitting.’
My top tip
‘Shop around. You can save so much money by taking time to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Before you start choosing your fixtures and fittings, make sure you’ve got a handle on the build costs, because they’re always a lot higher than you expect. For instance, if you’re planning to buy a stove, the cost might be £2,000, but don’t forget that the flue is another £2,000, and it will cost you around £2,000 again to have it fitted.’
What inspires me
‘I really like the website Houzz.co.uk. It’s a great way of collecting ideas together, whether it’s staircase styles or front doors. I use it a lot when I’m sharing ideas with clients.’
My best buy
‘The Contura stove is super efficient and really brings the room to life in the winter.’
My favourite spot
‘It’s great to all be in one space, for example, sitting at the island, so even the cook can be part of the party. We had about 20 children here in the summer for a birthday, and when all the doors are open, the space becomes an extension of the garden.’
|External windows and doors||£22,200|
|Kitchen (including appliances)||£13,000|
|Remaining building work||£44,900|
- Architect: Kate Stoddart (01252 851004)
- Construction: SIPs Kingspan Tek, installed by Bentley Sip Systems (023 8036 0455)
- Roofing: Johnson Brothers Roofing (01252 763524)
- Kitchen: Benchmarx Kitchens
- Underfloor heating: Continental
- Wood-burning stove: Focus Stoves