Remodelling a 1930s house

Julie and Stuart Milton have transformed a run-down 1930s house into a stylish family home by adding side and rear extensions to create a garage area and spacious kitchen-diner with lots of glazing for added natural light

When Julie and Stuart Milton bought a large, dilapidated 1930s property, they didn’t originally intend to take it on as a personal project. The house had been owned by a local property developer who was building new houses nearby. He decided that he wasn’t keen to get involved with updating it, so Julie and Stuart stepped in with a view to renovating it and making a profit.

‘Stuart approached it from a purely business point of view,’ Julie explains. ‘We were simply planning to come up with some ideas for renovating it, get the work done, then sell the house and move on.’

Fact file

  • The owners: Julie Milton, who is a part-time flight services manager, and her husband Stuart, a financial adviser, live here with their two children, Ethan, four, and Bella, six
  • The property: A five-bedroom detached Arts and Crafts house dating from the 1930s
  • The location: Caversham, Berkshire
  • What they spent: The couple bought the property for £500,000 in 2007 and have spent almost £250,000 renovating and extending it in two phases. The house has recently been valued at around £1.1million

Planning the renovation

Once the purchase was completed, the couple set about drawing up plans for a large family house, with one eye firmly on maximising its appeal to future buyers.

‘We thought carefully about what had changed since the property was originally built and what people want in a modern home today,’ Julie explains. ‘We planned to keep all the authentic features, such as the wooden doors, Arts and Crafts architecture and large bay windows, but complement them with the up-to-date additions that many properties this size would usually feature.’

The Miltons hired an architect and a structural engineer to draw up plans for a substantial double garage on an unused plot of land to the right of the house, plus an old lean-to would be rebuilt as a smaller garage. They also planned a kitchen extension to the rear and a new front porch area, which would include a study.

The interior layout was to be completely transformed, with the second floor remodelled to create a guest suite, and new french windows were to be fitted at the rear of the living room.

Garden dining room

The build

‘We moved in five years ago, around Christmas, and the build was carried out in the spring of the following year,’ Julie recalls. ‘It took four months and was fairly manageable. Most of the work, including the garage extension, didn’t affect our daily lives, but we decided to stay with relatives when the kitchen extension was under way.’

Thinking they would be selling up and moving in the not-too-distant future, Julie and Stuart didn’t want to get too attached to the house, so they decided to keep the décor as neutral as possible in order to appeal to prospective buyers.

‘We painted everything off-white,’ Julie explains. ‘As we were leading busy lives and the children were young, it was actually a while before we could even think about putting the house on the market.’

As the couple continued living in the reconfigured space, they began to appreciate how it had transformed the property, which led to them considering staying there themselves rather than selling up.

‘We realised that we’d created a lovely home that suited us down to the ground,’ Julie admits. ‘As our two children were getting older, we all really enjoyed spending time in the garden. We also love socialising, so the large kitchen with its separate dining room, breakfast bar and chill-out zone was absolutely perfect for us.’

Pink and green children's bedroom

Interior design

In 2010, the couple decided to stay in the house after all, but they planned to transform the blank canvas of the neutral interior to create their ideal family home.

‘A lot of the improvements we had introduced, such as wooden flooring, quality kitchen units and luxury bathroom fittings were all to our taste anyway, but we wanted to make it less like a showhouse and more like our home,’ Julie explains.

As Julie’s airline job involves travel, she wanted to inject hotel-style glamour into the design mix, as well as colour to add warmth and personality.

Bedrooms and bathrooms

The couple started the redesign on the second floor, turning the space into guest rooms with brightly coloured bedding, artworks and window treatments, before moving on to the first-floor bathroom.

‘The main bathroom was white with floor-to-ceiling limestone tiles, so I left it as it was, but introduced shades of blue with the blinds and accessories,’ says Julie.

The first-floor children’s bedrooms were both given a full makeover. Daughter Bella’s room is decorated in pink and green with princess drapes and pretty bedding, while son Ethan’s bedroom is a bold mix of red and blue.

The living room

On the ground floor, the living room’s scheme was lifted with yellow walls, rustic-style furnishings and brown leather sofas, while a flamboyant blue and gold patterned wallpaper was all that was needed to update the family area.

‘Redecorating the house was a whole new project,’ says Julie. ‘We went from room to room painting walls, putting in glass light fittings and wooden storage and choosing brightly coloured accessories.’

Neutrally designed staircase

A neutral hallway and stair carpet from Caversham Flooring are a calming, elegant link between the more colourful individual rooms

Creating a master suite

The master bedroom suite was the last room left to be updated. Julie knew exactly what she wanted from the space – a relaxing bedroom with a stylish en suite bathroom. An unused room next to the master bedroom was the ideal place for the new en suite. Its original doorway was blocked off and a new one created leading from the master bedroom.

‘It’s always been my dream to have a roll-top bath, so I was determined to put one in the en suite, while Stuart wanted a large wetroom-style shower,’ says Julie.

To ensure that there was enough space for both, Stuart came up with a plan to extend the en suite above the small garage for a separate wetroom area. With no existing plumbing in place, the couple had a blank canvas on which to design the layout. A double-basin vanity unit runs along one wall with the bath opposite, while the WC slots into a corner out of sight.

‘The en suite suits both of us now – it’s my favourite room in the house – in fact, the wetroom has proved such a hit that we all queue up to use it,’ Julie laughs. ‘Thank goodness we put in a seating block, as it’s somewhere convenient to wait.’

In the bedroom, an aubergine accent wall complements warm honey tones. Victorian-style mirrors feature in both the en suite and bedroom for a cohesive link between the design of both spaces.

‘We bought two of them ex-display from a friend who works in shopfitting,’ says Julie. ‘They’re the first thing everyone notices when they walk in.’

The house has come a long way since their original plans, as Julie admits. ‘It’s just how we like it – and we’re not planning to move anywhere in a hurry,’ she says.

The costs

Building work£200,000
Garden landscaping£5,000