Conservatory replaced with a kitchen extension

Bryony and Charles Romaine have replaced their traditional conservatory with a kitchen extension to created a light-filled living space that integrates both inside and out

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The old kitchen served as a glorified corridor between the front and back of our house,’ says Bryony. ‘It was long and narrow, with no windows and no space for a table. It opened into a large conservatory to the rear, which could become cold in winter and felt like an add-on, so the rooms didn’t flow.’

Bryony and her husband, Charles, had bought their home in 2003 and lived there for eight years with their children, including Claire, 29 and Robert, 27, before deciding to make some improvements to the layout of the house in 2011.

Fact file

  • The owners: Bryony Romaine, a midwife, lives here with her husband, Charles, a chartered accountant, and their youngest son Richard, 13
  • The property: A detached four-bedroom bungalow, built in the 1960s
  • The location: Reading, Berkshire
  • What they spent: The couple’s kitchen extension project cost around £95,000

The kitchen

The couple’s son Robert had studied interior architecture, and suggested they contact a former colleague, Colm Tamney (020 8742 3723, airoffice.co.uk), to talk over the options. After 10 years working at another architectural practice, Colm had set up his own business, and the Romaines invited him over to discuss ideas.

Double-height kitchen extension

Planning the design

At first they were only considering updating the existing kitchen, but Colm felt that they would be missing an opportunity to create a really exciting and useable space. The team at his company, AIR, drew up designs for an extension to replace the timber conservatory, forming a contemporary open-plan kitchen/dining/ living room with high ceilings, folding-sliding glass doors and roof glazing.

The bungalow is surrounded by mature gardens – one of the features that first attracted Bryony and Charles to the house – so the design integrates both indoor and outdoor spaces and includes a new terrace with similar floor tiles to those used inside, plus a water feature as a focal point.

‘Demolishing the old conservatory was a difficult decision to make, because it had only been built three years before we bought the house,’ says Bryony. ‘When we saw the drawings, however, we could imagine exactly how the extension would work. It improves access and views to the garden, which was what we wanted.’

Colm also suggested partially removing the wall between the living room and the former conservatory, forming a wide opening that creates a visual connection between the old and new spaces. Installing a double-sided wood-burning stove would further link the ground-floor rooms and improve circulation between spaces.

The couple took the decision to keep the functional part of the kitchen in the same place, but instead of forming a dark corridor, the work space on one side now extends into the newly built living space and is brightly lit from all angles.

‘I’d always found the lack of work surfaces frustrating, so a long run of worktops was a priority,’ explains Bryony. ‘The layout means that part of the kitchen is on show and part is tucked away, which is ideal when you have guests and want to keep any cooking mess hidden away from view.’

Double-height kitchen extension

The build

Once planning permission for the extension had been granted, the couple hired a building contractor who had been recommended by both a neighbour and a friend. ‘We were very impressed by the quality of his work,’ says Charles. ‘Colm and his team oversaw the project, liaising with the builder from start to finish, which took away a great deal of pressure.’

The conservatory was demolished and trial pits dug on the site, which revealed that the extension was to be built on clay soil, and would require deep and expensive piled foundations to support it. ‘This was probably the most worrying time, because gaining access for the piling machinery was difficult and it was a noisy process, so we were worried about upsetting the neighbours,’ explains Charles. ‘In the end, the piles went down nine metres, which cost us an extra £3,000 and wiped out most of our contingency fund.’

The family carried on living in the house throughout the seven-month building programme, which was held up due to appalling weather conditions. ‘There was dust everywhere, and we had to wash up dishes in the bath for a short time, but our builder tried to make the process as painless as possible,’ says Bryony.

Structural details

Structural steelwork was erected and external brickwork has been matched as closely as possible to the existing property, with large-format roof tiles chosen for the extension. ‘We didn’t want to tile the roof of the new part in the same concrete pantiles as the old part of the house as they’re quite ugly, and we may change them in the future,’ explains Charles.

High-performance aluminium doors and windows have been fitted and are finished in dark grey, which inspired Bryony to choose grey glass as a splashback in the kitchen. ‘I knew exactly what I wanted and spent money on good-quality stone flooring and work surfaces,’ she says. ‘The kitchen cabinets are a simple white gloss design, without handles, and the limestone flooring is the same inside and out.’

The terrace paving is designed for external use, while indoors, thinner limestone tiles are laid over underfloor heating, creating low-maintenance flooring that reflects the light. The walls of the new space have been painted white, contrasting with cream walls in the older section.

Touches of red have been added as an accent, including the vibrant poppy picture above the fi replace, and coloured feature lighting, set using a remote control, was incorporated into the seating alcove.

‘The new extension is where we spend most of our time because open-plan living is so sociable, and we can move the furniture around or take it outdoors in the summer,’ says Bryony. ‘Building it has completely changed how we use the house, and it has become our favourite space to spend time in together.’

The costs

Brickwork, roof, drains£19,000
Piling£15,000
Windows and doors£14,000
Electrics, joinery and plumbing£14,000
Kitchen cabinets£7,000
Demolition/preparation£6,000
Steelwork£4,000
Floor tiles£4,000
Appliances£3,000
External work£3,000
Stove and fireplace£2,000
Worktops£1,000
Glass splashback£1,000
Lighting£1,000
Other£1,000
TOTAL£95,000