Split-level extension

Unable to find the perfect barn conversion with plenty of space, Lynn and Viv Lewis extended their 1980s house to create their dream home

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When Lynn and Viv Lewis bought their detached house, they didn’t intend to stay as they dreamed of moving to a converted stone barn in the Yorkshire countryside. However, after 16 years of searching for the perfect barn conversion, they couldn’t find anywhere to match the light, space and quiet hillside location of their present home.

‘Nothing seemed to tick all the right boxes,’ says Lynn.

The couple decided to extend their house with a vaulted, glazed sun lounge leading from an open-plan kitchen area to create the additional space they had envisaged in their dream barn.

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The owners: Lynn Lewis (right), a self-employed HR consultant, lives here with husband Viv, a partner in a law company

‘We each compiled a wish list then asked our architect to draw up plans,’ says Lynn. ‘He delivered the wow-factor with high-ceilinged, open-plan rooms and large windows, but we cut back on some design details so we could keep within our £90,000 budget. I was also keen to include some of my own ideas in the design.’

The new plans included the sun lounge, a terrace and the kitchen in the rear extension which would wrap around a corner of the house and create a third, lower ground storey behind the existing double garage in a third of an acre plot. It also included a utility room, home cinema and cloakroom.

One of Lynn’s ideas was to relocate the kitchen from the front of the house, where the couple felt there was little privacy, to the dining room at the rear of the property. They would then knock through and extend out into the garden to create one large, split-level living space.

Work began, with a shed being moved to a different part of the garden to make way for the extension’s foundations, which were dug into the side of the sloping rear garden. Retaining walls were built into the sloped area and lined with a waterproof membrane so that the extension would be watertight and fully supported and reduce the risk of the foundations subsiding due to the sloping nature of the garden.

‘The biggest issue we faced was getting the JCB digger through the passage at the side of the house,’ says Lynn. ‘We had to remove the fence to get it into the garden. We warned our neighbours about the building work so they knew what to expect – but it turned out to be a straightforward build with amazingly little mess.’

Concrete blocks and locally sourced external stone, chosen to match the stone of the original property, were used to construct the extension’s exterior walls. Large windows and double-glazed doors opening out on to the terrace were added to the sun lounge and its vaulted roof was finished with artificial slate tiles.

By the time the wall between the extension and the new kitchen area was ready to be knocked through to create the open-plan living space, the extension was watertight and ready for the next stage.

‘Although the new kitchen area has only one small side window, we get plenty of light flowing through the extension,’ says Lynn. ‘Now, instead of looking out on to the road as before, I can see the beautiful views of the garden and countryside.’

There was little disruption to the couple’s day-to-day life while the extension was being built. They carried on living in the house while the exterior work was going on, which took around four months.

‘There was never a point when I was without a kitchen,’ Lynn explains. ‘We simply used our old kitchen until the new one was fitted and everything was working properly. Then Viv removed the fittings and fixtures from the original kitchen and we turned the space into our new dining room.’

Lynn wanted the new kitchen designed around a central island, with the sink facing towards the garden, and a curved seating area where she and Viv could relax and eat when they were not using the dining room.

‘There wasn’t room for a table, and a breakfast bar would have been too small, so the island is half table – big enough to seat four people – and half workstation,’ Lynn explains, who asked the kitchen company to create a hardboard template to help her visualise the end result. ‘It worked – as we spent time sitting around the template to make sure it was large enough for our needs and the space itself,’ she continues.

The couple then arranged for the water supply to be relocated from the original kitchen at the front of the house to the new kitchen. They fitted a larger boiler for a high pressure hot water system that feeds the kitchen, plus the shower room and utility room on the new lower ground floor.

‘Sometimes it can be a chore having to go downstairs to the utility room, but there’s very little that we would change with the new extension,’ says Lynn.

With their extension complete, Lynn and Viv moved on to the next stage of their project, buying new furniture and updating the room schemes throughout the house, which included fitting a new fireplace in the sitting room and painting the dark wood conservatory to give it a fresh, light update. The upstairs layout hasn’t changed, but each room has been decorated to reflect the new look.

‘Everything in the extension looked so new and stylish that it made the rest of the house seem dated,’ Lynn explains.

Lynn and Viv wanted to furnish the house with a mix of existing pieces and modern designs but were unsure how to pull the styles together.

‘We’ve always liked combining old and new looks,’ Lynn explains. ‘We called in Simon Rose of Rose & Co Interiors for his advice on furniture, room layout and soft furnishings. I’m so glad we did – when you live somewhere, you can’t always step back from it and see the bigger picture.’

The couple have created continuity in their scheme by painting all the plastered walls in the same colour to produce a neutral backdrop for their artwork, furniture and feature wallpapers. One of the focal points of the new sun lounge is an original painting by artist Philip Sutton. As Lynn explains: ‘We deliberately kept one wall blank so we had somewhere to hang it for best effect.’

The couple are pleased that the project stayed within budget, especially as there was major work involved.

‘I would advise anyone to get a fixed price for building work and make sure their contractor itemises everything included in the cost,’ says Lynn.

‘Our extension has created half as much living space again and changed the emphasis of the house, with the living areas overlooking the garden instead of the road,’ she adds. ‘We’re confident that we would recoup far more than we have spent.’

So, does this mean that they would consider moving?

‘I think it’s unlikely, unless we decided to downsize and buy a place abroad,’ says Lynn. ‘It’s taken nearly 20 years to achieve our dream, but it was worth the wait.’


Architect’s fees£11,000
Plumbing and electrics in kitchen£820
Supply and laying of external flagstones£4,400
Preparation and groundworks£650