Transforming a 1930s bungalow

Tom and Jacky Wilson have extended and remodelled their 1930s bungalow, turning a maze of dark rooms into stunning open-plan living spaces. The couple also refreshed the exterior of the house by rendering and painting it.

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Despite dozens of house-hunting trips over the years, Tom Wilson and his wife Jacky – who have lived in their bungalow since 1996 – had never found anywhere that was able to beat it for its location, plot size and friendly neighbours.

‘We came home one evening after viewing two houses we absolutely adored and realised there was something missing that didn’t clinch it for us,’ Tom explains. ‘So, rather than uproot ourselves by moving to another property in a new area, we decided to make this our dream home.’

Their bungalow originally belonged to a GP who had lived in the house next door and built it as his doctor’s surgery. It had already been converted into a home when Tom and Jacky bought it, but it didn’t have a perfect layout.

There was a warren of dark rooms on the ground floor, with two small bedrooms upstairs which didn’t suit the family’s needs, especially when their teenage son Luke grew older. A new open-plan kitchen and living area was central to their plans to remodel the bungalow, which would eventually include stripping the house back to only three exterior walls, then extending and reworking the space to the rear, front and into the roof.

Fact file

The owners: Tom Wilson, a TV producer and director, and his wife Jacky, who owns a hairdressing salon chain

The couple turned to interior designer George Bond to come up with a layout that would reflect Tom’s love of all things modern, and Jacky’s need for a relaxed and welcoming family home.

‘It turned into a major project,’ Tom recalls. ‘We thought that only one or two walls would be knocked through, but George and his team came up with some amazing design ideas.

‘They took on board everything on our wish-lists, which wasn’t easy because Jacky’s tastes are more traditional, while I love New York loft-style apartments,’ he adds.

A light-filled, open-plan layout was essential to their needs, as Tom explains: ‘Before the redesign, I rarely went upstairs to the two small bedrooms as Jacky and I slept in the bedroom downstairs – but we needed to maximise all that space.’

Working to the Wilsons’ budget, interior designer George pared back Tom’s wish-list and reshaped it into a clear plan for open-plan living, featuring bold blocks of colour, with a dramatic expanse of glass at the rear of the bungalow.

‘We gave George free rein,’ says Tom. ‘There was no point in commissioning someone as talented as George, without allowing him to be creative.’

The plans involved moving the staircase and knocking through a wall, the chimney breast and the small ground-floor windows to turn the study/hallway and living room into one large, open space. A mix of rooflights and larger windows would let natural light into the core of the bungalow.

An extension at the front created space for a new entrance porch and ground-floor wetroom. In addition, the roof level was raised, so that they could extend the two first-floor bedrooms and create an extra bathroom and en suite shower room.

The most dramatic change was the new extension at the rear, which trebled the size of the kitchen and created a large living and dining area, with a bank of folding sliding doors opening out to the garden. The old bathroom was also knocked through and a conservatory was demolished.

‘Luckily, we had no problems with the local authority planning department,’ says Tom. ‘They objected to only one thing in our plans – a balcony on the flat roof of the kitchen. We weren’t allowed to build one, because it would have affected our neighbours’ privacy.’

Tom, Jacky and their son Luke, who was 15 years old at the time, moved into rented accommodation nearby, leaving the way clear for the builders to start work, which began in the summer of 2006.

‘I visited the site every day,’ says Tom. ‘Admittedly, it was quite horrible watching it being taken apart because we loved the house – we wouldn’t have bought it if we didn’t – but we’d accepted the new plans and were happy to go ahead with them.’

Two major building projects, including their own, were going on at the same time in their road, so there were delivery trucks and skips everywhere. ‘Luckily, we have fabulous neighbours who were very supportive and patient,’ says Tom.

The only real setback to the project came early on. ‘The local building inspector said that the foundations had to be deeper,’ Tom explains. ‘They had to go down to approximately a man’s height – it was something to do with all the trees round here and the risk of subsidence. Trouble was, the builders had released the diggers and everything had gone off site, so they had to be re-booked.’

By early 2007, when the structure was complete, the Wilsons started planning the interior. As they enjoy inviting family and friends to their home, a space where they could cook and entertain was a must. As Tom explains: ‘We love parties. We probably hold four or five a year – and all good parties tend to end up in the kitchen.’

Tom and Jacky chose three colourways – white, black and burgundy – for their open-plan kitchen-diner at the rear of the house, combining the units in bold blocks of colour with ice-white porcelain floor tiles, bamboo worktops and cream walls for a stylish contemporary look.

‘The white reflective surfaces make the most of the light, while the flooring, cabinets and black glass splashback all have a high-gloss finish which adds to the feel,’ says Tom. ‘We painted the walls in cream flat oil to create a subtle sheen and a neutral backdrop for the kitchen’s working area.’

The original kitchen door was moved to create space to wrap the new L-shaped run of units around the corner of the room. This has provided space for cooking and food preparation, while a large working island takes centre stage and a separate bank of wall units incorporates the fridge-freezer and extra storage cupboards.

Once the new kitchen and appliances were in place, interior designer George was able to reflect Jacky’s love of English country style with a bold fl oral wallpaper on two feature walls, one of which frames the opening to the kitchen area.

This wallpaper helps to divide the space by signalling a change of mood from the working kitchen area to the entertaining and living spaces. A mix of vibrant, softly curved furniture complements the contemporary kitchen design perfectly. ‘There is a second living room at the front of the bungalow featuring a double-height ceiling, which continues the airy, open-plan feel,’ says Tom.

Upstairs, the new family bathroom is simple but stylish with white sanitaryware, chrome fittings and neutral wall and floor tiles, while a contemporary freestanding bath makes a stunning focal point.

The newly extended master bedroom has mirrored wardrobe doors and a wallpaper featuring horizontal stripes to create the illusion of a wider, more spacious room, plus it has its own en suite shower. Luke’s larger bedroom also benefits from a wall of mirrored wardrobes and built-in storage.

The exterior of the bungalow was rendered to blend the old brickwork with the new. George gave Tom and Jacky a choice of colours, and they opted for green.

‘All the houses on our street are a mix of styles,’ says Tom. ‘They’re set back from the road, so you don’t particularly notice it that much. None of our neighbours has raised any concerns about the green render, which we think works well.’

Inevitably, the couple’s budget for the seven-month project was stretched, as they chose high-spec finishes and fittings. ‘Jacky and I manage budgets all the time in our line of work, so we had always criticised renovators on TV makeover shows if they went over budget,’ Tom laughs. ‘Our budget was over before we even started. We wanted a high-spec look and were not keen on having to replace things in a few years time, so it all mounted up. It’s amazing how much money is spent on items you don’t see, like pipework.’

He and Jacky are thrilled with the bungalow’s transformation – and its resultant rise in value. As Tom says: ‘It was well worth the outlay. Every time I come downstairs, I’m impressed. We were right to trust our instincts and stay here.’

The costs

Building work£120,000
Designer’s fee£13,000
Decorating and furniture£10,000