Transforming a 1950s house

Claire and Paul Baker have completely redesigned a traditional home by incorporating a range of stunning contemporary features, including high-gloss kitchen units, an American-diner-style dining area and a stunning glass and steel spiral staircase

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It is hard to believe that Claire and Paul Baker’s spacious contemporary home was once a typical 1950s four-bedroom house. The previous owners had extended it to create six en suite bedrooms in total, plus a one-bedroom self-contained flat.

‘By the time Paul and I came to view the house in 2009 it was looking very dated, with its neo-classical entrance hallway and leaded light glazing,’ says Claire.

The couple could see beyond the tired décor, however, and appreciated the potential offered by the house, especially its south-facing one-acre garden.

‘We love this area and were living in a beautiful house nearby, but our previous garden was too small,’ Claire explains. ‘This was perfect for us and we knew that it could be transformed into a special place, so we went ahead with the purchase.’

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The owners: Claire Baker, who manages a nursery, and her husband Paul, who runs an insurance company, live here with their daughters Ellie, 20, Bryony, 19, and son Patrick, 15

Claire and Paul wanted to open up most of the ground floor and create a two-storey entrance hallway in place of the neo-classical design. They hired architect Mark Powles of RRA Architects to turn their ideas into reality.

Mark’s plans involved demolishing the original ceiling in the hallway to create a light and airy contemporary entrance.

‘However, this did mean that we would have to sacrifice one of the bedrooms upstairs,’ says Claire. ‘The pillars would also have to be demolished to make way for a new glass spiral staircase.’

The couple applied for planning permission to open up the ground floor layout, which took three months for final approval to come through.

The proposed plans also included knocking through a kitchen wall and the walls in the living room and dining room to create one large open space. A leaking conservatory was also demolished and replaced with a glazed sun room three times the size of the conservatory.

‘Mark did a brilliant job, incorporating all our ideas in the design, plus adding his own suggestions too,’ says Claire.

As there would be extensive renovation work on the house, the family moved into a four-bedroom bungalow in the grounds of the property which had been built by the previous owners.

‘I’m glad we lived on site as we were able to respond quickly to any problems and we met regularly with the builders who soon became part of the family,’ Claire explains.

The couple hired M&S Construction of Highnam to do the build work. They tackled the ground floor first, demolishing the low ceilings in the hallway plus several internal walls to create free-flowing spaces between the reception rooms and kitchen, which involved installing 26 steel RSJs to help support the house.

The builders then demolished the conservatory and extended its footprint by three times its original size to build a steel-framed, glass-fronted sun room with a roof terrace above. The roof terrace was given its own external spiral staircase, which had to be put in place by crane.

‘Getting that staircase into position was a touch-and-go situation,’ says Claire. ‘There were only inches to spare on either side – the builders had to use a two-way radio to communicate with each other to make sure there were no mistakes.’

There are eco touches too. Solar panels were added to the roof to generate the underfloor heating in both the sun room and open-plan space.

‘We replaced the large central area of the roof with a glazed ceiling so we can enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding Cotswold countryside,’ says Claire.

The original small kitchen was opened up by demolishing the old laundry room and relocating a cloakroom and a pantry to the space vacated by the utility room. The builders fitted the dark wenge kitchen units and worktops, along with the statement cherry-coloured high-gloss island unit in the new space.

‘We’ve created a stunning feature wall by adding exposed flint to add texture and provide contrast to our contemporary-style units,’ says Claire.

A resin flooring, designed to create a seamless finish, covers most of the new ground floor space – only the living room and dining area have alternative flooring. It has been enhanced by shadow-gap lighting, which was installed instead of skirting boards on each wall throughout the ground floor to define the space and provide added light.

The original timber window frames at the rear of the property and all the external doors have been replaced with contemporary powder-coated aluminium frames – including the sun room, which now has three large sliding glazed panels providing fantastic views of the garden as well as plenty of natural light.

‘We replaced all the internal panelled softwood doors with ones made from Dordogne oak,’ says Claire.

As one bedroom had been sacrificed to create the open hallway, the couple wanted to reinstate a bedroom somewhere else.

‘Although we were keen on making better use of the living space in the house, there was no point in reducing the number of bedrooms, especially as we enjoy inviting people to stay, as do our three children,’ says Claire. ‘We were also aware that it might affect the value of the property.’

The couple decided to transform the self-contained flat’s living room and kitchen into a double bedroom with an en suite and create a further two en suites within the original flat.

The house was redecorated to reflect Claire and Paul’s love of contemporary style. This is particularly apparent in each of the bedrooms which have been decorated with a mix of bold feature walls and muted tones designed to create striking focal points.

Claire believes that she and Paul have found their dream home. ‘We adore the location – it’s in a quiet private road within five minutes of countryside, local shops and Cheltenham town centre,’ she smiles. ‘We also love entertaining on the terrace with its fantastic south-facing aspect.’


Building work£440,000
Two spiral staircases£70,000
Windows, external doors and glazed roof£55,000
Kitchen, including fitting£55,000
Electrics, including Lutron system, audio, cameras£50,000
Garden landscaping£20,000
Internal doors/joinery£10,000
Roof terrace£10,000
Underfloor heating£5,000