Transforming a 1950s seafront bungalow

The two bedroom 1950s bungalow now boasts masses of floor-to-ceiling glazing and sliding doors to the rear that make the most of the views plus a converted roof space that adds extra living space.

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The search for a new renovation challenge led Susie and Marco De Caprio to a 1950s bungalow in Shoreham Beach. It was just five miles along the south coast from Brighton, where the couple had already renovated the four-bedroom Edwardian house where they were living.

‘We were looking to create an elegant space with a contemporary feel,’ says Susie. ‘I work from home as a hypnotherapist and as I spend much of my working life at home I wanted a house that would be a joy to live in.’

However, when the couple moved into the bungalow in August 2008, the word joy hardly fitted the bill.

‘The place was in a bad state,’ admits Susie. ‘It was very dated, with lots of uPVC cladding on the exterior. The three bedrooms were all on the ground floor and the rooms were dark, while the kitchen functioned on only one gas ring, but we were convinced we could turn it around.’

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The owners: Susie De Caprio, a hypnotherapist, lives here with her husband Marco, who is the commercial director of a marketing company

Susie and Marco planned to renovate the bungalow, turning it into a luxurious beach home with its sea views as the focal point.

‘The views really are the star – and that swung it for us,’ Susie explains. ‘I’ve wanted to live by the sea ever since I was a child, so when this property came on the market unexpectedly we snapped it up, as we knew properties here are usually sold within days.’

The couple decided to live in the bungalow for a year before starting any work on it so that they could observe it through the seasons. They changed only one thing during that time – the shower, when it stopping working.

‘We wanted to see the effect of the light when it came into the house and we needed to get a feel for the property before we could come up with a new design,’ says Susie.‘My strengths and Marco’s complement each other well – I tend to focus on smaller design details, whileMarco is good at the overall architectural layout.’

Marco worked with architect Robin Spence to come up a plan that involved pulling down the whole structure, leaving only the two perimeter walls intact, and starting again from scratch.

They reworked the interior, remodelling the ground floor layout and converting the roof space to create a master bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and en suite, all funded by the sale of their previous property.

However, the planning office rejected the couple’s plans, because they felt the pitch of the roof was too high and the design wasn’t in keeping with the street. ‘We got the plans approved once we had lowered the roof and made some design adjustments,’ recalls Susie.

Susie and Marco took out one of the bedrooms on the ground floor along with a narrow hallway at the front of the house and replaced them with an open-plan reception and hallway. Another bedroom was converted into an office for Susie.

‘We turned a three-bedroom bungalow into a two-bedroom home,’ says Susie. ‘There is now one guest bedroom on the ground floor, while the master bedroom is in the new loft conversion.’

The couple also knocked down the kitchen wall and created a large, open-plan living/kitchen area with a contemporary dining space. They balanced their budget by fitting an elegant white gloss kitchen from B&Q, which they teamed with high-end Corian worktops that were welded in place in situ. They also bought several of their bathroom fittings from online companies to keep to their budget.

‘We kept costs down by working on much of the design and decorating ourselves,’ Susie explains. ‘By using standard white trade paint throughout the house, we were able to save our money for specific well-designed items such as our bespoke staircase. We commissioned a specialist company to design a floating oak staircase – I didn’t want one that creaked.

Quality lighting was important too. They chose modern-style chandeliers for the kitchen and hallway, commissioning them from a local company.

When the couple started furnishing the open-plan living space, they decided to buy pieces that only fitted in with the bungalow’s new minimalist style. They didn’t want to bring the furniture from their previous home, apart from an Art Deco cabinet and a sofa, which an upholsterer friend remodelled into a cube shape and re-covered. They also installed an eco-friendly wood-burning stove.

The exterior of the house was given a makeover too – all the original plastic and latticed windows were replaced with large thermal glass designs. Impressive new floor-to-ceiling windows were installed at the rear, which has helped to fill the previously dark rooms with light and makes the most of the stunning views.

‘It was Marco’s idea to have one long window at the back of the house, but I also suggested inserting smaller slices of window in certain rooms to allow in more light as the house is quite dark in places due to the way it faces,’ says Susie.

The bungalow now enjoys great views of the sea from all of its large windows, even when it’s stormy. As Susie explains: ‘If a storm is brewing, I simply stop work or switch off the TV and watch it – it’s fascinating to see. During the day, there is always something going on, such as a boat setting out, as Shoreham lifeboat station is opposite us.’

Susie and Marco have built an attractive cedar wood first floor terrace with sea views, where they can relax and entertain.

‘It matches the cedar wood façade at the front of the house – we were inspired by the timber-framed houses of Cape Cod in Massachusetts,’ says Susie, who is always on the lookout for inspiration.

‘We came up with a lot of our design ideas from watching films and TV. For example, I first saw the tap in our kitchen in the Big Brother house and we eventually managed to track it down,’ she says. ‘I keep a scrapbook, where I file away ideas and fabric swatches, which was a great help with our design scheme.’

Outside, the couple have modernised a dated swimming pool by rebuilding it in fibreglass, installing internal stairs to replace the original external ones and adding attractive Brazilian hardwood decking around the side of the pool.

So, now that the project is finished, what advice would Susie give to someone embarking on similar renovation work?

‘It was important to employ the right builder for our project as we knew that it would involve a lot of work and precise detail,’ says Susie. ‘We interviewed six building companies before settling on Creative Lofts. Employing a builder you can trust is essential – and I would suggest you draw up a contract detailing what everyone is responsible for, right down to the snagging list [a list of defects/faults that a builder must put right].’

The De Caprios made the right choice and were more than happy with their builders’ work and expertise – but is there anything they would have changed?

‘I think we would have removed two outlying walls, because we had a great deal of trouble plastering them,’ says Susie. ‘We wanted them to have a crisp finish to fit in with the minimalist design of the house and it was almost impossible for us to make them look straight.’

In the end the couple had to employ an architectural plasterer, which cost far more than they anticipated. As Susie explains: ‘We should have spent an extra £10,000 and rebuilt the perimeter walls, but our budget wouldn’t stretch.

‘I’m pleased though that we’ve created an elegant interior with wow-factor, but really this house is all about the view and location,’ she adds.

‘It suits our lifestyle perfectly as we like to take our dog for walks along the beach – and now that it is summer it’s great to be able to use the swimming pool.’


Building work (including electrics and plumbing)£90,000
Windows and staircases£22,000