Transforming a 1970s house

Antonia and Mark Ogden-Meade have extended and remodelled their 1970s detached property, turning it into a contemporary family home with stunning features

When Antonia and Mark Ogden-Meade were renting a property in a pretty West Sussex village, they had no idea that their search to find their dream home would lead them to a 1970s house – right next door.

‘Mark couldn’t believe his eyes when, one morning, he pulled back the bedroom curtains and saw a “For Sale” sign going up on our neighbour’s property,’ says Antonia. ‘In many ways, however, it wasn’t at all what we had in mind and, if we’d seen a house like it in an estate agent’s portfolio we would have dismissed it instantly.’

The couple had viewed five properties on the internet that impressed them. Some were classic New England style, while the others were more like the iconic timber-and-glass constructed Huf Haus homes.

‘I think we were looking for a blend of those two styles,’ Antonia explains. ‘As we lived next door to the house, we knew that it was ripe for renovation and had a good-sized plot with a large garden and a swimming pool, so we decided to take a look inside.’

Fact file

The owners: Antonia Ogden-Meade (right), who is a businesswoman, and her husband Mark, a healthcare management consultant, live here with their two children, Ben, 16, and Charlotte, nine

Before moving to the village, Antonia and Mark had been living in the town of Reigate in Surrey, but they wanted a more rural lifestyle for themselves and their children.

‘We had reached a pivotal point in our lives and, when we moved here, everything slotted into place,’ Antonia explains. ‘We were embraced by the local community and settled in quickly. The only thing missing was a property that we could call our own.’

With no idea of what lay beyond the front door, the couple arranged a viewing. They were inspired by what they saw inside.

‘It didn’t seem ideal for a family-of-four as the layout was quite unusual, but that was part of its appeal – Mark and I immediately realised its vast potential,’ Antonia recalls.

The rooms on both the upper and ground levels were small, while the kitchen was very dated with dark brown units, Formica worktops and grey/white floor tiles. With its slotted staircase and stone-clad walls, noise echoed around the entire house.

Undaunted, the couple returned from the viewing fired up and brimming with ideas of how to transform the 1970s property into a comfortable family home.

‘We both started making sketches of how we imagined the house should look,’ says Antonia. ‘Luckily, we shared a similar vision.’

Antonia and Mark were keen to reconfigure its footprint and extend it to create a more contemporary home, with a large open-plan space for cooking and entertaining.

‘I envisaged a room with a large kitchen table where we could gather for Christmas dinner and special birthday celebrations yet still be cosy enough to entertain people when they drop by on a surprise visit,’ says Antonia.

‘Mark wanted a bright, airy home with a welcoming feel. He also suggested turning the double garage into a games room,’ she adds. ‘We both liked the idea of extending at the rear of the house and remodelling the balcony space at the front to create a larger living room.’

Satisfied with their ideas and plans for the property, the couple put in an offer, which was accepted. They then started looking round for an architectural designer to translate their ideas. They chose a local architectural designer, Ray Deefholts, who had been recommended by a friend.

‘We arranged a meeting with Ray, where we showed him our sketches, talked through what mattered to us and explained how we saw the house shaping up,’ Antonia explains. ‘What came back was truly amazing. Our ideas for a practical family-friendly home hadn’t just been translated exceptionally well – they were greatly enhanced.’

In addition to their plans for converting the double garage into a games room, the front of the house would be extended to increase the size of the study and entrance hallway. A downstairs cloakroom would become a utility room, with a new shower room built behind this space. The dining room would be turned into a snug, while a wall between the kitchen and breakfast room was to be knocked through, with this space extended into the garden to create an open-plan kitchen/dining room, which had been high on Antonia’s wish-list. The balcony would be removed to increase the living room size.

‘Some of the walls on the first floor were to be knocked through so that the rooms could be remodelled into four good-sized bedrooms,’ says Antonia. ‘Extending at the front meant we could increase the size of the master bedroom and en suite, plus a new en suite would be incorporated into a bedroom.’

With Ray liaising closely with the local planning authority during the approval process, the couple were granted planning permission for the project without needing to make any amendments to their plans.

‘There was no uniformity in the properties in this stretch of the road, so we never felt that our build would look wildly out of place – just different,’ Antonia explains.

As Antonia was used to running her own business, she was happy to lend her skills to project-managing the build. The builders were called in, and work began in April 2009.

‘Mark and I didn’t get involved in the building work, but project-managing it saved us a great deal of money because I was in control of the budget and spent a lot of time researching where to buy cost-effective products and materials,’ says Antonia. ‘I managed the day-to-day running of the project, while Mark was more involved with keeping an eye on the bigger picture.’

She enjoyed the challenge of controlling the delivery times so that it all went smoothly.

‘There was only one occasion when it was a bit hectic with 17 tradespeople on site. Every room in the house was full to the brim with materials, so nobody wanted their space cluttered up with more deliveries,’ she recalls.

The Ogden-Meades financed the build from the sale of their previous home, setting aside a budget of £165,000, plus a 20 per cent contingency fund that they dipped into.

‘I worked closely with our builder every step of the way to ensure we kept costs down as much as possible,’ says Antonia.

As the couple continued renting the house next door while the project forged ahead, they didn’t have to cope with the disruption of living on site. They were also able to keep an eye on the progress of the build, visiting almost every evening.

‘Mark is a precise man with an excellent eye for detail,’ Antonia reveals. ‘If something was slightly out of line he would spot it straightaway, so any tiny niggle would be ironed out immediately.’

They were impressed at the speed at which their remodelled home came together, particularly in the initial stages.

‘We couldn’t believe how quickly the interior of the house changed,’ Antonia recalls. ‘Overnight it became a shell with practically every wall knocked through while the rooms were being reconfigured.’

While the builders were carrying out the major renovations and extension work, Antonia and Mark spent much of their time researching fixtures, fittings and furniture.

‘Towards the end of the project, the decisions were coming so thick and fast that it became all-consuming,’ says Antonia.

Mark thought sage green window frames and a matching front door would look striking teamed with Iberian larch cladding and white rendering on the exterior of the house. He struck lucky when he tracked down a company in Brighton which supplied and fitted the windows to his exact specification.

They hired interior designer Sharon Hartley to advise them on the fittings for their open-plan kitchen/dining room.

‘Sharon showed us a computer-aided design for a fabulous German-made kitchen with plenty of worktops and storage space,’ says Antonia. ‘I loved the mix of tall lacquered vanilla units and dark brown base units. The Italian stone worktops with mother-of-pearl inset were perfect and just a little bit different.’

Although she and Mark had happily agreed on many decisions, they didn’t see eye-to-eye on the shade of the coloured glass splashback behind the cooker hob.

‘Mark wanted a saffron yellow splashback, but I was worried that it would look too 1970s in our contemporary kitchen,’ Antonia confides. ‘He thought it would make a bold statement and, in the end, I had to agree with him – it’s perfect.’

Their new open-plan kitchen/dining room is filled with light, thanks to a bank of glazed sliding doors, with great views of the garden.

‘They create a real sense of bringing the outside in, which I find very relaxing, whatever the time of year,’ says Antonia.

They have continued this light-filled theme throughout the house, choosing neutral and white-painted walls for their room schemes.

‘We wanted our home to be family-friendly, so we bought furniture and accessories that look good but are practical and hardwearing too,’ says Antonia.

Although the build project went relatively smoothly, the pace started to slow down as autumn approached.

‘We had decided to replace the old roof tiles and planned to change the shape of the roofline at the front, thinking three bold pitches would look more contemporary,’ Antonia explains.

When the roof came off, however, it started raining torrentially, which delayed this aspect of the project. They had to wait for a change in the weather before the work could resume on the roof, then a new façade was clad, rendered and painted.

Luckily, the couple didn’t face any other problems or delays and, in early December, there was a big push to finish the project in time for Christmas.

‘With a lot of effort from everybody involved, we moved in on December 23 – just in time to cook Christmas dinner for 17 people in our new home,’ Antonia smiles.

‘We’ve put a lot of thought into this house,’ she adds. ‘It has been designed with all our needs in mind. It’s a comfortable home – and there’s always a warm welcome here.’

The costs

Building work (including garden and swimming pool)£120,000
Rewiring and redecoration£15,000