Victorian extension project

Harriet and James Williams have remodelled their London home to create valuable extra living space. The six-bedroom semi-detached Victorian house has been opened up on the ground floor to create a more versatile, open plan space

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Harriet and James Williams loved their Victorian home on a tree-lined road in London, but with news of their second daughter on the way it was clear that they needed to redesign their property to create a more versatile living space.

‘We had moved from a three-bedroom Victorian maisonette in west London,’ she explains, ‘so we were used to large room proportions and high ceilings. We wanted to maintain that feel in this house, except it had a lot more rooms. Once we’d started a family and I began working from home, we felt we needed to open-up the ground floor to make it multi-functional’.

Harriet runs an interior design company, called Naked Interiors, and tries to make the most of the space available in every client’s property with modern, functional and versatile designs. So, when it came to remodelling her own family home, she already had a wealth of ideas to draw upon.

Fact file

The owners: Harriet Williams, owner of Naked Interiors (07973 187368), lives here with her husband James and their daughters Nell, six, and Evie, one

The couple planned to knock through the wall between the sitting room and dining room to make one large living space and then extend the kitchen across the back of the house to overlook their garden.

‘We hardly ever used our dining room, but spent a lot of time socialising in our kitchen, which was snug to say the least,’ says Harriet. ‘We didn’t feel the need to involve an architect, as it was pretty obvious to us what had to be done. Working as an interior designer, I have links with most trades and a great working relationship with our structural engineer. In fact, he came over for a drink one evening and worked out all the calculations we needed for our new layout. He drew up the plans for us to submit and we took it from there.’

The couple applied for planning permission and, inspired by neighbours who had obtained permission and built extensions without any trouble, they were confident that their plans would be approved. Work began in early spring, and the first step was for them to move out while the project got under way.

‘Fortunately for us, my mother has a garden flat in west London, so we were able to live there for a while,’ says Harriet. ‘As with all these projects, we anticipated a six-week stay, but it ended up being around four months. It was great that we could stay out of the way of all the disruption, but I could visit every day to check on the work and see how it was progressing.’

The contractors demolished the walls in the sitting room and kitchen and dug the footings for the extension, ensuring that no original features were damaged.

‘One day I popped in and realised immediately that we needed to open up the entrance to our new through-living room,’ says Harriet. ‘Luckily the builders were still angle-grinding the partition wall upstairs at the time, so it was quite convenient for them to continue the work downstairs and widen the doorway for me. It increased our costs, but it was well worth it.’

The scale of that room lent itself to a grand entrance, and it allowed light from the large bay window to flood down the hallway. ‘If I get an idea that I know will work I have to incorporate it,’ Harriet adds.

Harriet called on a specialist joiner and carpenter to create the oversized double doors that open into the new sitting room and complement the deep skirting in the property. She then arranged for the existing radiators to be taken out and reinstated with gun metal Bisque radiators in their place. She also approached the Natural Wood Floor Company to fit wide panel solid oak flooring throughout the downstairs space.

Turning her attention to the extension, she decided to fit a contemporary kitchen, mixing understated cream units and stylish chrome handles with granite worktops and a metal-finished central island. She then designed floor-to-ceiling cabinets and had them fitted along one wall for excess storage and painted them aubergine as a contrast to the rest of the space.

‘I’m a practical person and can’t bear any clutter, so organising good storage was my priority before I let myself become absorbed at creating an extravagant interior style,’ she explains.

Harriet is used to providing inspiration for her clients, so having free rein to create exactly what she wanted in her own project was especially exciting for her. As she explains: ‘I was lying in bed one night when I had the idea to turn our en suite shower into a large luxury en suite bathroom’.

The small shower space was located beside a box-size bedroom used for storage. ‘This house has plenty of bedrooms, so getting rid of the smallest one allowed us to fit in a walk-in shower, a bath and double basins,’ she explains. ‘Our bedroom is so vast that it needed a large space to complement it. It meant knocking down another wall, but we managed to amend our planning application before it went to committee.

‘It was literally a narrow WC and shower cubicle before,’ she adds. ‘Making use of that unwanted box room has created such a fabulous space that we had to give it a luxury finish.’

Harriet chose a luxury bathroom suite online and sourced the taps through her own company. Her carpenter built fitted units for the washbasins and bath surround, and the rich tones of the chocolate-striped wallpaper in the master bedroom were continued as a feature wall in the en suite bathroom.

The couple’s project went to schedule and, four months later, the family were able to move in and enjoy their redesigned layout. The new open-plan lounge gave them scope to fit a new open fireplace at one end and at the other a floating plasma television on the wall above a glass-topped unit. Harriet came up with a bespoke design to fit around the chimney breast to conceal all the wires and boxes.

‘James wanted a bigger, better quality system, but the individual components were cumbersome and bulky, so I asked our specialist carpenter to bring my design to life,’ she expains. ‘I spotted the toughened glass in the Gucci shop – they have it on all their display cabinets – it is specially de-ionised to prevent it from looking green when it is densely cut.’

She completed the sitting room’s look with graphic wall artwork from the 1970s. ‘I found them in my parents’ attic. I liked the individuality of the pieces – and I’m proud to have them on the wall. Art should be personal to you, and it can inspire you to create new design ideas. I feel we have achieved a beautiful family home.’


Building work, including plumbing£52,400
Flooring£ 8,000
Garden, including French doors, landscaping, lawn, decking, furniture and lighting£29,100
Joinery (cabinets/wardrobes)£18,500
En suite bathroom£18,000
TOTAL £151,000