‘Our children have always had a tendency to disappear to their bedrooms with their laptops and mobiles. With the exception of mealtimes, we rarely saw them,’ says Nigel. ‘So when we decided to extend our home, we wanted a kitchen and living space that was so relaxed, light and multifunctional, everyone would want to share it.’
Although Nigel and Fiona had long dreamt of building a kitchen extension, they didn’t rush into it, as it took them seven years to save up for the project. ‘We had recently paid off our mortgage and cashed in our final endowment policy, which paid for half of the project,’ explains Nigel.
‘We didn’t want to start accruing more debt, especially at a stage when our children were going to, or about to go to, University. The only way to get round this was to save up the rest of the funds.’ That gave Nigel plenty of time to find the right architect to do the project justice.
After a great deal of research, he came across an article in a newspaper on a local Edinburgh architect called Anthony Rochmankowski (known as Rocky) who designed green oak buildings. ‘Green oak was used hundreds of years ago, but became unpopular as kiln-dried wood took over,’ explains Nigel.
‘It is beginning to come back into fashion, though, due to the attractive way it splits and weathers.’ The couple felt lucky to find someone local who had the knowledge to design with such a material. Rocky’s designs also had an edge to them and I was really keen to work with him.’
- The owners: Nigel Adams, a restauranteur, lives here with his wife Fiona, a mental health nurse, and their three children, Colleen, 21, Ali, 16 and Libby, 14
- The property: A four-bedroom semi-detached Edwardian house
- The location: Edinburgh, Scotland
- What they spent: The couple’s kitchen extension project cost around £134,000
As time wasn’t an issue, Nigel and Rocky were able to draw and re-draw the designs until they both agreed on what was needed. The plan was to take the back off the house and extend into the garden by 5.5 metres. The roof would be made from curved stainless-steel and, where the new roof met the old wall, a row of small windows would flood light into the space.
The old kitchen would be turned into a separate utility room, while the dining room would become the new kitchen, leading directly into a spacious open-plan family room and dining area. Large sliding doors along two sides of the extension would allow access out to the garden, while the third wall, adjacent to their neighbours’ wall, would feature a fireplace and a home cinema system. Finally, a shower room would be built under
With a good contractor on board, work started in October 2010. The back wall of the dining room was removed and a steel beam inserted to support the opening. A makeshift partition of plywood and plastic was put in place to keep the house watertight, but when the winter snow arrived, the weather was so cold that the builders couldn’t work. ‘For two months in one of the coldest winters in years, we had a plywood and plastic outside wall,’ recalls Nigel. ‘We used to cook dinner in our old kitchen as quickly as possible and rush through to the living room to eat in front of the fire.’
Work resumed in January when the snow had cleared, but progress was slow as the builders struggled to dig out the foundations for the new extension because the ground was still very hard. By March, the preparation work had been done, ready for the oak beams to be put in place. The wood arrived on a lorry from France. ‘Communicating with the French driver was difficult, as neither the builders, the head contractor, nor I, spoke anything more than schoolboy French,’ says Nigel. ‘The beams were lifted off the back of the lorry by a forklift and transported on a piano trolley down the narrow path by the side of the house to the back garden.’
With the green oak beams in place, the extension started to take shape and, by the beginning of April, the curved roof was on. By the time the sliding doors arrived, having been made and treated off-site, the kitchen could be installed. ‘We were really keen to have a kitchen from Kitchens International, but were concerned that it might not be within our budget,’ says Nigel. ‘To the company’s credit, they created a beautiful design to suit our budget. We then saved up for another year so that we could afford to fit the new utility room with the same units.’
The finished project
The finished kitchen is an elegant addition, with an island curving down through the centre to the living space beyond. As it also houses a sink, it’s one of the main food preparation zones, so the kitchen designer included a bar element to one side to screen any kitchen clutter from view when people walk through to the living space.
Made from painted oak veneer and teamed with modern Silestone worktops as well as traditional circular oak features at each end of the island, the design echoes the natural materials and exposed timber frame used in the extension. After an eight-month build schedule, the final result is stunning. ‘We love the contrast between the large, open-plan space and the huge green oak beams that shape it. Design aside, the plan was to create a multifunctional space that our children would want to be in as much as we do,’ says Nigel. ‘Rocky sadly died this year, but it’s thanks to his skill as an architect and craftsman that the project has been such a resounding success.’