Extending for an open-plan kitchen

Tracy and Steve Pym have created a light-filled open plan kitchen perfect for family life and entertaining by adding a rear extension to their Victorian semi-detached house.

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Tracy and Steve Pym have created a light-filled open plan kitchen perfect for family life and entertaining by adding a rear extension to their Victorian semi-detached house.

Tracy PymFact file

The owners: Tracy Pym, a hospitality manager, and her husband Steve, who is a director of a greetings cards franchise, live here with their daughter Olivia, 14
The property: A three-bedroom semi-detached Victorian house
The location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
What they spent: The couple’s kitchen and extension project cost around £67,500

‘Our first project when we moved here was to create a bedroom on the lower ground floor for our daughter Olivia,’ says Tracy. ‘We then decided to balance out the size of the living space so it would be more in keeping with a three-bedroom house. The kitchen was small, and an adjacent utility room obscured the view to the garden.

‘I love cooking and wanted a large sociable space overlooking the garden. Our plan was to knock through the utility room and extend the space to create an open-plan kitchen-diner,’ she adds.

The couple hired an architect who had worked for husband Steve on a previous project. He came up with a set of plans and a rough estimate of how much their proposed size of extension would cost.

‘We then called in quotes from three different building contractors, eventually choosing the one with the most realistic price for our budget,’ says Tracy.

A materials costing was included in the price, which provided an accurate insight into the overall cost of the project. The builders agreed to employ the plumber, while Tracy and Steve’s son-in-law, Stuart Baldwin, was hired for the electrical work.

There was no need to apply for planning permission as the extension came under their permitted development rights, so the build was soon under way. The builders kept the couple informed at every stage so that they could keep a close eye on the costs. As Tracy explains: ‘We paid the builders every other week, which helped the process to move along smoothly.’

The couple tried to save money where possible, so they sold their original kitchen through a local newspaper for £550. ‘We kept the Belfast sink and tap, because we planned to incorporate them into our new kitchen,’ says Tracy.

The main structural work involved knocking through the existing kitchen wall to the utility room. Once this had been done, the builders knocked down the bottom rear half of the house and added three RSJ beams to take the weight. The foundations were then dug and a single-storey extension was built, with a further RSJ added to support the rear. It took three days to make the first-floor rooms safe, so the couple wisely stayed with some friends.

To bring plenty of light into the new space, the Pyms planned to run bi-folding doors across the width of the extension and fit a large roof lantern. ‘I searched the internet for the lantern and the doors and chose charcoal-grey door frames as I thought they would work well with most colour schemes,’ Tracy explains.

As a matter of course, when the builders were coming to the end of preparing the foundations, they checked with Tracy that she was happy with the length and width of the extension. ‘I’m so glad they did, because in my mind it looked too short. There must have been a miscommunication at some point as the plans had fallen short by one metre,’ she explains.

This setback was the only unforeseen cost, as the builders had to re-calculate the quantity of concrete required. They also needed to hire a structural engineer to re-calibrate the steels for the extension. Despite this hitch, the couple managed to remain within budget.

The entire project took three months. In the meantime, Tracy created a makeshift kitchen in their old dining room, with the help of the builders. ‘We propped up our Belfast sink on breeze blocks, then the builders plumbed it in along with the washing machine,’ Tracy explains. ‘I used a microwave and slow cooker for most of the three months – by the end of that time I couldn’t wait for the kitchen to be completed,’ she says.

After searching the internet and high-street kitchen suppliers, the couple commissioned kitchen designer Tony George at The Kitchen Workshop to make their units. ‘I like contemporary minimalist style and loved the woodgrain effect he recommended, especially when we realised we could have the grain running horizontally or vertically,’ says Tracy.

Tony George visited the couple to finalise the design once the shell of the extension was complete. ‘I wasn’t keen on having an island unit in the kitchen, because I didn’t want to fill up the space,’ says Tracy, ‘but Tony persuaded me otherwise. I’m glad he did – it’s the area I use most.’

Steve chose the granite worktops and splashback for their reflective looks, but the couple opted for a matt finish for the units so there wouldn’t be too many reflective surfaces to clean. ‘A granite worktop is great for rolling out pastry as it’s so cool to the touch, which is essential for good pastry,’ says Tracy.

Tracy then turned her attention to the wall colour. ‘I like bold shades, which is why I wanted black wall tiles and dark brown feature walls. I’d already decided that the colours of the kitchen units and worktops should work with a variety of shades, as I like to regularly change the décor in rooms,’ she explains. ‘We added contrast and light with a cream shade on the remaining walls.’

They completed the room scheme with travertine floor tiles, choosing them for their natural look and hardwearing quality.

Tracy and Steve were anxious to finish the extension and kitchen-diner in time for Christmas. They almost achieved their aim, except that the worktops didn’t arrive on time because of bad weather. ‘We had planned a big family Christmas dinner and had to use MDF boards as worktops,’ Tracy recalls, laughing.

She is thrilled that their new-look kitchen-diner has transformed how they spend time together as a family. ‘I can chat to Olivia while I’m cooking and she’s doing her homework,’ she says. ‘We all eat together regularly, and we’re entertaining more than we did before.’

The family especially likes the bi-folding doors linking the kitchen and garden. ‘Sometimes, when we’ve had a barbecue, we’ve eaten inside with the doors open, especially when it was too hot to sit outside in the summer,’ says Tracy.

It’s not quite complete though, as Tracy explains: ‘We still have to find the perfect dining set to finish off the space.’

The costs

Building work and labour£43,407
Kitchen units£6,908
Granite worktops and splashback£3,000
Bi-folding doors£5,000
Roof lantern and windows£3,056
Fixtures and fittings£2,509
Walls and flooring£1,075