Garage converted into a stylish kitchen

Altering the layout of their home to make better use of space, Su Kingsley and Owen Henry converted their garage into a kitchen-diner with a stylish and contemporary design

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In need of extra room in their home, Su Kingsley and Owen Henry decided to turn an unused space into a light and bright kitchen-diner.

Fact file

The owners: Su Kingdley, an executive coach, lives here with her partner, Owen Henry, a retired town planner
The property: A three-bedroom, semi-detached 1920s house
The location: Epsom, Surrey
What they spent: The couple’s garage conversion kitchen project cost around £20,000  

‘We longed for a decent-sized kitchen with a practical layout, and we hardly used the garage, so converting it into our dream kitchen was an obvious solution,’ says Su. ‘It would also give us a blank canvas to work with.’

Su and her partner Owen had relocated from a flat in Putney, south-west London, in May 2012. ‘We decided to move as we liked the idea of having a large garden and more space for all our clutter,’ explains Su. ‘We also wanted a separate music room, as I play the violin and viola and take part in concerts with amateur orchestras, and I like to hold string quartet sessions at home. Owen was also keen to have a library/den, plus we needed room for visitors to stay overnight.’

After looking at a wide range of houses, the couple settled on a semi-detached property in an area they loved, though they had seen bigger, cheaper properties elsewhere. ‘The village feel of the area and the stunning garden sold it to us,’ recalls Su. ‘The house is plenty big enough, too, and we saw potential for improvements to turn it into the perfect property.’

The original kitchen was at the front of the house, on the other side to the garage. With its dated units and overall design, Su and Owen knew it would be one of their first projects. ‘We didn’t rush into anything, though, as we wanted to plan the redesign properly,’ says Su. ‘We took a long look at the layout of the house and reached the conclusion that the garage was the place to site the new kitchen. We have off-street parking, and visitors can park on the road, so the garage was superfluous.’

By converting the garage into the kitchen, the couple would gain all the space they needed. ‘The old kitchen was earmarked as the new music room, while the reception rooms at the back were to become our living room and the library/den. The third bedroom was to be a proper home office,’ says Su. ‘As we have a large garden, we also wanted to add a sun room on the back, with doors opening out onto the patio. Moving the kitchen was the key to the whole redesign, though.’

Planning permission wasn’t required to convert the garage into a kitchen, and, after consulting three builders, Su and Owen chose Dan Chownsmith of DC Carpentry & Construction, who had been recommended by a friend. The project, which also involved work in other parts of the house, began in January 2013 and was finished at the end of May, with the kitchen redesign taking around six weeks. ‘Dan and his team were great,’ says Su. ‘Nothing was too much trouble and they were very responsive to our ideas.’

During the conversion, they had to deal with both the height of the garage floor, which was around a foot lower than the rest of the house, and the steep slope of the ceiling in the section near the garage door. ‘We had the garage floor built up to the level of the rest of the house,’ says Su.

‘As we knew that the kitchen floor would be tiled, which could have been cold to the touch, Owen suggested underfloor heating. Having it installed was one of the best decisions we made.’ Altering the line of the ceiling and raising it at the front created more space for wall cupboards, without altering the exterior roofline.

The final building issue that needed to be addressed was the position of the back door. ‘We’d already earmarked the back of the kitchen as a practical area, with an extra sink, plus space for a washing machine and tumble dryer, but we realised that the back door to the side passage and garden was in an awkward position in the layout,’ says Su. ‘We really wanted to keep the back door, as it’s so useful to have direct access outside, so the sensible solution was to look at moving it slightly.’

Moving the door along the wall by 40cm meant that there would be enough space to fit all the appliances in this part of the kitchen. ‘It may seem a lot of trouble to go to for 40cm, but it made such a difference to how the space worked,’ Su admits.

With the garage door removed and replaced with a large window to let in plenty of light, the new kitchen was plaster boarded and decorated, ready for the new units, worktops and appliances. ‘We knew we wanted a contemporary look, but we weren’t keen on white gloss,’ says Su. ‘We like strong colours and wanted something a bit different in here.’

The couple found what they were after at a local kitchen company, which offered a good selection of coloured gloss units. After looking at various options, Su and Owen chose a combination of cappuccino and beige units. ‘The company were very helpful and spent plenty of time getting it all exactly right,’ says Su. ‘We hadn’t sorted out the exact configuration at the back of the kitchen at this point, so we just got the units for the main section. Sadly, when we went to order more, the company had gone out of business, but we found similar units online, so we were able to complete the kitchen. These units aren’t directly next to the others, so no one would think they weren’t supplied by the same company.’

For the worktops, the couple settled on a practical, hardwearing granite design, but, keen to steer clear of a block of dark colour, they chose a light shade with flecks of colour to break up the expanse of work surface. ‘We found a lovely Kashmir White granite from an online company that had much more reasonable prices than everywhere else,’ explains Su.

Shopping around for a small table and chairs to use as an informal seating area in the centre of the space, Su and Owen were thrilled to spot a table with the same granite top as the worktops. ‘There is a large table at the back of the house for eating proper meals or entertaining, but we wanted something for just the two of us in the kitchen,’ says Su. ‘When we spotted this design, it was ideal for the new space as it was the perfect finishing touch to the scheme.

‘With everything finished, it’s hard to believe that our stylish kitchen used to be an uninspiring, windowless garage,’ she adds. ‘It’s an amazing transformation!’


The costs

Kitchen units and worktops£10,100
Buiulding work£9,840
Furniture and accessories£610
Walls and floor£240