Kitchen conversion

Transforming an old dental surgery into a home, Paula Church mixed contemporary and classic styles with her kitchen conversion

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Paula Church used her vision and creative flare to renovate and convert an Edwardian property, previously occupied as a dental surgery into a home for the family. See how she created a delightful kitchen, merging classic and contemporary styles to create a warm, inviting and practical space suitable for daily life and for hosting guests. 

Fact file

The owners: Paula Church, an animal portrait artist, lives here with her 14-year-old twins Billy and RubyThe property: A five-bedroom, detached Edwardian property, built in 1910The location: Hove, East SussexWhat they spent: Paula’s kitchen project cost around £35,000

Although I knew that taking on such a large renovation project would be a challenge, I was excited to give it a go,’ says Paula of the large Edwardian house she bought two years ago. ‘I had developed properties before and was ready to take on a new project. When I saw the house on the internet, I thought it was unusual for its location in Hove because it had such a spacious garden. What’s more, it had previously been a dental practice, so was a fairly blank canvas to work with.’

When Paula first looked round the property, it was little more than an empty shell. There was no bathroom, and the only kitchen was upstairs, along with rooms that had been used as offices and storage space. ‘The boiler was also very old and everything needed to be rewired and re-plumbed,’ she says.

A complete renovation was necessary. This included creating a beautiful en suite bathroom, featured in the October 2013 issue of Real Homes. Paula hired a team of local builders to complete the project and turn the property back into the family home she knew it deserved to be. ‘We bought it in June and decided to live in our old house in nearby Ditchling until the work was completed in October,’ she says.

With no kitchen on the ground floor, Paula had her choice of rooms to create her dream space. After considering the options, she decided the best solution was to place the kitchen at the rear of the house, where there were French doors leading out to the garden. A second internal doorway at the end of the room led to a WC and storage room that were ideal for converting into an adjoining utility room. ‘The rectangular shape of the room was perfect, as I could create a practical layout with units along three walls, and a dining table and chairs in the centre of the space, with great views over the garden,’ says Paula.

As this space used to be a dental surgery, it had thick blue lino flooring and a frosted effect on the windows and doors, which were the first things to be removed. ‘It took the contractors a great deal of effort to get the flooring up, and then the original pine boards were sanded and varnished to create the finished look,’ says Paula. ‘I also spent an entire day removing all the film from the windows, using a hairdryer to heat it before scraping it off.’

As Paula was living nearby for the duration of the project, she was able to keep a close eye on progress, ensuring that everything went to plan. ‘I visited the house regularly to check on everything,’ she says. ‘The builders kept me informed at all times with regards to any costing issues, which meant that I managed to keep to my budget. The importance of forging good relationships with local companies and builders is one of the main things I’ve learnt from this project. Drawing up a clear schedule of works is essential so everyone knows what will happen, and when.’

Paula has always liked the simple and versatile look of kitchen designs by Plain English, so when choosing her units, she wanted to go for something similar. Working with Abri Furniture in Haywards Heath, she opted to have bespoke cabinetry handcrafted from tulipwood and then painted in a shade of off-white. To maintain the elegant lines of the units, appliances such as the fridge-freezer and range cooker have been built in, while beautiful white quartz worktops complete the look.

To complement the subtle colour of her units, Paula chose an equally simple colour scheme to be used in the rest of her room, mixing a variety of shades of white and grey to create a light-filled, relaxing space. ‘I even painted the extendable dining table,’ says Paula. ‘It originally had an oak finish when I bought it, but I decided to paint it white to match the rest of the kitchen.’

Despite the neutral tones Paula has chosen for the units, walls and worktops, there’s plenty of warmth in the scheme, thanks to the wood flooring, colourful accessories and fun cards and pictures dotted with magnets on the American-style fridge-freezer. The designer mesh metal chairs add texture, while the vibrant fish tank on the work surface is one of the family’s favourite focal points.

Paula’s preferred design style is to use a combination of old and new to create a scheme that reflects her personality. ‘I don’t think people should be afraid to mix styles as it’s a great way to add character to a space. It’s always worth having a look in your loft to see if there are any items stored up there that you’d forgotten about, for example,’ she says. ‘I like to find a bargain, too, so I love going to the

Ardingly Antiques and Collectors Fair, plus I often trawl the Lanes area in Brighton, and Lewes Antiques Centre, for unusual finds.’

Since completing her renovation project, Paula’s ability to create such personal, character-filled spaces has been much admired by her friends. ‘I’ve enjoyed it all so much that I’m thinking of completing an interior design course so that I can do projects for other people, too,’ she says.

Paula is delighted with the end result of her kitchen project, with its spacious dining area, plentiful storage and gorgeous garden views. ‘It’s lovely to sit here with a coffee and a magazine, with the doors wide open,’ she says. ‘It has become my favourite spot in the house.’