Open-plan living space

Sarah and Lee Copland have opened out a muddled ground floor layout to create a practical yet contemporary kitchen with lots of space and light.

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Sarah and Lee Copland have opened out a muddled ground floor layout to create a practical yet contemporary kitchen.

Sarah CoplandFact file

The owners: Sarah Copland, a teaching assistant, lives here with her husband Lee, a company director, and their sons Oliver, seven, and William, five.

Our previous kitchen was definitely a little on the small side, but the entire ground floor was completely impractical for us with two growing boys, so we knew we would have to carry out extensive renovation work for it to suit our lifestyle,’ says Sarah.

The ground floor of the property resembled a maze, with some rooms only accessible via another room. The sitting room proportions were too small and narrow for a modern family.

‘The house needed to be modernised, but we wanted it to be more free-flowing too,’ Sarah explains. ‘It had been built at the end of the 1960s and we didn’t feel it had any distinctive characteristics – it needed a more contemporary style.’

Although it’s a large property with four bedrooms, the couple felt the original layout was claustrophobic – a more open-plan design incorporating a large kitchen and living area seemed the right solution.

‘We decided to continue living with it while we formulated our plans for the new design,’ says Sarah. ‘I think you have to experience living in a house to know how to make it work for you.’

Sarah and Lee eventually called in architect Paul O’Farrell of Impulse Designs (01189 212282). Working closely with him, they chose to shorten the length of their sitting room to create a separate formal space, then knock through the remaining ground floor layout. The plans also included a 3m extension at the rear of the house.

‘Once the plans had been drawn up, we started looking for a new kitchen,’ says Sarah. ‘Although I loved the idea of a modern high gloss design, I knew it wouldn’t be practical with two small boys.’

So the couple opted for a Shaker-style kitchen with cream matt units that wouldn’t show finger marks or scratches as easily as a high gloss design.

A central island unit was included as a focal point and workstation. The supporting pillar that had to remain in place when the walls were removed was integrated into the island unit to blend in with the kitchen units. With the addition of stylish bar stools, they created a perfect breakfast bar.

‘The island is my favourite area, because it’s like a control centre – I can stand here and see everything that our boys are getting up to,’ Sarah explains.

Sarah chose a dresser from the same kitchen range to link the kitchen and dining areas while still allowing the dining space to look separate from the kitchen.

Local builder Steve Clarke (07770 303700) was hired to carry out the renovation work, which started in August and was completed just four months later.

‘Although it was a big project, we lived in the house during the building work,’ says Sarah. ‘Spending our days in just one room with only a fridge, microwave and the garden furniture was a great adventure for our boys – if not for us.’

While they were planning the extension with their architect Paul, the couple told him they didn’t want a clear distinction between the old and new spaces, so he suggested installing an extra-large RSJ to sit in the ceiling and provide a flush finish.

‘It was a great idea in principle, but as it weighed in at half a tonne, we needed special lifting gear and 10 people to lift it,’ Sarah recalls. ‘It was a tricky time, but the RSJ did exactly what was intended and the two spaces are seamless.’

The open-plan area connects beautifully to the outside space with a series of bi-folding doors at three intervals across the rear of the new extension.

‘The only problem is that when we were originally quoted for the extension we were told the cost of the basic work. Adding extras like the bi-folding doors pushed up the cost,’ says Sarah. ‘We always had a back-up plan, but our budget still increased by around £7,000.’

What the couple didn’t allow in their budget was the cost of landscaping the garden after the building work, otherwise the project all went to plan.

Their stylish new open-plan living space provides a perfect play area for the boys and a chill-out zone for Sarah and Lee.

‘I love being able to cook dinner while watching the boys playing in the living area – and it is great to relax with Lee and a glass of wine at the end of a long day,’ says Sarah. ‘It has really made this the ideal stress-free space for all the family.’


Building work£43,000


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