Spacious oak-framed kitchen extension

Replacing a double garage with a statement single-storey extension, Jo and Andy McDonald remodeled their 1920s home with a contrasting oak-frame addition to house a new open-plan kitchen-diner.

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When Jo and Andy McDonald decided to create an open-plan kitchen-diner, a dramatic design gave them the character-filled space they wanted. 

Fact file

The owners: Jo McDonald and her husband Andy, a lawyer, live here with their children Freddie, 16 Harry, seven and Ralph, six  
The property: A five-bedroom detached house, built in the 1920s
The location: Reigate, Surrey
What they spent: The couple’s kitchen extension project cost around £136,000

When we were looking to move to a bigger home, we couldn’t believe our luck when we came across a 1920s house with the potential to extend in an area that we liked,’ recalls Jo. ‘Built in a secluded, quiet road, the house had been let for a few years, so, while perfectly liveable, it was dated, a little neglected and ideal for a renovation project.

‘In 2009, we moved in with an initial plan to build a loft conversion, which would create two new bedrooms and a shower room,’ she adds. ‘We also made the decision to sacrifice one small bedroom to gain a larger landing area and space for a staircase to the redesigned loft.’

This all happened in the first year, followed by general decoration to freshen up the other rooms and improve the exterior. Then, towards the end of 2012, Jo and Andy decided to concentrate on the ground floor. They asked an architect to come up with a redesign, including a single-storey extension in place of a double garage and old lean-to, to create a new kitchen with dining space. ‘The house has a Dutch barn-style roof, so the challenge was how to make an extension blend in with the back of the house,’ says Jo. ‘We didn’t want it to be a flat-roofed add-on.’

Flicking through the Sunday newspapers one weekend, the couple saw an advert for a company specialising in oak-framed buildings, and that changed everything. ‘It showed a photograph of a kitchen set in an oak-framed extension and we both instantly liked the idea,’ recalls Jo. ‘It was a real “Eureka” moment. Rather than trying to find something to blend in with the house, the answer was to find a design that would contrast with it.’

An architect from the oak frame company visited the house, where Jo and Andy explained that they wanted their kitchen extension to include a new doorway to the house from the drive, as the main front door was around the other side. The design was then drawn up to include a small entrance area leading on to an open-plan kitchen and dining space with a vaulted ceiling. Planning permission had already been granted for a single-storey extension, but the couple had to talk to the planning department to make an amendment to allow for the higher roofline, and it was approved without any glitches.

The company liaised with the builder working on the rest of the downstairs refurbishment to build the footings on which the oak-framed construction was fitted. ‘It was pretty amazing to watch it go up,’ says Jo. ‘A team of tradespeople arrived and the main oak frame structure was erected in a day.’ The roof and windows were fitted soon after. The couple didn’t want the design to be totally glazed and feel like a conservatory, so it features a mix of glazing and solid wall panels in the kitchen and dining areas to bring structure and intimacy to the space.

When it came to the interior, Jo already had clear ideas about what she wanted, but worked with local interior design company Apsara Design to bring together the different elements. She was after a painted Shaker-style kitchen with a stone floor that included depth, texture and character. ‘I don’t particularly like overly modern styles and wanted the space to be in keeping with the rest of the house, she admits. ‘I don’t think a contemporary design would have worked here.’

She went to see the showroom of kitchen company Kitchens Upon Thames, and while she liked the cabinetry on display, talking to designer Kate Diss is what really sold it to her. Jo knew she would be able to come up with a design that would not only fulfil her brief, but which would also really enhance the oak interior, with painted units, a big island and lots of tall cabinetry to fit in between the oak beams, rather than rows of base and wall units.

‘This was such an interesting kitchen to work on,’ explains Kate. ‘The addition of the barn-style extension to the existing house required some bespoke design to marry the structure of the building to the cabinetry. It was important to check and confirm levels at each stage of the build, so that the furniture we created would have a perfect fit.’ While Jo wanted a traditional design, she was keen to have sleek and modern appliances, but, with one eye on the budget, it was going to be tight. As luck would have it, the kitchen company was updating its collection of appliances, and so the couple were able to buy a range of ex-display models with a generous discount. ‘We already had the coffee machine, so I had that fitted away from the bank of ovens,’ explains Jo. ‘This also balances the overall look; I didn’t want one long stretch of appliances to dominate the room.’

Jo sourced the work surfaces separately as she wanted a specific colour – dark, but not jet black – that wasn’t available through the kitchen company. She also made the decision not to include bar stools around the island, as for her it is a functional space for food preparation. ‘I didn’t want it to become a dumping ground for paperwork, and with the dining table so close, stools just seemed unnecessary,’ she says.

The extension and downstairs refurbishment took around four months to complete and the layout is virtually unrecognisable. The old kitchen has become a family room, utility room and extended hallway, while reducing the size of the living room has created a WC and boot room in the entrance hall to the kitchen.

‘I’m so glad that we made the decision to go with the oak extension, I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they first walk in,’ says Jo. ‘It’s added something rather special to the house and it really comes into its own when we have a party.’


The costs

Oak framed extension and building work£100,000
Cabinetry, including painting and handles£17,000
Underfloor heating£4,000
Work surfaces£3,540
Sink and tap£1,070