With a growing family, and to fit in with today’s busy way of life, many homeowners are keen to increase their space. Here, one such couple have bought a house that already needs refurbishing
Dear Design with the Times,
We downsized to our present home about two years ago, and have been living with it and getting a sense for the spaces, how we use the rooms and how the light works.
The house is originally 17th century and has been added to over the years with Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian additions. This adds charm, but the house hasn’t been touched for many years, and the flow of space doesn’t really work for modern-day living and for our growing family.
We have three children, aged 17, 13 and ten, all at different stages and all with different needs, so we are trying to make plans to ensure the house works for us now and also in the future, as we plan to stay here long term and don’t want it to be too big when the children leave home.
The house is detached and around 3,200 sq ft over the ground and first floors, with an attic room and also a basement. This should give us enough space for our needs, but some of the spaces are difficult and are underused.
Although the house needs updating, we are thinking that it might be easier to leave the layout of the house alone and simply add an extension.
The main space we would like to create is a large open-plan kitchen and dining room where we can enjoy family life and entertain friends. We would be really grateful for any advice and what you feel is achievable.
We also need a utility room, sitting room and TV room. On the first floor we need four bedrooms and at least two bathrooms. We’re not necessarily worried about any en-suite bathrooms.
Finally, one important requirement we would like is for the kitchen and dining room to open up into the garden.
Zoe and Phil Rosenburg
To extend or not to extend is a question we are asked a lot, and in many cases it is much simpler to extend and create one new room, but it can be expensive and also leave internal space and flow problems unresolved.
This is what appears to have happened historically to your house, and while the previous extensions are clearly defined and allow its evolution to be read, there are also some areas which are awkward and appear difficult to use. Consolidating these first would be a good exercise.
When working with new clients and assessing their requirements, we always try to define the brief first. This is crucial, and simply a case of listing out what spaces are required, the number of rooms, how they are used, and what needs to go within them.
Sometimes we have specific requirements from clients who have a particular piece of furniture or painting they need to accommodate, and this all makes up the brief.
Living in the house for a period of time before commencing works is beneficial as it will help inform the decision making process.
There are often things that are intuitive or instinctive which define the brief – how the light works in a space, or how it feels, are just as important as its physical qualities.
Developing the brief is an important part of the process as it ultimately defines the end result.
Taking this holistic approach will ensure the project is assessed properly. This can then be overlaid on to the plans, and it might be that existing and underused spaces can be redefined and brought to life to fulfil the requirements.
Assessing these, and looking at their current function and if they can be reassigned, is good practice, and adopting this approach ultimately allows a review of how large, if at all, an extension needs to be.
Looking at your plans, there is a great deal of space within the footprint of the house, and while the spaces flow there are some areas which can be redefined and significantly improved.
The existing kitchen feels quite small because of the large walk-in larder. This space could be liberated by removing the larder, then a good double-sided kitchen layout with a central island unit installed.
An ergonomic ‘work triangle’ can then be created between the sink, cooker and fridge and the island would be large enough to accommodate bar stools for social cooking and impromptu entertaining.
Vaulting the ceiling in this area will also create a feeling of space, and installing roof lights will bring another level of light to dance around the space.
Opening up the back wall of the kitchen and installing new large French doors to the garden will give you that connection you are looking for.
A matching size opening between the kitchen and current, separate, dining room will create a wonderful open-plan family kitchen/dining room. But because the two spaces are quite different in form, they will retain the charm and integrity of the building. However, by uniting these with the same flooring and wall colour tones it will create the feeling of one space.
To the side of the kitchen there’s an awkward internal space with no windows. This would be ideal as a back kitchen connected by a doorway between the units.
In effect, this space becomes your larder or pantry. Because this area is well connected with the kitchen, it could also double up as a small homework area. A central table would easily take two computers, and file storage could be created within built in cupboards.
From the ‘Back Kitchen’, stairs lead down into the cellar, and because it has good access it is worth considering using this for your utility room.
Although cellars can sometimes be problematic, an existing cellar can be a gift if an alternative use can be found. The key here is to ensure it is tanked properly in order to avoid any long-term damp issues. There are many firms locally, and when appointing a damp-proofing specialist ensure that they are able to offer all the correct guarantees for the materials and installation. It is also advisable to have the works backed by an insurance warranty, which will give a long-term guarantee for the works if the installer goes out of business.
Installing a utility room with sink and washing machine will require the use of a pumped system into the existing drainage runs.
The cellar is the same size as the existing dining room, so will be a fabulous space which can also house the boiler and hot water cylinder.
It might also be worth looking at installing a laundry chute system to save carrying dirty linen from the first floor to the basement – also a good fun incentive for children to tidy their rooms!
The existing sitting room is a wonderful, large room and is best left untouched. Sometimes it is worth considering relocating rooms, and recently we were invited by clients to review their new home and advised swapping the kitchen and sitting room to make the best of the garden views.So it can be worth looking at more radical solutions.
The existing small study would make an ideal TV room/snug as it is close to the kitchen, but also out of the way. It has a fireplace, and a wood-burning stove could be installed for winter evenings. With a sofabed it could also double up as a guest room as it is close to the WC.
The current ground floor bathroom is large enough to accommodate a WC/basin and also a walk-in shower. It is a good idea to try and keep a shower on the ground floor, especially with children who can use it when coming in from the garden or from playing sports. If you have dogs, the shower can also be used for a wash-down after a muddy walk.
There are four bedrooms on this level already, which would fulfil the requirement, but small modifications could be made to improve the spaces.
One area where an extension might be a fairly cost-effective option would be over the flat roof of the sitting room.
A basic timber-framed construction built on top of the existing brickwork and tile hung would improve it visually and also add the possibility of creating a master bedroom suite.
The footings of the single-storey sitting room extension would need to be exposed and checked by a structural engineer to ensure they are capable of taking the additional loadings, but this should be fine. This room would then include a dressing area and separate en-suite bathroom overlooking the south-facing gardens.
While a master suite isn’t on your brief, it’s likely to enhance the commercial value of the property, so is well worth considering. With questions on commercial value and enhancement, we always advise clients to speak with their estate agent.
The existing bathroom can be upgraded and the separate WC retained. A separate WC was once considered unfashionable, but we see many clients now wishing to keep these as they can be useful with a house full of guests. With the ground floor shower room, this would potentially offer three bathrooms, including the en suite.
So by reorganising and redefining the space there appears to be ample floor area to fulfil the brief.
The only area where it might be worth considering an extension is to the side of the dining area, and opening up into a sun room or sitting area, which would create an L-shaped space.
This could also accommodate a comfortable sitting area connecting with the garden.
This is something that can be built separately, and at a later stage, but when defining the brief it is good to have a master plan to work to long term.
Weighing up costs and options, and given that the existing house requires upgrading, it is therefore arguably a more cost-effective option to reconfigure the existing space than to extend.
Extension costs are currently running at around £2,000 per metre, so to add a fairly simple 25 sq m extension will cost around £50,000, and to extend over the existing single-storey extension around £20,000.
In the scheme of the refurbishment, the additional structural alteration costs to the existing internal areas are likely to be somewhere around an additional £10,000.
Unless it is a listed building, none of the internal works will require planning permission.
But if in doubt seek professional advice, or you can check what does and doesn’t require permission on the Government’s planning portal.
Follow this link to review the interactive house: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200125/do_you_need_permission/90/interactive_house
Some extensions also come under permitted development.
However, building regulations will be required for the structural alterations and potentially any redefining of internal spaces.
This is a statutory requirement, and is a submission to the building inspector of the specification for any notifiable building works.
More information about building regulations and approval can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/building-regulations-approval/when-you-need-approval
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Having studied at Edinburgh College of Art and The Royal Academy of The Hague, John Bullock launched John Bullock Design in 2003. With offices in Tunbridge Wells High Street, John has won awards for his work and is committed to delivering the best outcomes for clients. www.johnbullockdesign.com