Remodelling of a cottage-style dormer bungalow

When Cat Knightley and her family relocated from London to the coast, they discovered a dated Sixties house that needed a serious makeover.


With a series of glassy white cubes clad in Western red cedar and Purbeck stone, this house looks every inch the Modernist new-build. But looks can certainly be deceptive. The home of Cat Knightley and Mav Gibbins is actually a radical remodelling of a cottage-style dormer bungalow built in 1967.

Its twenty-first-century reincarnation began when the couple moved from London to east Dorset. They struggled to find a home they liked. ‘So we thought: “Let’s build something”,’ says Cat. ‘My brother, Peter, is an architect and Mav’s father is a joiner, so we felt we had it in us.’

But when building plots proved to be even more elusive than likeable houses, they decided to buy something they could renovate instead. ‘We instantly fell in love with this place,’ says Cat.

‘It had some really nice features – like the original wooden flooring – the basic layout was also great and it was full of light.’ Their brief was simple: they wanted a four bedroom Modernist-style house; they liked the layout, but intended to make better use of the space, and they wanted a sea view. ‘If you stuck your head out of one of the back windows you could see Poole Harbour,’ says Cat.


The solution, according to their architect, Peter Knightley, was to take off the roof and replace it with a new, linear upper floor and a lofty balcony with harbour views. He worked closely with Mav’s father, Roger, to integrate bespoke joinery throughout the build – the stairs, the doors, the architraves and the skirting boards are all his handiwork.


The planning application sailed through without a hitch. ‘Poole is very open to new-builds and renovations,’ says Cat. Cat makes constant, rather affectionate references to the original build, pointing out its surviving elements. The kitchen occupies exactly the same floor space, she explains. Ditto the dining room and the living room – except that here they took out the ceiling to create a dramatic double-height space.


A new staircase leads down to a roomy cellar (part gym, part storeroom); and an original, open-tread teak staircase takes you up to the bedroom level, where there are two functional guest rooms alongside Ava’s bedroom. One final staircase (designed by Peter and built by Roger) leads up to the master bedroom, which opens on to a decked balcony and that all-important view: the distant line of the Purbeck Hills, the blue of Poole Harbour, and a hint of Brownsea Island. Eight months later and the house was transformed. ‘As my brother Pete and Mav’s father Roger were involved in the decisions, this really is a family home in every sense,’ says Cat. ‘For us, this makes it a very special house indeed.’



Architect Peter Knightley, TW2 Architects

(01494 512 717;

Builder Parkway Builders (01202 310 994;

Joinery DB Joinery (01761 451 123;

Windows Velfac (01536 313 552;

Budget Breakdown

Original house purchase £637,500

Professional fees £19,000

Build £250,000

Kitchen and joinery £28,500

Total cost £935,000


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