'A kitchen is the nicest room to spend money on'
After a year of leafing though magazines for inspiration, Jo and Ben eventually decided to use Stuart Cameron from Cameron Webster Architects in Glasgow. He came up with a design to open up the corner that was the original kitchen and extend it to the edge of where the carport was, inserting a timber- clad pod that houses a cloakroom and laundry, and creates a circuit passageway between the entrance, the extension and the lounge room. Planning permission was easy to obtain, although their neighbour - whose house used to adjoin the carport - requested a gap of at least half a metre between his house and the new structure. 'At first we were disappointed. It would have been nice if it could have been that little bit bigger,' says Jo. They made up for lost space by having a seating booth carved into the timber pod.
Behind the unassuming entrance to Jo and Ben Deas's Cheshire home is a fine example of Britain's quiet culinary revolution. Fanny Craddock's prawn cocktails and insistence that 'cooking is a cleanly art, not a grubby chore' have been usurped by Jamie Oliver's pesto tagliatelle and get-your-hands-dirty style, and it shows in our love affair with open-plan kitchen-dining spaces.
'I think when you've had a house that's run-down and you've put a lot of effort into it, you become quite passionate about it. It sort of becomes your baby,' she says. They now have designs on building a front drive and garage to replace the carport.
'If you like cooking and entertaining it's the nicest room to spend money on,' says Jo. It's also an important social hub for her, Ben and their children Noah, 13, Eli, 12 and Mimi, 10, especially since Ben has taken over his father's fashion retail business. 'For Ben and me, that's our part of the day.
Jo and Ben's extension, which replaces a carport, has transformed what was originally one of the smallest rooms in their sprawling, five-bedroom Georgian house into a deluxe area for cooking and eating with full-height oak-framed doors that slide open to a garden on both sides.
Renovating their Georgian home has been a labour of love for Jo and Ben Deas. Now thanks to a long-awaited glass-fronted extension, the perfect family home has the perfect family kitchen So will they ever be finished? 'I don't know,' says Jo. 'I suppose maybe there will be a point, probably when all the kids leave home and we have to sell up.' But for now the kids are happy where they are. 'Because it's open plan, they can use their wheely shoes to go all the way around the pod, through the living room, like it's an ice rink.'
The new kitchen-diner has been designed to avoid any sense of it being an add-on that you walk in and out of, with four entry points - through the glass doors on either side, from the lounge room, and through a hall from the main entrance. Outside it looks like a zinc-clad 'mini-me' of the main house, replicating its roof shape, and with a patch of slate to take the edge off the expanse of metal.
'It was the perfect house without the perfect kitchen, so we always thought it would be a nice project to do,' says Jo - but not before a lot of other work was done first. The couple bought the house in 2000, blowing their budget in the process, so they had to make do with a simple makeover. Lino was ripped up to expose wooden floorboards, the walls were painted white, and a freestanding Ikea kitchen was installed until they could afford to do what they really wanted.
The next major works were invisible. 'After a couple of years doing unseen jobs, I just thought: "I don't want a new gutter. I want a new bathroom,"' says Jo. They did finally get to the bathrooms, converting what was the sixth bedroom into a high-spec Philippe Starck bathroom with wallpaper from Heal's, and turning what was the main bathroom into their en suite, before knuckling down to the long-anticipated kitchen extension in 2006.