The room at the back of this Victorian property in south London was dark and uninviting, until Francis and Guan transformed it into a bright, open-plan family kitchen for all to enjoy.
When Frances and Guan first viewed their London home, they looked beyond its dingy, cramped layout and spotted the home's true potential. 'We could envisage how the house would look with more glazing and an open-plan layout,' says Frances. 'But it was four years before we could consider making any major changes as we had to save the money first.' These changes centred on the existing extension at the rear of the house, and rather than knock it down completely, the couple chose to remodel and upgrade the space, primarily to avoid the process of gaining planning permission. The problem wasn't a lack of space, more how it was organised. 'There were two long, thin rooms and the kitchen felt more like a bowling alley than a useable space,' says Frances. 'Combined with low ceilings and small windows it all felt very oppressive.' The main aim was to open up the internal layout, creating a large kitchen-diner, TV area and music room. Glazing across the back of the house would link it to the garden, while large roof lights would dramatically increase the natural daylight flooding into the terraced property.
Rather than demolishing all the internal walls to create one single space, architect Tom Pike suggested leaving a section of the wall in place between the kitchen and TV room to create a subtle division between the areas. The kitchen worktop extends out along the line of this wall, further delineating the spaces and creating a breakfast bar big enough to seat four. Two roof windows – one over the dining table and another angled-version linking the different ceiling heights, allows daylight to filter right through the space.
The architect's expertise also extended to offering suggestions for fixtures and fittings. 'Tom had quite clear ideas about how the finished area should look,' says Guan. One point related to the Aga, an item the couple intended to keep, but with it being a dark green colour Tom felt it wouldn't suit the new space. Rather than replacing it with a more modern range cooker, the couple found a company that could respray it a more suitable shade of black. 'When it was returned it looked brand spanking new,' says Frances. 'With its sparkling chrome I was so convinced they'd made a mistake and brought back the wrong one, I even had to check the serial number!'
Another big change took place on the roof of the extension. Where once there was a mass of ugly grey asphalt, there's now a sedum roof that changes with the seasons, dramatically improving the view from the bedrooms. 'The roof turns from a lush green in winter to slightly yellow as it flowers, and then red in summer,' says Guan.
Despite moving into their basement for six months during the build, the couple say it was quite a painless process, putting that down to the project-management skills of their architects. 'They managed the budget really well and kept us up to date with everything,' says Frances. 'And we had a great builder, who we could get in touch with him whenever we had any questions!'.
- Architect Giles Pike (020 7924 6257; gilespike.com)
- Main contractor and joinery James Montague Builders (07956 299 109; jamesmontague.co.uk)
- Kitchen Daulby and Tickle (01420 476 044; daulbyandtickle.co.uk)
- Aga (remodelling service) Hoad and Taylor (01483 204 860; hoadandtaylor.co.uk)
- European oak flooring Natural Wood Flooring Company (020 8871 9771; naturalwoodfloor.co.uk)
- Dining table Tablemakers (020 7223 2075; tablemakers.co.uk)