Having just refurbished a house and decided to settle into it for the foreseeable future, this property-savvy couple came across their current house online. ‘We weren’t considering this location at all, but the house backed onto a park, and as soon as we walked in, as the cliche goes, we knew this was the one straight away.’
The property had been vacant for two years, with the previous owner, an elderly lady of 102 having lived there for 60 years. ‘It was a time warp. It needed a lot of work. There was no central heating in some rooms, and there were numerous versions of old and even older electrical fittings throughout’ explains the owner.
‘We fell in love with the hallway and parquet floor, which ironically are the two things we had to rip out to make way for the new staircase. Now, after raising the roof and replacing all the windows, there’s actually not much left of the original house.’
Neo-Georgian house exterior
The house is in a conservation area and the owners were keen to work with experts who knew how to navigate the council’s requirements. They settled on Gruff Architects (gruffarchitects.com) who immediately understood their vision.
‘I remember our architect asking where we’d put our Christmas tree, which was funny, because that’s one of the things I’d also considered, but thought that was just me, over-thinking!’
The architects felt the layout as you entered the house was vitally important, in order to enjoy the connections between rooms across the floor plan. ‘They adjusted the entrance hallway to relocate the stairs centrally, which allowed direct access to the new loft and opened out the plan to make a much more understandable and practical layout for each floor.’
The owners were adamant that the hallway idea should feel authentic, despite being a new addition. ‘New parquet has been laid, which looks like it’s always been there, perfectly complements the grand entrance space.’
‘When we had to move the staircase we were worried about the effect it would have on the hall, but it feels completely natural. We now have a double height ceiling space on the first floor, leading up the loft which makes the house seem grander and airier.’
The kitchen is where the family spend most of their time. The previous owners had filled in a gap between the garage and the house with a porch that was added in the 1980s. The new owners removed the door and replaced it with a window seat idea to create the seating nook.
‘The extended peninsular worktop was a last minute addition. It wasn’t meant to be so long, but now the children have a perching place to eat which has proved incredibly useful.’
The extension work is most evident in the new kitchen. Where space has been taken from the generous garden to create a large kitchen-diner. ‘We removed the back wall of the house, as you couldn’t see into the garden,’ explains the owner. Using a third of that outdoor space for the new extension.
‘I designed the kitchen with the architect and chose textures and tones that mirror the consistent colour palette used throughout the house. I decided on the colour of the kitchen early on, as I’d used the same thing in our last house.’ The owners came close to commissioning a kitchen company to make the units, but their builder was confident that he could put together a team who could achieve what they wanted – and he was right.
Compared to the rest of the house this space doesn’t have many pictures because the owners wanted a serene feel. The bifold doors retract fully, so it feels like you’re in the garden when they’re open.
‘The room is a lot bigger than we anticipated. We had our existing, relatively small, table in here initially and it looked ridiculous, so we found this one from Neptune.’ At their children’s insistence, they have two Christmas trees: ‘One here in the dining area, decorated in a restrained theme, the other in the lounge, which gets strewn with everything they can find in the box!’
In the winter this space has a country house type of feel; it’s intimate, but there are lovely big windows. Originally two rooms, the couple removed the dividing wall to create an open-plan space.
‘It has a very different feel to the extension. The fireplace is a beautiful focal point, ready to gather round at Christmas time. Choosing a neutral hue for the surround and hearth means the style works year-round.’
The owners choose to create a subtle festive sparkle using lots of foliage interspersed with candlesticks and fairy lights. ‘I make my own wreath for the front door: a haphazard mixture of greenery with purple thistles and anything with a silvery tinge.’
‘The staircase has eucalyptus woven through the spindles, along with some lights. The scent is delightful right throughout the festive period.’
Speaking of the blue bedroom idea the homeowner says: ‘A fresh-feeling space has been created using a pared down palette of blue hues. I like tonal contrasts and wanted to keep the bedroom simple using a selection of tactile materials such as linen, corduroy, chenille & silk.’
‘Wall-mounted lamps helps create a scheme of layered lighting. Offering practical illumination so you don’t have to get out of bed once you’re ready to sleep.’
‘This bathroom still has the original 1930s bathtub which we had re-enamelled. It used to be a south-facing bedroom with a beautiful arched window. I realised it would split well into two rooms. So on the other side of a dividing wall (which the units run along) is now my study.’