Getting the light just right

Selfbuilder & Homemaker takes a look at how a London couple extended their home to create a bright and modern family-friendly space

Beri and Julie Cheetham set out to modernise their Victorian home situated in sought-after London borough Wandsworth. By taking their time to plan, improvising a little and setting a bit of budget aside, they created a beautiful modern kitchen-diner that connects the garden to the home.

Two years after moving into their terraced house, Beri and Julie’s selfbuild project began to take shape.

As is the case with many renovation projects, they wanted to take advantage of the space they didn’t use. By removing their existing lean-to conservatory and extending out into the side return, they transformed the rear of their property into an open plan kitchen-dining area, that leads out into the garden.

Natural hosts 

Their vision was to bring more natural light into the rear of the home, to make it brighter and create a welcoming area for family and friends to enjoy. Beri says,

“With the kitchen leading on to the garden, it had to serve as a place for the family and to entertain – especially for the summer when we love to throw impromptu parties. We have a large extended family and our friends live in the neighbourhood, so the space needed to easily allow for at least 10 people at any time.”

Beri and Julie knew what they wanted from their extension project from the start. Key features that they had their hearts set on were all in the final plans. This included Belgian-style patio doors and a large glass area covering the back wall of the dining room looking out into the garden.

Taking their time

After spending the best part of two years mapping out their vision to know exactly what they wanted, they had a good idea of how their home was going to look. To help bring the project to life, they spotted an advert for architectural practice Granit Architects, and decided they were the right firm to turn their vision into design.

Beri says,

“It took our architect to unlock the true potential of the project, not only in the design, but also in helping to get planning permission. They really helped to finesse our ideas.”

Granit built on Beri and Julie’s ideas, suggesting they dig down to create a high ceiling which would be in keeping with the sense of grandeur throughout the rest of the house. They also incorporated a concrete floor through from the kitchen into the dining area and into the outside.

Raiding the piggy bank

To get the project underway the lean-to conservatory was removed first. This paved the way for the builders to be able to dig down so they could create the three metre high ceiling. They had to underpin the original rear wall, which is where Beri and Julie’s emergency ‘piggy bank’ came to good use. Julie explains,

“We discovered that the house needed to be underpinned in four places, which added £12,000 to the project cost. It’s a good job we organised a contingency budget.”

Improvisation also played its part in creating a feature they did not quite have in mind. The exposed brick wall, which adds real character, provides a unique cooker splashback when covered with a glass mount. Beri explains:

“It was actually an accident, as the feature brick wall was built far too long. Instead of covering it with tiles, we improvised and kept it how it is, it makes a lovely alternative.”

Nine months later

It took Beri and Julie nine months to complete the project. They now have a modern dining area with traditional and contemporary features, perfect for hosting family and friends. Julie says,

“When I saw the finished space, it felt like I was in a new house.”

Beri agrees:

“It feels peaceful and in perfect harmony with the soul of the original house.”

With plenty of time to plan, a backup budget in place and surprises taken in their stride, their new kitchen-dining area has truly transformed the home.

The view from the architects

“The clients decided to refurbish their property to create a modern, minimal family home. They wanted to extend into the garden and to the side of the kitchen to create a large living space, filled with natural light, and to make a better connection with the garden. The final design by Granit Architects has opened-up the ground floor significantly, opening up a large space in the kitchen dining room and providing a level threshold with the garden to create a seamless connection from inside to out.

A large L-shaped roof light now sits above the kitchen and dining room, flooding the space with light. A reclaimed bandstand column has been used rather than a steel across the back of the house to support the upper floors and to enable the roof light’s dramatic change of direction. This almost suggests the house is floating above the kitchen.

Full width steel framed windows and doors were added to the rear to help flood the room with afternoon light and marry with the garden beyond. This also created an industrial aesthetic, alongside the reclaimed column and exposed brick walls, giving the space a unique quality both in terms of shape and finish. The exposed bricks are brand new and not existing stock, which allowed the wall to run straight into floor without the need for skirting boards.

Throughout the house, materials were chosen to provide modernity but with a reference to industry and classics, such as parquet flooring in the hall and living room.”