Sarah and James Murray opened up the space in their small property to create a spacious, stylish and contemporary home.

Sarah MurrayFact file

The owners: Sarah Murray (right), who is a training co-ordinator, and her husband James, an exhibitions director, live here with their children, Jake, 10, and Daisy, eight
The property: A four-bedroom semi-detached house built in the 1930s
The location: Claygate, Surrey
What they spent: The couple bought the house for £420,000 and have spent £105,000 extending it. The property has been recently valued at £550,000

Although they were happy living in a two-bedroom terraced cottage, Sarah and James Murray needed more space with two young children.

‘But we wanted to stay in Claygate as it has such a friendly village atmosphere and there are good schools,’ says Sarah. The couple viewed a number of properties in the area until they fell in love with one particular house – before they had even stepped inside.

‘We were looking forward to seeing its private garden as we walked up the path,’ says Sarah.‘When we stepped inside, it all felt so spacious in comparison with our two-bedroom cottage.’

It was a three-bedroom property at the time with a conservatory at the rear. The owners had recently renovated both the kitchen and bathroom, so the house was in good enough shape that the family were able to move in immediately.

‘We were quite happy with the white bathroom suite and the kitchen, which had nice wooden units,’ says Sarah. ‘We freshened up the walls with new paint – but that was all. The conservatory became our children Jake and Daisy’s playroom, though they didn’t like the cold stone floor.’

A few years went by, but when their two children started growing older the couple realised that they were in need of more home space once again.

‘We didn’t really want to move house again because we liked it here and didn’t want to uproot the children from school,’ says Sarah. ‘As there was plenty of space at the side and back of the house, we decided that an extension was the better option.’

The couple called in a local architectural company to draw up plans for a large open-plan kitchen/dining/living area, which would extend the kitchen space, turn the conservatory into a dining area and create a two-storey extension with a study on the ground floor. A fourth bedroom was needed on the first floor, as Sarah and James thought the original layout was too cramped for a growing family, with its two small single bedrooms and one double bedroom.

‘Before the new extension was built, we were in the double room that would become Daisy’s bedroom under the new plan,’ says Sarah. ‘Jake was in the room opposite, with Daisy in a box room next to him. We also realised that the family bathroom was too small for our needs.’

With extra space created on the first floor by the new extension, the couple were able to plan a new double bedroom for Jake, a larger family bathroom and a master bedroom for themselves, which would include an en suite shower room.

A friend recommended a local firm, The Lofts and Extensions Company, to carry out the work. Sarah and John were happy to hire them as they put in a competitive quote and supplied good references.

A contract was drawn up, under which the couple paid a 20 per cent deposit and then paid three per cent instalments of the outstanding amount by bank transfer as each stage of the work was completed.

Luckily, planning permission was granted quickly, without any objections from the neighbours, and work got under way.

Initially, the family stayed in the house, using the small dining room at the front as their temporary kitchen.

‘We moved in our fridge-freezer, microwave and washing machine and watched TV around them,’ laughs Sarah.

Although the work was noisy and messy, Sarah was impressed that the builders cleared up at the end of each day. The renovations were progressing so smoothly that, confident they could leave the builders to continue with the major extension work, the family decided to go on holiday.

When the couple came home, they were delighted to see that the builders had made excellent progress. The extension was almost complete, but they realised they couldn’t move back with all the upheaval in the house – especially as there was no roof on the hallway.

‘We rang round our friends, looking for a place to stay,’ Sarah remembers. ‘Luckily, a friend who lived locally was about to go on holiday and offered us her house to live in while she was away.’

‘Over the next eight weeks, we moved between several properties, house-sitting for friends while they were on holiday,’ adds Sarah. ‘The children enjoyed it, but James used to get off the train each evening and ask, “Where am I sleeping tonight, then?” I didn’t mind it, but we both felt a little rootless after a while.’

The couple visited the house most evenings to keep an eye on progress and ensure that there were no hitches. When they eventually moved back some weeks later, the extension had been finished on time and within budget.

Sarah and James were looking forward to choosing new fittings and furniture. As they had planned a contemporary look for the new extension, they chose a statement high gloss kitchen in burgundy, which was fitted by the builders.

‘I don’t usually go for red fittings and fixtures,’ Sarah explains. ‘But when we saw the kitchen in a catalogue we thought it had real wow-factor.’

‘We didn’t quite agree on the material for the work surfaces,’ she adds. ‘I’d set my heart on granite worktops, but James wasn’t keen, saying they would be too expensive – admittedly, they cost almost as much as the rest of the kitchen. James now agrees they were worth it as they’re hardwearing, especially with children around.’

The walls of the dining area were painted in burgundy to unite the kitchen and dining spaces, but glass shelving was used to break up the solid wall colour. Sarah and James decided to keep their old dining suite as it suited the new décor perfectly and they needed to stay within a strict budget.

In the kitchen-diner, the couple opted for engineered oak flooring so that it would work with the existing wood flooring in the living area. As the dining area opens into the living space, they wanted to create an understated yet stylish feel. They chose from their favourite colour palette of coffee and taupe for the walls and remaining décor, knowing it would complement the flooring and brown leather suite.

‘The neutral scheme is both warm and relaxed – it’s very much a grown up space, but as the children are getting older they’re starting to enjoy spending time here too,’ says Sarah.

They kept to their strict budget by saving on some costs but investing in key pieces, especially when they fitted out the bathrooms, which now include a ground floor cloakroom, a family bathroom and the master en suite shower room.

‘Although we didn’t pay a huge amount for our sanitaryware, we invested in expensive finishing touches to pull the style of the two bathrooms together,’ says Sarah. ‘For example, we chose inexpensive plain white tiles for the family bathroom but teamed them with high quality border tiles, which match the teal rubber flooring.

‘We mixed old and new fittings and fixtures – such as re-using the shower from our previous bathroom – to help keep the project within budget,’ she continues.

Sarah and James had a clear idea of the style of décor and furniture that they wanted in the master bedroom, as Sarah explains: ‘We were looking to create a contemporary feel, so we decided on bold patterned wallpaper. We don’t usually have wallpaper – there is none in the rest of the house, apart from Jake’s room – but we needed it to get the right effect.’

The couple created a feature wall with the wallpaper while keeping the other walls plain, and chose luxury cream carpet to avoid overpowering the bedroom.

For their en suite shower room, they chose stylish chocolate brown tiles to continue the theme. Large tiles were used on both the flooring and the walls to create the illusion of space.

‘Our en suite is fabulous, and so luxurious – even our children Jake and Daisy enjoy using it instead of their own bathroom,’ laughs Sarah.

Although the extension has enabled the family to spread out around the house and enjoy the new space, there are still a few outstanding jobs to complete the redesign.

‘I need to buy new curtains for our bedroom – I couldn’t find anything I liked at the time. We also want to build a breakfast bar in the kitchen for informal eating,’ says Sarah. ‘Otherwise, there is only one thing we would have done differently.

‘We’d have chosen a tiled floor for the kitchen-diner,’ she says.‘I know the oak flooring looks lovely, but I’d have worried less about keeping tiles clean, especially with two children running around.’

The family are thrilled with their new extension, as Sarah explains: ‘It’s definitely been worth all the upheaval. We have lovely, spacious new rooms that are full of light – plus we’ve managed to double the size of our house without having to move from the home we love.’


Building work £90,000
Kitchen £2,800
Walls and flooring £2,060
Granite worktops £2,000
Folding sliding doors £2,000
Painting and decorating £2,000
En suite shower room and bathroom sink £1,775
Bath £500
Miscellaneous £1,865
TOTAL £105,000