The Victorian terraced property that Matt Newman and Michelle Cox bought in 2009 was ideal for a young couple. Fast-forward a few years, however, and the three-bedroom house had begun to feel less practical as the family grew from two to three with the arrival of baby Isla.
‘It had taken us a while to find somewhere affordable in the right location in London, and we didn’t want to move again,’ recalls Matt. ‘In any case, we loved the house. When we first viewed it, we really fell for the scented jasmine growing around the ground-floor bay window and the large double reception room.’
- The owners: Matt Newman, a lawyer, and his wife Michelle Cox, a TV producer, live here with their daughter Isla, two and newly born son Zac
- The property: A four-bedroom Victorian terraced home
- The location: South-west London
- What they spent: The couple bought the property for £494,000 in 2009 and spent around £108,000 extending and renovating it. The house has recently been valued at around £900,000
The kitchen at the rear of the house was less appealing, however, with a relatively narrow galley layout and a space-wasting external passageway running down one side. The original wooden floorboards had been painted dark brown and the pine units were fitted with marble-effect plastic work surfaces.
‘It was perfectly habitable though and we lived with the kitchen for three years, but during that time we decorated the rest of the house, stripping the floorboards back to the original pine and reinstating the Victorian fireplaces and ceiling roses,’ explains Michelle. ‘When I fell pregnant with Isla, we decided that an open-plan family kitchen would be more suitable for us as we could spend most of our time there during the day.’
Planning the extension
The couple contacted several architects and designers to discuss building an extension to the kitchen, including Martin Swatton, having seen one of his projects featured in a magazine. ‘We liked his design with its large open-plan layout and glazed doors,’ says Matt, ‘and when Martin visited us we were impressed by his ideas and enthusiasm for our project.’
Building into the side return passageway would give Matt and Michelle a wider space and enough additional room for a separate utility room, while extending out into the garden by three metres would create a spacious open-plan kitchen/dining/family room, with folding-sliding glazed doors opening onto the patio.
‘Martin produced a high-quality, full colour brochure illustrating his design and provided a DVD, which showed the new space from various angles, focusing on details and how it would work – right down to including images of our cat Poco,’ says Matt. ‘There were so many little things we would never have thought of, such as the vertical internal window between the living room and the kitchen, which acts as a viewing panel and creates a visual link between the two spaces.’
A vaulted ceiling and full-height glazing in a bespoke steel frame would enhance the sense of space in the new extension, with three large skylights maximising the natural light and a feature brick wall and timber flooring introducing warm textures to the contemporary clean lines.
Planning approval was needed for the proposed extension, and Martin submitted the application. One potential concern involved the position of a sewer beneath the side return of the house, where the couple wanted to extend. Although this slightly delayed the application, it didn’t prove to be a major problem.
‘Our builder worked all the way through the winter of 2010/11, and, although we stayed in the house for around six weeks, we moved out when the rear and side walls were demolished,’ says Michelle, who by this time was heavily pregnant with Isla. ‘There was too much dust everywhere to stay and the heating was switched off, so we went to live with Matt’s parents.’
The builder had been recommended by a friend and has since become a friend in his own right. ‘We invited other builders to quote but they were often put off by the fact that the entire rear wall of the house would be glass, framed in steel, whereas he was far more positive,’ explains Matt.
It took only 13 weeks to complete the extension, so the builder proved to be a good choice. New foundations had to be excavated for the structure and extensive steelwork was needed to support both the rear of the house and the glazed elements, which form such a prominent feature and bring light into the new living/dining/family space.
Blockwork was used to build one of the extension’s side walls, which was plasterboarded and painted white internally, while an existing garden wall forming the other side wall of the extension was left exposed internally, which gives the new space an industrial feel. This exposed wall had been built previously by the next-door neighbours using old Londonstock bricks, to match the brickwork of the original house.
‘Though we weren’t sure if the existing garden wall would meet current building regulations for insulation, the rest of the extension is so highly insulated that it wasn’t a problem,’ recalls Matt. ‘The bricks had been exposed to the elements for some time, so they had already weathered and didn’t need any kind of sealing treatment.’
The walls are painted in Farrow & Balls London stone. The shutters are from Shutterfly Fabulous and the chaise longue is a family heirloom
Matt and Michelle collaborated with Martin on the various internal finishes, too, choosing simple white kitchen units teamed with stainless-steel work surfaces. ‘We had seen stainless steel used in wine bars and professional kitchens and we thought it would create a stylish industrial look along with the exposed brickwork and white metro tiles,’ explains Michelle. ‘We considered laying rubber flooring, or poured concrete, but in the end Matt and I decided that wooden floorboards were much more family-friendly and would tie in with the rest of the house.’
The couple’s kitchen extension was completed in March 2011 and has proved to be a big hit with their family and friends as they can all congregate there when Matt and Michelle are cooking or entertaining while chatting or watching TV.
This space on the first floor has been fitted with a basin from Porcelanosa and a WC from Bathrooms.com. The mosaic tiles are from Walls & Floors. The previous owners installed the towl rail and the stool came from Thailand
Planning the loft conversion
In 2013, when Matt and Michelle discovered they were expecting another baby, they were once again keen to maximise the space in their home. They decided to convert their loft into a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom and home office/dressing room.
‘The little box room at the back of the house had made a great nursery for Isla, but she had outgrown it and moved into the slightly larger second bedroom,’ says Michelle. ‘By converting the loft, we can enjoy our own space at the top of the house and still have enough bedrooms for the children and guests.’
This space is reached by steps from the master bedroom. The dressing table and chair are both vintage finds from eBay and the print is by Bold & Noble
Once again, the couple hired Martin Swatton to design the new bedroom, while their previous builder completed the work. This involved installing new floor joists and beams, introducing a second staircase and fitting fire doors to meet building regulations for three-storey homes.
The roof was re-covered in Welsh slate, new rooflights were inserted and the bedroom was fitted with inward-opening aluminium patio doors with a safety balustrade. The new en suite wet room was carefully positioned to make the most of the restricted head-height, while a dressing area/home office was built to be accessed by steps down from the main bedroom.
‘This time we were able to carry on living in the house – we set a budget, as we did before, and managed to stick to it,’ says Michelle, who sourced suppliers and compared costs for both phases of the build work. ‘When the builder knocked through to install the staircase there was quite a lot of dust, but it was all finished very quickly.’
The builder made a basin unit from a pine floorboard and the basin is from Bathrooms.com. Metro wall tiles from Walls & Floors are teamed with Ferroker floor tiles from Poercelanosa
The couple had firm ideas for the new space and once again liaised with Martin over the decisions at every stage. Metro tiles have been used in the wet room, which features a large rooflight and a distinctive tiled floor, while the bedroom is dominated by a large brick chimneybreast that has been made into a unique feature.
‘We had some communication problems explaining how we wanted the exposed chimneybreast to look, coming home one day to find it covered in gloss white paint, but it was soon sandblasted back to give it a distressed finish, which created the industrial look we were aiming for,’ says Matt, who was impressed by the quality of the workmanship in both new spaces.
The loft was completed in 10 weeks during 2013 and the family can now enjoy their finished home. They have since had their second child, Zac, and they have no immediate plans for further alterations. ‘We don’t want to move now that we’ve done so much work,’ says Michelle. ‘It’s a real family home and we absolutely love it.’