05 Apr 2016

The untapped potential of a dated bungalow


Despite initial reservations, Tan Jeraj realised the renovation potential of a small and dated bungalow in Mitcham, London, and transformed it into a spacious, long-term family home.


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Building a house had always been a dream for Tan Jeraj, however extending and drastically remodelling a 1930s semi-detached bungalow was never on the agenda, as Tan explains: “Whilst searching for a family house to purchase, we had a courtesy call from our local estate agent. He mentioned a ‘bungalow’ which was available and my immediate reaction was to decline even a viewing! I was searching for a house, not a bungalow. However, as I was very familiar with the location I thought there was nothing to lose so went along – although I knew I would not consider purchasing it.

“This was the best decision I’d ever made, as all I could envisage was (subject to planning permission) an entirely new, bigger, better, practical and aesthetically-pleasing dwelling. The scope of three extensions excited me and my father who accompanied me at the first viewing felt convinced that it would be the right place for me and my family.”

Tan had always dreamed of building his own home. Gaining knowledge and a new set of skills, plus being able to put his own stamp on a property, were things he felt passionately about. These, as a result, inspired him to take on the challenge as lead project manager, and ultimately motivated his self-build journey. “I was inspired by the prospect of fulfilling the huge amount of potential the bungalow had to offer,” adds Tan, “in terms of the three extensions we had planned, and the unconventional yet practical layout we would have. Knowing my parents and my wife would be so proud was a huge motivation too.”

In terms of the build itself, more than 75% of the original dwelling was demolished to facilitate the successful build and extensions – the front three walls were the only ones unbroken. This has enabled the original shape to be maintained from an external street facing view. Apart from looking far more modern and refreshed, the shape from the front remains the same. Internally, there is nothing similar to that which existed previously.

The renovation work saw the property extended from a modest 79m² to 220m². Tan’s vision was to create bright, large symmetrical spaces filled with attractive furnishings for a happy family to live in together.

“Reaching a final design was challenging and saw many amendments,” explains Tan. “Knowing that a free flowing and airy feel was crucial, we decided to scrap the original proposals and finalise areas as we went along with the build. Great fun indeed!”

Despite submitting letters of approval from neighbours, Tan’s application was initially refused. Adamant on his plans, Tan put forward an appeal and it was finally granted – a long four-month process, but one that was certainly worth the battle.

Being self-employed, Tan was able to manage the project successfully, dedicating months of his time and effort to ensure the project ran as smoothly as possible. Among the many challenges experienced throughout the build, product specification was one aspect of the build process that Tan approached with extra care and attention. He explains: “The knowledge the builders had to offer was very useful indeed, especially in terms of the raw building materials and options we had to choose from. The second phase products were not so easy to choose, given the sheer choice available in today’s market, but conducting extensive research and attending exhibitions was useful in terms of obtaining the right products at affordable prices. Viewing images online (namely i-build, Grand Designs, Houzz and others) helped us know what type of look we wanted and the aim was to replicate them where possible.”

The Terajs’ new home features extensive space for all to enjoy. The ground floor comprises three double bedrooms that are situated at the front of the property and one master en-suite. To the rear of home is 75m² of communal space (kitchen, dining room and living room). The master bathroom is ideally located in the middle with an attractive and practical hallway that flows well to all areas and is a welcoming feature on entry to the house. Meanwhile, the first floor consists of two further well proportioned double bedrooms – current use of these is an office and a guest bedroom. A guest bathroom, and an additional, unique and exclusive apex-shaped children’s playroom have also been created upstairs.

The front of the house has a patterned driveway space for three cars and complements the brand new rendering and paintwork of the front of the dwelling. The back garden has Indian Sandstone paving and a newly installed fence supported and complemented by rockface gravel boards. Lighting, a new shed and lawn help create what is simple, yet interesting, in its design. The Indian Sandstone between the lawn helps create a dual aspect when looking out onto the garden from the inside.

To enhance the natural light within the home, Tan specified 10 Fakro roof windows and would recommend these to anyone who is considering taking on a self-build or renovation. “I feel that the 10 Fakro roof windows we had installed, as well as the five blinds, have been wonderful,” enthuses Tan. “They are user friendly, reasonably priced and look great. My builders find installing them easier than other products and have said they’d be sure to give no problems once in. Overall, the blinds and windows are excellent in terms of functionality and quality, and the extensive range available is very impressive too.”

However, the build was not without its challenges, as Tan explains: “The appeals process was very difficult indeed. As was deciding the layout and design, and decision making under pressure with regard to the house’s crucial items (such as radiators, doors, laminate floors, tiles). Another challenge was trying to keep in line with the budget, for example bi-folding doors were well out of budget but we couldn’t resist putting them in. We were aware that a big build like this wouldn’t be straightforward and although there were challenges, these were aspects which were very rewarding.”

In total, the project took nine months, which was the exact timescale allocated for the build, decoration and furnishing. “As soon as all significant works were completed my wife and I, along with our two young children, moved in,” comments Tan. “Small finishing works and finer detailed touches took place for a couple of weeks.”

For the Jerajs, their new home is everything they had hoped it would be and more. Tan delights: “We had a vision and the end result has exceeded our expectations. This is a wonderful feeling. I love the unique layout and the fact it ticks all boxes in terms of aesthetics and practicality. The overall end result – although universally appealing and timeless in design – ultimately has our own stamp on it. My favourite room is the living room because it’s so bright and large, yet so cosy. It is elegant, comfortable and welcoming and hosts wonderful gatherings. Access to the outdoors through bi-folding doors is also a pleasure – when weather permits of course.”

Offering advice to prospective self-builders and renovators, Tan says: “Being involved in a sizeable project will never be smooth or plain sailing. The effort, the expenses and the time spent in conducting works can be very draining and even stressful at times. However, things can be tremendously rewarding and you can actually have fun and turn the above into a positive and exciting experience. Trying to be level-headed and open-minded is helpful.

“There are some crucial factors which I feel determine the success of a project. The first being the finances available. Always give yourself a contingency budget and be prepared to spend a little more if you can afford it, as you are only doing it once. The ability to source and purchase a variety of goods or knowing/paying someone who is an expert would be a bonus.

“Secondly is appointing the right builder. Obtain a minimum of three quotes and be sure to obtain references and physically view and scrutinise the jobs your prospective builder has done elsewhere. An honest and trustworthy builder, who is confident of his own works, should not shy away from giving access to their projects.”

Tan concludes: “Lastly is imagination in design, use of materials/goods/furnishings. As much as a good builder may have imagination and be in a good position to advise, ultimately some decisions should be yours alone. Choosing things that look good but form part of practical surroundings can also have a major impact on the end result too. Attend exhibitions, read magazines, be bold at times and try to have some fun throughout the project.”

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