Taking nine months to complete, a major element of this west London extension project is the newly-created, bespoke kitchen and larder and utility room, situated on the ground floor.
The brief from the client was to design and build the new bespoke kitchen within a new ground floor extension and reformat the first floor and the loft to provide a master suite, three children’s bedrooms with hallway access to a family bathroom; and one guest room with an en-suite for visitors.
Fixtures and fittings
The kitchen is completely bespoke and we were keen to achieve architectural continuity for the overall design, look and feel of the space.
The island is angled to register with, and complement, the angles of the walls and ceilings. While the tall cabinets are fitted from the floor to the ceiling – which includes a cabinetry jib door that provides access to the utility and walk-in larder.
The workshop-spray matt finish of the cabinetry helps provide interest and texture to the kitchen, complementing the off-white emulsion and eggshell tones of the walls, woodwork and frames of the extension glazing. The wall-run cabinet doors were spray-painted with Farrow & Ball’s ‘Wevet’ (dead matt) with a Silestone BLANCO Zeus Extreme polished worktop.
Elsewhere, the open shelf cabinets are oak veneered and the island doors were spray-painted RAL 7021 (dead matt) with a Caesarstone 4120 polished worktop. The only flooring retained was the ground floor hallway Victorian tiles that required careful refurbishment.
The perfect fit
We enlarged the loft space sufficiently to make room for either two children’s bedrooms or one master bedroom. After considering various options, we elected to have the master in the loft. Exploring the space with our 3D design process gave us confidence that we could fit a great en-suite with a double basin and shower under the eaves, and incorporate large wardrobes within an open-plan bedroom dressing room. Very much the case that we considered the size and shape of the side dormer extension symbiotically with designing a bathroom within it, whilst also ensuring the necessary balance and access to neighbouring spaces. When planning the addition of a bathroom to a non-bathroom space, it is crucial that the adjacent/cohabiting rooms are not critically compromised in the process.
It was important that we could fit in a double basin and comfortably-sized shower. But the space we would be allocated was always going to be defined by the architecture. The loft space itself was always going to be limited by planning constraints since the house is in a conservation area. However, with the high-pitched roof and side dormers, in particular, we were able to extend with large dormers to the side and rear. The loft space had previously been converted cheaply. The result of this was a fairly messy piecemeal structural solution which raised the loft floor level much higher than necessary and, therefore, limited the ceiling height. Quite typical of the more entry-level loft conversions that don’t really ever consider the internal design before being built.
Our new collective solution, with the structure of the new dormers and support crossing under the floor, allowed us to achieve a 2.5m ceiling height. Often, loft spaces can only achieve lower ceiling heights, which is key to deciding usage. I would suggest that anything below a 2.3m ceiling is probably only suitable for a child’s bedroom or guest room rather than a master suite. So within our wider layout and usage decision, a clear understanding of the architectural approach needed to be considered alongside the interior design from the initial stages. The choice of glazing is also something to consider at the pre-planning stage, for inclusion in the submission. Since this was to be a master bedroom, the full-height bi-fold doors with Juliet balcony were appropriate and make a real statement. If this had have been a child’s bedroom then a normal window would have been safer, less expensive and more practical for internal layout.
We essentially completely rebuilt the roof and loft floor, so added a new steel structure to support the new roof shape and the floor of the loft, then re-timbered between. The windows were all new including four VELUX windows and the bi-fold rear doors with Juliet-style balcony.
There were no planning permission issues, just the usual limitations. Our planning process was fairly smooth, gaining permission with our first submission that also included the ground floor rear extension. Ultimately, there were similar roof extensions along the road and sizeable ground floor rear extensions either side, that set a precedent and, possibly, allowed us to extend further than we might have been able to otherwise.
Building Regulations regarding loft spaces can limit usage depending on fire escape routes and containment. So it was necessary for us to have a fire door at ground floor level between the kitchen and hallway, alongside a fire door at the top of the stairs into the bedroom. I’m also fairly sure the previous loft conversion was not compliant for thermal insulation. So our new roof structure also remedied that aspect.
Raising the roof
The structural design is always more cohesive when considered as a whole; from the roof right down to the ground floor. Essentially, a traditional roof – before it is converted – will have web struts that tie the overall roof triangle into smaller forms, but these divide the space that needs to be opened up and made habitable. These struts also sit on spine walls running across the property. So the best approach is often to support the roof with a new structure that spans the full width of the property, placing the load on the outside walls. A benefit of this is that it also takes away any load on the internal spine walls, which, in turn, makes it easier to alter these on the first and ground floors. Since we were working on the whole house and also opening up the full width of the rear wall into the ground floor rear extension, the whole structure had to be considered as a package. The best solution for most houses is a full refurbishment from top to bottom rather than a staged piecemeal approach.