Back in 2013 I designed an extension to a house in Thornbury-https://wordpress.com/post/alexandracork.wordpress.com/728 and the intention always was to eventually build a two storey side extension, an idea which has finally come to fruition, after various pandemic related difficulties, including a nationwide shortage of building materials. This pretty 1930’s house is on a steeply tapered plot- much wider at the front than the back. The house had a shared garage structure which had been oddly altered by a previous owner. The house had three good sized bedrooms and one tiny bathroom- which was awkward to use.
The garage was removed and a large two storey extension added to the property. This extension provides a modern utility, shower room and a garage store on the ground floor, with two new bedrooms on the first floor- the bathroom relocated into the original third bedroom.
The house benefitted from a lovely staircase which has been further improved by opening up the landing space which leads to the extension- this beautiful double height space is airy and impressive, but also practical- part of the original bathroom has become super useful storage on the landing.
The utility is also very practical and well laid out- providing a secondary entrance, coat and shoe storage, pet space and laundry and cleaning provision. The garage provides storage and houses some gym equipment and is the sort of super practical arrangement most home require- plastering and painting it really improves the environment.
On the first floor a new bedroom for their daughter and an additional spare room/study space have been created in the extension, the bathroom has been relocated into a very generous and restful space.
The owner is a talented graphic designer and stylist, so I always knew this extension would look fabulous- the soft, textural tones used throughout really sing about what a comfortable, well organised and beautiful home this is. The extension maximises the plot, using all the spare space afforded by the tapering boundary, and it is now a modern 4 bedroom, 2 bath property.
By a country mile, the most popular project I am asked to look at are kitchen extensions, and the biggest driving force of this is to create a social kitchen.
Houses all differ, but the traditional format of homes up and down the country has a living room to the front, adjacent to the front door and hallway, with the rear split between a formal dining room and a kitchen. Kitchens were small practical rooms designed for one person to do the domestic work, any guests being entertained in the more formal rooms. Communal dining was important- but the act of cooking it wasn’t part of the social experience. In addition, Kitchens in many of the homes we live in, built in the Victorian era, or mid 20th Century, weren’t intended with modern appliances or labour saving devices in mind
Dining spaces were to be shown off, so they’re often disproportionately large in comparison to the amount of time they were actually used, leading to a disconnect- the oft used but cramped and isolated kitchen vs. the larger but infrequently used dining room.
Nowadays a kitchen is seen as the centre of home, and is an area to show off. Its connection with the rest of the house is paramount- it needs to be practical (above all else) but also not cut off – home owners want to be in a space where they can entertain, chat, supervise and interact with their children- and they want to fully utilise the floor area they have.
The keys to a social kitchen-
Create a social hub– this might be a dining table or an island/peninsula- somewhere people can gather, attached or near to the main kitchen. Seating is vital, even if its just an occasional perching place. This can be key as a social gathering point which includes the ‘cook’ in the conversation. Its also incredibly versatile- my own small kitchen island is frequently used as a place for a quick cup of tea (or glass of wine!), as a workstation, for play or do crafts at, for eating breakfast or lunch. It can be a perfect place for kids to do home work while dinner is being prepared. I’d wager if you set up a camera, it would be the most frequently returned to point of the house- the true centre.
Don’t forget a practical kitchen– the kitchen still needs to work- that all important ‘work triangle’ is essential- and its important to plan the kitchen so that key areas of it face into the room- there’s no point having a big social kitchen if you spend most your time facing the wall! Think about key items like a fridge and how easy it is to access from the main room (if you can fit in a wine fridge, all the better).
If you have space- add a soft seating zone – a nice comfortable sofa with a focal point (could be a fireplace or a TV) means you and your family will really ‘hang out’ in this room, and guests will feel at home. It also means there’s an alternative social space for different people- if the kids have friends over for example. You might want to soften the flooring in this area- a carpet or a big rug makes a more comfortable play space for children. If there’s room for some storage so that toys or hobby equipment can be easily cleared up it will help keep you room streamlined.
Think about transition to the garden– Gardens are also increasingly thought about as part of the envelope of the home- another room to use (at least for some parts of the year). Even when the weather isn’t for eating outside, a view of the garden is perfect for expanding your horizons, bringing in light, monitoring children’s play and feeling a connection to outside. Bi folds are ever popular for their large openings and the way people can drift in an out but there are other options- think big sliding panes of glass unimpeded by frames, or super cool Crittall style frames. Being able to overlook the garden and transition between the two is often part of what makes a social kitchen really successful.
Consider Noise– Noise in a shared, larger rooms noise can be a factor. Retain a closable door to the rest of the house, and if its possible- create a separate utility or built in cupboard for Washing machines, failing that, look for the quieter appliances.
If you want to create or revamp your kitchen we can help you design the social kitchen that forms the heart of your home.
I strongly believe in adding space where it’s really needed- a few square metres at a critical pinch point in your house can mean more than adding 30 sq m of under utilised and badly positioned new space elsewhere. One of the most frequent complaints I hear from home owners is about the entrance to their homes- its too tight, too cramped, there’s no where for shoes and coats and bags (kids are particularly prone to abandoning their belongings all over the hallway!). Adding a porch- just a few square metres- can solve this- adding crucial space and storage at the entrance to your home- which is after all- one of the most well used areas of your house.
A new porch can also give your house a facelift- a warm visual welcome from the outside, increasing the kerb appeal of your home, and in many cases they can help create room for a WC, or combined with a wrap around extension, increased space in adjacent rooms. Some people like to retain a secondary door between their porch and the rest of the house- great for added security and thermal insulation, but others like to extend their hallway into the porch- creating a grander entrance.
Porches can be permitted development- most houses can add 3 sq m to the front elevation without requiring planning permission. A small porch of this size is likely to cost £9-10k (this is based on nationwide research taken in 2022, projects can vary), so whilst this can be quite costly when considered on a per square metre basis, it is what I term very ‘hard working’ space- it makes a clear and tangible difference to how you home acts, feels and appears to others.
If you have a porch project you’d like to discuss, we’d love to help!
On a lovely day earlier this week I was invited back to see this completed extension in Horfield. This classic Victorian terrace had an L shaped floorplan- living room to the front with dining behind, then a small, dark and cramped kitchen and ground floor bathroom in the ‘outrigger’. This is the typical arrangement for houses of this age, kitchens weren’t valued as a social area to be shown off. The bathroom on the ground floor was impractical for family life, and the house lacked access and views to the garden.
The house had a wide side return area which is also typical for houses of the age- which is often dark and difficult to utilise.
The new extension utilises this area, building an extension into the side return, and extending another 1.5m beyond the original end of the house, increasing the footprint of the house by approximately 40% without losing much usable garden area.
Internally the kitchen and diner were opened up with steels to create a large open plan area. To the rear a beautiful U shaped kitchen has been fitted, with a dining area and a large seating space facing the garden.
The lean to roof profile allows for rooflights to the rear and to the side, which pour light into the previously dark rear of the house, and large format sliding doors give views and access to the garden. To my delight, the owners opted to keep their steels revealed, rather than boxed in, which called for intumescent (flame retardant) paint to protect them- I’m reliably informed this paint was a nightmare to apply- but the result looks fantastic- and suits their industrial aesthetic so well. A cast concrete worktop emphasises this look- the patina and depth of this material looks ideal in the space.
The owners have a great sense of style and their extension didn’t disappoint- its a warm, open and full of well chosen finishes, fittings and furniture, with artwork and ornaments reflecting their personalities and artistic backgrounds.
I’m a sucker for the practical details and so I’ll finish with these- a cute little pantry tucked under the stairs, and a super practical utility cupboard- housing washing machine, tumble drier, drying rack, storage and coats!
Let’s face it, the vast majority of people don’t store their cars in their garages anymore- cars have got bigger, their use more frequent- and its too much hassle to store a car in an undersized garage. Garages can provide valuable storage or workshop areas, but all too often they become a dumping ground for things we don’t want to look at- a huge walk in cupboard of clutter.
Alternatively, garages can be converted into really valuable home spaces- and have a huge number of advantages- the work is usually much quicker, less messy (no digging!), and considerably cheaper- than building the equivalent sized extension.
Industry figures suggest the average garage conversion can be as much as 70% cheaper than a new extension, and can add up to 20% onto the value of your existing property.
In further good news- in many situations- garage conversions do not require planning permission and can be converted under Permitted Development rights, which speeds up and further reduces cost.
If you’re concerned about losing storage capacity, a popular option retains a proportion of the existing garage- enough for the true essentials- bikes, lawn mowers and a bit of DIY equipment- with access to the front.
Popular garage conversion projects create utilities, ground floor WCs, home offices, occasional guest rooms, play rooms, dining rooms, or when knocked through to the existing house- can help enlarge kitchens and living rooms without any new build space.
Alexandra Cork Home Designs have helped design many garage conversion projects- if you want to discuss turning your garage of doom into a sparkly new kitchen, utility, play room or home office- get in touch- we’d love to help.
This one storey extension in Thornbury, South Glos, infilled a gloomy corner of the existing garden. The extension has created a big open plan space, with roof lights over the kitchen illuminating the space. The area the extension was in removes an unused corner of the garden, keeping the usable outdoor spaces in tact.
The owner has chosen a lovely high gloss grey kitchen, with marble worktops, and burnt orange bar chairs, creating a really luxe look. But its the new WC wallpaper that really steal the show- if you can’t show off an amazing pattern in the smallest room in the house, where can you?
Just a reminder- Alexandra Cork Home Designs offer free initial consultations.
This consultation is really valuable as an opportunity for us to meet and it gives me a chance to see your house in person, along with the surrounding area, so we can discuss in more detail what you want to change about your home. Some people have very specific ideas, others just feel that the current house isn’t working- with 15+yrs of residential design experience and a background in Interior design and architecture- I can help identify areas for improvement, suggest potential solutions and start to refine your ideas during this initial meeting. I can also give you an overview of whether you may or may not require planning, building regulations and drain build over permissions and what each of these require.
There’s absolutely no obligation to go any further- though I’d love to work with you if you do! If an initial consultation is of interest to you, please drop me a line – email@example.com and I’d be delighted to book you into my diary!
This lovely extension in Hanham, Bristol, was recently completed and its beautiful! The house had an original extension which housed separate kitchen and dining areas, which felt disconnected from the each other and the rest of the house, and the garden- which is at a lower level- was difficult to access via a side door and steep uneven steps.
We designed a new single storey extension and knocked through to the original dining area to create one big open plan space- a beautiful kitchen has been fitted with an expansive family area overlooking the garden. A small home office area has been incorporated to this space, along with wide french doors which lead to generous steps- improving access and flow to the outdoor dining and play areas.
Two big flat roof windows in the ceiling pour light, view and openness into the extension. But call me boring- one of the best bits of this extension is the secret hidden utility cupboard
I just love an efficient and hard working space- and this works so well- washing machine and tumble dryer hidden in a proper solid cupboard, with shelving and a great space to hide all those unsightly but essential household appliances- when the doors are closed it all disappears and take up the bare minimum space. If you don’t have space for a full utility or don’t want one- this option is well worth consideration.
A one storey extension to the rear of an detached home in Bradley Stoke has added a garden/family room. With bi fold doors leading to a renovated patio area, this additional seating space adjoining the existing dining area, giving the owners a lovely space from which to enjoy their garden.
The roof was designed to be gable ended, creating a dramatic vaulted ceiling inside, with sky lights positioned to best catch the sunlight. We were involved from initial concepts to building regs, helping the owner envisage and realise their garden room idea!
I recently went back to this 1950’s home in Bromley Heath, to see their recently completed extension. These semi detached homes, with impressive bays to the front, had large kitchens, and dining areas to the rear of the house, but lack a social space that really makes the most of the areas available. By building a relatively modest extension to ‘square off’ the rear elevation, and removing some internal walls, a really impressive kitchen and dining area was created.
The owners chose a beautiful kitchen, using brick slips to create a feature back splash, and with the help of their electrician, created a clever lighting feature over the island. The existing dining room has been utilised to provide a snug/TV area, while the dining area overlooks their garden. Their previous detached garage has been demolished, with a more practical store area added to the side return of the house. The removal of the garage has opened the garden right up, so that the owners have actually gained garden space, rather than lose it, as well as creating a large, light, social space for their growing family.