Farnham house transformation now complete

The extension and subtle remodelling project that we undertook on a house in Farnham, Surrey is now complete. Our clients who had lived in their 1930s house for a number of years, putting up with the awkward kitchen, shabby conservatory and accepting that the master bedroom doubled as a work from home office, engaged us to oversee the design of the extension and update of their three bedroom house. The image below shows the rear of the house before the work.

The existing house

Our design not only transformed the house externally, but reconfigured the internal layout of the property. The design opened up the original kitchen to the dining room and new rear extension to create a large open plan 51m2 sociable kitchen which is the hub of this now beautiful home. Often when rooms are extended in this way, the resulting space feels claustrophobic due to the poor proportions of the enlarged room, particularly the ceiling height being incorrect. We cleverly corrected the balance of room height to floor area by increasing the ceiling height in the kitchen extension to 2850mm. This increase in height allowed the introduction of floor to ceiling glazing in the form of stacked 1930s heritage aluminium doors and windows, which allow light to flood in whilst providing great views over the south facing garden and countryside beyond.

Open plan kitchen

A side extension and garage conversion introduced a ground floor study / guest bedroom with its own shower room, a utility room and pantry accessed off of the enlarged kitchen. These rooms benefit from vaulted ceilings and overhead roof windows which provide character and additional natural lighting.

Surrey Extension Design

Installing timber sash windows, smooth render and horizontal cladding to replace the tired pebbledash at the front of the house has given the home a distinctive New England feel.

If you have a similar project in mind, visit our Contact page to start a conversation about your home and ideas.

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Alfresco Living: Homes that embrace the beauty of outdoor spaces

We are just back from a trip to the south of France where we came across a group of homes that seamlessly incorporate external leisure spaces in their architectural design. We have always had a passion for houses that blend inside living spaces with the surrounding garden and these homes achieve that with differing approaches. We just couldn’t resist taking a few snapshots to share the beauty of these designs.

First floor balcony

This traditional beauty incorporates a first floor balcony area beneath the main hipped roof, as a result, users of the balcony are shaded from the sun and rain. We like the way that the balcony walls, which are a differing colour, are set back, resulting in great visual interest and a reduction in bulk of the upper storey. The first floor balcony planting helps merge the house into the garden.  It is easy to see how this balcony could be used for alfresco dining or simply whiling away a lazy afternoon.

Architectural design Hampshire

In a similar way to the first house, this contemporary home incorporates a first floor balcony beneath the shade of the main roof. We like the way the design of this balcony, which is set back from the front elevation, provides privacy to anyone using it from the side boundaries. We actually incorporated a very similar balcony in a design that we undertook for a client a few years back in Hill Head. The resultant space makes a great outside private retreat for sipping a morning coffee, watching a sunset, or simply enjoying a storm under cover.

Architectural design France

This contemporary design incorporates a roof top balcony. The design effectively extends the garden over the full footprint of the house, which is great for a small plot. The balcony design has a privacy screen wall to the rear and the sheer size of the deck area means that planting and a large sofa or dining area could comfortably be accommodated.

contemporary house design Hampshire

Lastly, this 1960s classic bungalow was our favourite. We have written before about our love for modernist bungalows and this particular gem has an abundance of stylish features. The oversized mono pitched or shed roof provides shady areas, which also provide protection from rain to the areas beyond the external walls, doors and windows of the home, reminiscent of the shelter provided by a traditional verandah or American porch. The architectural design of the roof and the elegant structural posts create great visual interest to the property, whilst providing a vast flexible space for both lounging and dining. We also like how the inside / outside space is further blurred by the fencing at the road that incorporates sections of wall that reinforce the architectural design of the bungalow.

When designing a balcony or outside covered area as part of a bigger scheme, there are many things to consider. If you have a similar project in mind, visit our Contact page to start a conversation about your home and ideas.

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Four approaches to achieving open plan social kitchens

Open plan kitchens provide a flexible way of living, a great space for family and friends to come together which is not possible in older style UK homes which have single use rooms. Therefore, having a large open plan kitchen that can be used for cooking, dining, relaxing and socialising, is top on the wish list for many homeowners.

Social kitchens work best when they are bright spaces, have beautiful kitchen surfaces and are free of clutter. Depending on your budget and objectives, we walk you through four different ways to achieve one of these desirable spaces.
Island kitchen1. Combine rooms

If you have a small budget, combining  a cramped kitchen with an adjacent room is probably the best option to achieve an open plan kitchen. This solution usually involves the removal of a wall between the rooms, infilling an unwanted doorway and the reconfiguration of the kitchen with new units and flooring.  The plan works well with homes that have separate living rooms and dining rooms, where one of these rooms can be opened up to the kitchen. For really great social spaces, you should aim at creating a design that feels as though you are entering a nice room as opposed to walking into a kitchen, which might not be possible when simply combining two rooms.

Knocking two rooms into one results in the cook no longer missing out on the fun in the adjacent room, however wall space is lost and the size of the room is likely to be limited to just cooking and dining. Other issues can arise in small homes without utility rooms, whereby the kitchen doubles as a laundry and the noise of the washing machine or a pile of laundry in the same space could be a nuisance when you want to chat with friends that have just dropped by. The reduction in wall space is particularly important in smaller open plan rooms, where the remaining wall space is at a premium.

To avoid a cluttered look with less wall space in a small space, kitchen cupboards and furniture will need to be pared back, which may result in less storage or even shorter work surfaces than before. Peninsular kitchens tend to look cramped and work against the open plan nature of the space. Ideally in these smaller social kitchens, the transition between old kitchen and adjacent room should appear seamless and unfussy, with structural beams being hidden within the ceiling and the flooring being continuous.

2. Add an extension to the kitchen

A more costly solution involves building an appropriately sized extension and opening the existing house up to the extension. This approach has the benefit of increasing the footprint of the kitchen without necessary losing any existing rooms and provides the opportunity to create a larger kitchen with the opportunity of introducing overhead natural lighting. In the UK, the planning system allows certain size extensions either to the rear or side of a house without the need for planning permission,  but these limitations may restrict the size and use of the final design of the kitchen in a similar way to combining rooms. We have found that rooms of more than 40m2 are necessary to achieve a multi purpose kitchen that allows cooking, dining and relaxing which means that if the original kitchen is quite cramped, a significant extension will be necessary to gain the right space. Consideration needs to be given to lost wall space in extended kitchens, as such a certain amount of additional space should to be built into the design to ensure that the length of work surface or cabinets is not reduced at the expense of say the introduction of a sofa area for relaxing.

The same issue regarding a utility room applies when adding an extension and if creating a utility room is not on your “must have” list, you need to add it. Ideally, the utility is best placed not in the extension, but in the old kitchen or elsewhere in the house to allow the new extension to have ample glazing overlooking the garden. The structural alterations with an extension are also likely to be  more significant, as an external wall will need supporting and the span of the beams may be greater than with simply knocking two rooms into one. Unless you are opting for an urban industrial look,  the transition from one area to the next should appear seamless, with beams hidden within the depth of the ceiling, which will mean disturbance to any rooms above the work.

Hampshire extension design3. Relocate the kitchen

Relocating the kitchen, whether within the original house or within an extended footprint may open up opportunities that cannot be realised with the other options. This approach can often lead to the original kitchen being converted into a utility or study or even carved up to form other spaces. For example, on a small terraced estate house with a tiny kitchen at the front of the house with a full width living room come dining at the rear, converting the kitchen to a study and relocating the kitchen to the rear in a modestly extended living room / dining area would simply transform the house.

Unless the relocation results in an abundance of excess space, be wary of introducing an island which can consume large areas of floor space and may simply be duplicating the seating and worksurface of the kitchen table.
Open plan kitchen4. Combine rooms and extend

Sometimes just extending the existing kitchen does not provide a satisfactory layout, if this is the case, opening the kitchen up to an adjacent room as well as extending could be the answer. This approach is likely to achieve the greatest floor area, helping create a larger kitchen in excess of 40m2 without occupying too much garden with the extension.

The same issues regarding the need for a utility room and the structural work associated with this more complex type of project apply. This structural work is also likely to require a greater level of expertise in it’s design and installation. Whilst the approach of combining rooms and extending allows for the creation of a kitchen with greatest floor area, it can also result in the largest amount of wall space being lost. Care needs to be given to the design to ensure the correct flow and that the resultant space can be used effectively.


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Reading extension now complete

The two storey side extension and internal remodelling on a semi-detached house in Reading, Berkshire that we designed for a young couple is now complete and we have been along to have a look.

Architectural design Berkshire

Despite initial opposition from the planning authority, who had argued that the extension was too large, we were able to gain planning and detailed Building Regulation permission to help make our clients dream home come to fruition.
Architectural services Reading

On the ground floor, the original central kitchen was divided up to increase the width of the hallway and create a utility room and WC. The two storey extension extended the original living room and the kitchen was relocated into the extension, to create a large 48m2 L shaped open plan living space and kitchen with tall patio doors looking out onto the garden.
Architectural services Berkshire

At first floor level a master bedroom with with ensuite was added and the bathroom layout reconfigured.
Bathroom reconfiguration

In total, the floor area of this now lovely home has increased by 36% by adding 35m2 of floor space to the original 103m2 house. If you have a similar project in mind, visit our Contact page to start a conversation about your home and ideas.

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Principles of WC design

When extending or remodelling the ground floor layout of a house, we often need to create or relocate a ground floor cloakroom. For the past 20 years,  WC facilities have been mandatory on the ground floor of all new houses, no matter what their size, so not including a ground floor toilet when extending or reconfiguring the layout of even a modest older property would be a mistake. Choosing the location and shape of what is the smallest room in the property, whilst ensuring that it can be well ventilated and easily plumbed in, can sometimes be tricky.  Often without natural lighting, a downstairs cloakroom could easily feel dark and unwelcoming. We have a few simple principles to ensure that we achieve the optimum layout.
Ground floor WC

Aim to place the cloakroom off of the hall
It might seem like common sense to place the most regularly visited room in the house central to the other rooms off of the hall, but you would be surprised how many homes we have been in, where the toilet is accessed by going through another room or even the kitchen.

Keep the size in proportion to the home
For most homes, we aim at a minimum size of 800 x 1700mm, but in larger homes, think of it as a small bathroom and give it more counter space, a larger mirror and a full size basin.

Rectangular plans work better than square
For the same given floor area, rectangle layouts allow better circulation and space between the hand basin and toilet.
Ground floor WC design

Keep the use simple
Avoid using the WC for other purposes. Placing appliances such as a washing machine or tumble dryer in the area that visitors might use, isn’t a good idea.

Keep the engineering simple
Whilst pumped macerator drainage allow WCs to be placed anywhere in a house, relying on simple gravity drainage and short runs for hot water pipes will reduce potential problems.

Light and ventilation
Whilst a window in the WC area will provide natural light and ventilation, a mechanical extract fan will still be required. Don’t fixate on having a window, if the window creates privacy issues or can only be placed above the basin where a mirror should be placed, instead look at good lighting and ventilation.

Think of the scale
With such a small space to play with, it is essential that the room will not feel cramped and that there is enough elbow and turning space. Most WC pans are of a similar size, but when it comes to basins their sizes vary greatly. Choose a basin that will not hinder access and using a cantilevered or wall mounted basin and WC pan will give the illusion of space.

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Good design is a great investment

When extending or remodelling an existing house or bungalow, good design on what is likely to be the homeowners greatest asset is a great investment.

Hampshire Extension Design

With good design just a Google search away, most people can identify a home that has been well designed and as a result, today’s home buyers are more aware, demanding and savvy when it comes to design, but arriving at that design for their own home is not something that comes naturally for many. And a quick search of homes for sale, reveals all too many examples of poorly designed properties, even when searching for new homes, which itself is not unsurprising when most are built speculatively for a profit, without the requirements and aspirations of the actual homeowner being taken into account.

Creating functional, feel good spaces that consider the needs of the homeowner, the location, orientation, practicalities of construction, planning restrictions and build costs and is yet still creative, is not so straightforward.

With design fees for a good architectural design being a modest proportion of the large investment required for the build and even less when compared to the sale value of a completed home, it becomes clear that even if a good design increased the value of a finished property by that same modest amount, it would be money well spent. But research by The Modern House an estate agent that specialises in well designed homes indicates that good design can actually increase the sale price by around 12%.

The value added to a property as a result of being well designed is not simply about its future sale value, but also the uplifting and pleasurable well-being experience that comes from living and socialising in a nicer space, that uplift in the built environment is a little more difficult to quantify, but well worth it.

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