Structural glass has transformed Alistair and JV Russell’s Victorian home into a modern masterpiece.
A three-storey, four/five bedroom Victorian terraced house in London.
WHO LIVES HERE
Alistair Russell, a lawyer, and his wife JV (short for Jo-Victoria) who works in PR. The couple have a 22-month old son, Lysander.
WHAT THEY DID
The whole house has been revamped and the kitchen was extended in glass to create a bright and airy family room overlooking the back garden.
Before: The kitchen previously opened through French doors onto a scruffy patio and the dark, narrow side return was wasted space.
WHAT IT COST
Alistair and JV paid £980,000 for the house in 2011, and have spent a total of £240,000 renovating and extending the entire property. This included £95,000 to build the glass extension and a further £30,000 on the kitchen, flooring, lighting and other fixtures for this room. The house is currently worth in excess of £1.7 million.
Exterior: Building a structural glass extension with an ultra-fine frame has added the wow factor.
When Alistair and JV Russell’s baby son, Lysander, was born they began to look for a family home, and bought a pretty three-storey terraced house with an enclosed rear garden in south-west London. ‘It was very dated and hadn’t been touched for years,’ explains Alistair. ‘We bought the house because it had potential, and began renovating the entire property straight away.’ The kitchen overlooked the rear garden through French doors and was extremely basic. Alistair and JV were determined to improve this space to make it the heart of the home, and contacted several architects for their input. ‘We already knew we wanted to extend the space and introduce quite a lot of glass without blowing our budget, which was why we chose to work with Plus Rooms,’ says JV. ‘They came up with a fantastic design with an unusual glass roof, and their quote to complete the work was very reasonable.’
Plus Rooms is a family-run design and build company specialising in London kitchen extensions & loft conversions. The company designed a single-storey glass extension which would link to the kitchen to create a stunning nine metre long multi-functional space overlooking the garden. ‘We saw some examples of the company’s previous work, which helped us to visualise how our extension would look,’ says Alistair. ‘Originally we wanted to build a simple glass box, but in the end we needed to slope part of the glass roof over the side return to meet planning conditions for the height of the side wall.’ Planning permission took eight weeks to achieve, with the help of a specialist planning consultant employed by Plus Rooms, and work started the following month. The family remained living in the house during the five month project, moving from room to room to try to keep out of the builders’ way. ‘We had a small electric oven and ate out a lot while the kitchen was out of action,’ says JV, who works from home. Steelwork supports the rear of the house, where structural walls to the side and back were removed in order to extend the kitchen sideways and out into the garden. An existing hall cupboard and a WC were demolished to create a sleek rectangular kitchen/family room, which now stretches across the entire width of the house, and new foundations were excavated for the extension, which has solid side walls. Only once the framework was in place could the glass be accurately templated and ordered. Glaziers were responsible for constructing the rear wall of the extension and the glass roof, which is supported by unusual glass ‘fins’. Pilkington Activ self-cleaning glass was chosen, with a coating that uses UV rays from the sun to break down dirt, which is then washed away by the rain. ‘You do still need to clean it occasionally, but it’s much easier to maintain than normal glass,’ says JV.
Part L of the Building Regulations concerns the conservation of fuel and power in dwellings. Heat emissions are a major issue with glass, which is why the glass used must be high performance to limit extremes of temperatures in a room, and Plus Rooms needed to present a SAP calculation to the building inspector demonstrating that insulation in the walls and floor had been increased to make up for the use of so much glass. Wet weather delayed the glaziers by several weeks because they could only install the silicone-jointed glass in dry conditions, but they worked hard to make up some of the lost time. The £95,000 project ran extremely smoothly overall, and was organised entirely by Plus Rooms over twelve weeks, who handed over to the Russells to finish the interiors once the plumbing, plastering and electrics had been completed. Alistair was then responsible for employing tradesmen and sourcing internal fixtures and fittings, including the kitchen cabinets and marble counters. Engineered wood flooring has been laid over the electric underfloor heating, and lighting was carefully designed to enhance the glass structure. ‘I chose things and then JV would approve them,’ he explains. ‘We wanted pale coloured finishes which would increase the feeling of light and space that the glass creates.’ Alistair grew up in the Caribbean and JV is American, and they have both struggled to come to terms with the British weather. Building a glass room connects them to the garden and maximises any warmth from the sun. ‘We even enjoy hearing rain gently pattering on the glass roof,’ says Alistair, who admits the couple were slightly concerned about being able to maintain a comfortable temperature in the room all year. Their fears were groundless however, and the space is always warm and welcoming. ‘We spend most of our time in this part of the house now, because we have comfortable seating and a TV in the extension,’ says JV. ‘It’s a lovely large room, made to feel even bigger because of all the glazing. At night the glass would look quite dark without curtains or blinds so we made sure we introduced plenty of garden lighting, which makes the room great to use at any time.’
Lifechanger: “Having so much glass has totally changed the look and feel of this part of the house.”
Adding glazing to your home can deliver truly spectacular results, and contemporary glass box extensions with folding/sliding doors are becoming popular alternatives to the traditional period style conservatory. They can be built using a framework of timber, aluminium or uPVC, or may be held together with structural silicon, which seamlessly bonds glass to glass for a contemporary, frameless effect. The Russells’ extension was built using high performance, toughened self-cleaning glass. The outer pane of double glazing is 10mm thick, there’s a 16mm argon-filled space and then a 6mm toughened inner pane of Pilkington glass. ‘Joining the two roof pitches proved to be a complicated piece of engineering, with the glass meeting at different angles,’ says James Bernard of Plus Rooms, who created a 3D model of the design. ‘We used glass fins to support the roof instead of a more traditional framework of aluminium or PVC. These were made from three pieces of glass laminated together to create a strong structure which holds the other glass panels in place and looks spectacular. The front façade contains slim sections of aluminium, embedded into the glass itself and then covered by structural silicone for a subtle joint.’