Ideal Home Feb 2013

‘From ice-cold kitchen to warm family space’

Sally and John Clarke replaced a draughty kitchen with an ultramodern kitchen-diner and living space that’s comfy, welcoming and full of light.

When Sally and John Clarke bought their five-bedroom, Edwardian house in Twickenham, south London, in 2007, the whole family loved its proportions and its enclosed rear garden. The kitchen, however, was less popular. ?The previous owners had extended the kitchen some years before by building a single-story room that jutted out into the back garden: Sally explains. ?The whole structure was showing its age and was very cold in the winter. In fact, for several weeks each year, we couldn?t use the kitchen without wearing thermal underwear.?

USING WASTED SPACE The family lived in the house for two years before deciding to replace the old extension with something more comfortable that made better use of the space. ?The side return just had a bike shed in it, so it was dead space: says Sally. ?We agreed that the new extension should fill it.? The couple wanted to create a bright, versatile, open-plan kitchen-diner and living area, which would become the heart of their home. They were keen that the new addition shouldn?t spoil the existing period property. ?John and I disagreed because he felt that the extension should have a traditional look, with a classic kitchen, but I was all for building something contemporary with a kitchen to match: says Sally. ?In the end, he came round to the idea of keeping the old and new parts of the house completely distinct by making the extension much more modern.?

THE RIGHT DESIGNER Sally and John approached several companies for quotes and settled on design and build company Plus Rooms (, a family run business specialising in extensions. ?We liked its eye for detail and the fact that it would take care of everything for us ? from applying for planning permission to building the extension and completing all the finishes: says Sally. ?Both John and I work, so the idea of running a building project in our spare time was just too daunting.? Plus Rooms drew up plans for a contemporary design with a pitched roof, frameless skylights and bifolding doors that extended the whole width of the house into the back garden. Plus Rooms created a graphic 3D model of the space, so the family could visualise how it would look. Once they had agreed on the details of the design, the couple had to wait for planning permission to be granted and party-wall agreements to be signed by their neighbours on both sides before construction work could begin.

The old kitchen was demolished in order to lay foundations for the new extension, so Sally and John?s builders created a temporary kitchen for the family, which enabled them to remain living in the house throughout the six-month project. ?Every day, we were really excited to get home from work to see what the builders had done: says Sally. ?The original part of the house was sealed off, so the mess was kept to a minimum. I?d recommend it to anyone doing a similar project because we loved being at home to watch the progress instead of renting a house nearby. The money we saved by staying at home went towards the glass features in the extension.?

STATEMENT GLAZING The dining room doors, which used to overlook the side return, now open into the kitchen-diner, and the stained-glass panels above them were also used. The open-plan space is flooded with light thanks to skylights and a wall of bifolding glass doors that open out onto a terrace in the back garden. The triangular terrace was designed to echo the shape of the window above the bifolding doors. ?There?s real attention to detail, and all the guttering is concealed to create clean lines: says Sally. Once the shell of the extension had been completed, Sally and John liaised with kitchen company Braverman Kitchens about the design of the cabinets and worktops. Choosing the size of the expansive kitchen island proved a major concern, so the couple tested out newspaper mock-ups on the floor to help them decide on the right dimensions.

FAMILY FEATURES In the living area, the same careful planning is evident, with a recess in one wall to accommodate a flat-screen television and speakers that sit flush within the ceiling. ?We wanted to put a sofa and a TV beyond the kitchen, so there?s space for the kids to do their homework and a place where we can all hang out: says Sally. ?It?s now where we spend most of our time as a family.? Underfloor heating beneath ceramic floor tiles ensures the new space is warm and inviting during the winter, unlike the family?s old kitchen. The open-plan space also has an integrated music system, which is ideal for entertaining. ?We had a party to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and it was lovely to have the back doors open so that people could wander out to the garden: says Sally.

Sally and John created a bright space that feels welcoming all year round:

  • The key was to insulate thoroughly and use high-performance glass that adds the wow factor while ensuring that the space maintains a comfortable temperature. Their windows and doors are made from double-glazed, toughened, self-cleaning glass.
  • Installing glass bifolding doors across the width of the extension with a large piece of triangular glass in the gable roof above them created a striking feature.
  • Three large frameless skylights illuminate the kitchen and living area with natural light. Sally and John paid ?3,000 for each of their frameless skylights.