25 Beautiful Homes July 2021

Light Fantastic

By creatively working around planning constraints, Rachel and Tom Smith have ended up with a bright and more interesting kitchen-diner

Owners  Rachel and Tom Smith
House  A four-bedroom Victoria terraced house in south London
Work  Extending at the side and rear to create a spacious kitchen-diner while maximising light through to the original house

Feature  Karen Wilson   Photography Liane Ryan

The green spaces of Wimbledon proved a big draw when Rachel and Tom Smith needed more space to expand their family.  ‘We were renting in nearby Earlsfield but found a Victorian terrace opposite a park on a nice, friendly street,’ says Rachel.  ‘Although it had a narrow, dark kitchen, which led to an old conservatory, there was potential to extend.’


With busy jobs, the couple wanted a turnkey service so hired Plus Rooms after reading positive customer reviews.  Director James Bernard drafted plans to demolish the conservatory and extend into the side and rear to create a bright, open-plan kitchen, dining space.  ‘We initially wanted a wrapround extension as the extra width would’ve made a big difference,’ says Rachel.  ‘However the first plans were rejected. ‘


Due to the particuarly narrow side return, the planners wanted this section stepped in rather than running the full 8m depth of the rear extension.  ‘This avoided a tunnelling effect to the neighbour’s adjoining side return,’ explains James. ‘Plus it helps zone the space.’

Glazing was a key component of the design.  ‘As you walk in, you see a floor-to-ceiling windows that’s angled to follow the roof line,’ says James.  ‘We also added three skylights to focus more light into the original part of the house’.

Braverman Kitchens helped the couple design a two-tone grey and white L-shaped kitchen.  ‘We wanted lots of storage so they designed pull-out corner cupboards and larders either side of the fridge,’ says Rachel. 

Open House : The couple have succeeded in creating a bright space that connects to the garden.


Aluminium windows and doors proved a more affordable alternative to steel.  The flooring was the trickiest thing to decide on. ‘We considered traditional wood, but eventually opted for light porcelain tiles to provide a nice neutral backdrop,’ says Rachel. 


While Tom’s style is modern and Rachel prefers a traditional farmhouse look, both agreed the space would suit a more minimalist finish.  ‘As it’s quite neutral, we could add personality by hanging our favourite artwork,’ says Rachel.


Thanks to preliminary soil test and drainage surveys, there were no unexpected problems during the six week build.  However, the findings of a tree survey meant spending more on deeper foundations.  ‘If we did it again we would’ve done a bit more research so that it felt less stressful,’ says Rachel.  ‘But the build was very quick and we managed well living on site’.

The house now works much better with a six-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter.  ‘Before the downstairs always felt small compared to the upstairs,’ says Rachel. ‘So it’s naturally balanced things out.

A Brand New Space

Positioning the kitchen units in the darker right-angled section leaves a thoroughfare as you walk into the room, as well as ample room for the dining area in the sunniest spot by the patio doors.

i-Build Feb 2021


After 12 years of living in their late-Victorian East Dulwich home, Paul and Lindsay Davies were forced to admit that their kitchen was no longer fit for purpose. With little room to appreciate the heart of their home and difficult spaces in general, the pair turned to Plus Rooms for help. 



As a specialist in improving and enlarging residential properties, Plus Rooms has addressed the Davies’ spatial and aesthetic issues, improving the natural flow of the ground floor and increasing sought-after daylighting with an extension that complements the character of the original house with an eye-catching, striding design.  Here, i-Build Editor, Rebecca Kemp, talks to Lindsay about the stunning transformation and finds out more about the space the couple lived in for over a decade before deciding to take the home improvement route. 

RK: Tell us why you decided to take on this project?
LD: All our cupboards were full to bursting, we had no work surface space, and the garden entrance was poky and awkward.  The side return had become a dumping ground and was being used as a collective litter tray by all the neighbourhood’s cats!  To top if off, every kitchen appliance seemed to break at once, so we had to replace them all anyway.  It felt like a sign. 

RK: How did you combine the original building’s style with the extension? 
LD: Externally, we kept the same style of brickwork, using modern ‘aged’ reproductions of old London stock bricks which look virtually indistinguishable from the originals.  Inside, we wanted to open up the back part of our living room so that if flowed through to the kitchen.  We extended the floorboards and stained them, so it looked seamless. 

RK: What was your vision and inspiration? 
LD:  We had a Pinterest board that changed over time – we started off wanting to replicate our original kitchen (which had quite a ‘cottagey’ vite), but we kept finding ourselves drawn to more dramatic, darker colours.  We found a black freestanding cabinet we liked, and the rest of the kitchen’s look followed on from that. 


RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission? 
LD: It did take a while, though I don’t remember exactly how long.  Plus Rooms guided us through the whole process. 

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build? 
LD:  The most challenging thing was living and working at home while it was all going on.  I’m a Book Editor, and I work from home most of the time, so there was no getting away from the noise and chaos.  The builders did a good job trying to protect the rest of the house.  Hover, it was still very challenging spending three months cooking on a little two-ring electric stone balanced on top of a makeshift work surface in our living room, with all of our stored food covered in a layer of dust!

In terms of the actual build, the hardest thing was getting the huge steel beams through the house.  I thought the builders were going to have to saw our bannisters off at one point or dismantle our original Victorian sash window in the living room (over my dead body!)  Luckily, they managed to get them in, but that was a hugely stressful moment. 

RK:  Why did you choose to work with Plus Rooms?  
LD:  Two of our friends had done kitchen extensions with Plus Rooms, so we knew they were good.  Both friends had used a particular build team, so we requested to have the exact same one – we waited until they were free as we wanted to go with a team that had been personally recommended.  We liked the fact that Plus Rooms assigned a project co-ordinator to oversee the project, so we had someone with technical knowledge we could go to if we had any problems. 

RK:  How long did the project take?  
LD:  The main build was pretty much completed to timeframe – eight or nine weeks if I remember rightly.  We started on 1st April 2019, and we were in by July.  But there’s always a ‘long tail’ of little jobs at the end of any build, so I think we still had people coming in to finish bits and pieces in August and even September. 

” We were initially quoted (?43,800), but there were lots of extras, eg ?2K for removing a chimney breast, ?3,800 to raise the steels into the ceiling, ?7K for the doors / windows. etc. “

RK:  Did you remain with the original budget?  
LD:  We deliberately overbudgeted for everything and had a contingency built in, so we were technically within budget.  Still, we spent an eyewatering amount!  The basic build was what we were initially quoted (?43,800) but there were lots of extras, eg ?2K for removing a chimney breast, ?3,800 to raise the steels into the ceiling, ?7K for the doors/windows etc.  The main building costs, including a party wall surveyor, fees, plumbing and electrics, new boiler etc. came to just over ?75K.  Then there was the cost of the finishing team and all the fixtures and fittings on top. 

RK:  How does the extension respond to the landscape?  
LD:  I’m thrilled that we’ve managed to make accessing the back garden much easier, its a clich?, but it really has opened it up and brought the outside inside.  I’ve had so much pleasure sitting and looking out over the garden over the last year.

RK:  Is the finished space everything you hoped it would be?  
LD:  Yes, its quite a pressure to design your dream kitchen from scratch, having never done it before, but we’d spent a lot of time planning it, and in the end, it was exactly what we wanted.  I don’t think there’s anything I would change.

RK:  Have you found a change in the way you use your kitchen?  
LD:  We all spend so much more time in it.  It’s a much more sociable space.  And it’s been a lifesaver during lockdown as my husband has been using it as his base to work from home.

RK:  What do you love most about it?  
LD:  sitting on the sofa in the morning with a coffee, looking out at the garden and having a few minutes of quiet before the day starts.  That was the image in my mind that kept me going throughout the difficult times in the build.  You literally couldn’t see the garden from our old kitchen unless you were standing at the sink; now its always in our sight-line, and I get so much pleasure from it.

RK:  Is there anything that you would have done differently?  
LD:  We spent a lot of time discussing the height of the floor with the builders, but somehow we still managed to get it wrong, and they had to cut down some doors in the hall as a result.  I still don’t quite understand how that happened.  But it wasn’t the end of the world.

RK:  Would you do the whole thing again?  
LD:  Not in a hurry, thank you!  I’m very happy to take some time and enjoy what we’ve got.  That said, I’m delighted we did it, so no regrets on that score.

RK:  What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate?  
LD:  Go with people who are recommended to you personally.  Having a good build team and project manager made all the difference to us. Also, it’s worth micro-planning how you’re going to use your kitchen.  We spent ages figuring out exactly how we wanted to arrange the cupboards, where we would stand when emptying the dishwasher, what our view would be when we were sitting on the sofa etc. and drawing out different configuration of how the kitchen would be laid out until we got it right.  Where will the cling film go?  Where will the cat’s food bowl live?  Is there enough space to get past easily if the dishwasher is open?  It’s all that attention to detail that’s paid off in how we use the kitchen now. 

Build It Jan 2021

Can I extend without planning permission?

Anamika Talwaria looks at the ways you can add extra space to your home without putting time and money into gaining consent

Building an extension is a great way to add space and value to your home while avoiding the rigmarole of moving to a new house entirely. But the planning process can sometimes be lengthy and costly, plus there’s no guarantee that you’ll definitely secure consent to build the design you want. Thankfully, there’s a route to achieving modest but transformative extensions without undergoing the uncertainly of going in for planning permission.

Plus Rooms created the rear extension to this terraced property incorporating a monopitched roof and rooflights. Huge glazed doors offer stunning views onto the garden from the new open-plan kitchen-dining space.

Do I need a designer?
While hiring someone to draw up your plans of your home is generally a sensible idea, some more simple projects can be developed by the main contractor overseeing the build or by another designer. A straightforward rear extension of loft conversion probably doesn’t need an architect, then, but if you’re planning a wow-factor project with specialist materials or complex design features, then it’s almost certainly worth getting a professional in.

Making sure your builders and trades get property drawings can also mean you’ll end up with more accurate quotes for an unusual design, limiting any unexpected costs as the build goes on. That said, if your contractor is drawing up the plans, you may well get a fixed price for the whole job anyway.

Rear extensions
Extending out from the back of your home is often the easiest way to add space, without too much impact on your neighbours. It’s a speedy and cost-effective way to get more useable area in your home, especially where you don’t have wiggle room to expand to the side.

In England and Wales, basic PD rights mean you can build a single storey rear extension reaching up to 4m out from the back wall of a detached house, or 3m for a semi or terrace. The addition must be no higher than 4m. If you want to create a bit more space, in England you can apply for Prior Approval to expand your home up to 8m (if it’s detached) or 6m (semi or terrace). Akin to a slimmed-down planning process, there’s far fewer criteria than a full application, although it does still carry a small fee (296).

Want to add space upstairs, too? Multi-storey rear extensions are possible under PD as long as the addition its neither more than 3m out from the back of the house, nor within 7m of the end of the garden. To keep within the regulations, you will need to make sure that any windows created on the side elevation are obscurely glazed and non-opening. The roof pitch should match the existing house as much as possible.

Side extensions
If you’re lucky enough to have excess space to the side of your property, it can make sense to extend along that elevation. This is typically easiest if you have a detached home set in a large plot, but it can be suited to end-of-terraced and semi-detached properties too. What’s more, many Victorian terraces were designed with a small courtyard area at the rear, which can be infilled to form side-return extension. This kind of project can help to make the most of a compact area.

You’ll need to keep within the size restrictions, and in England that means sticking to a single storey that’s no more than 4m in height (shorter if it’s within 2m of a land boundary). To qualify as PD, the width of the addition must be no more than half that of the of the original house. Side extensions often entail Party Wall Agreements, as the work is likely to be within 6m of neighbouring property.

Loft conversions & extensions
Did you know that building up into the attic can add more value than undertaking a classic kitchen extension? Often a cost-effective option, a loft conversion can provide a whole usable storey of space. You could specify a master suite, home office or even a playroom, and it would be quietly tucked away on the top floor.

Before you start dreaming up possibilities, check the head height throughout the main bulk of the space is at least 2.2m, and that the roof pitch is suitable to allow a good amount of usable floorspace. This will allow for minimum structural intervention, increasing your chances of the project being classed as permitted development. Under PD rights in the UK, you can install rooflights and rear dormer windows without too much fuss, as long as your conversion stays within the realms of the outer walls of the house.

This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to create a suitable living space in the attic. Any windows you stick on the side elevation need to be obscure glazed and non-opening (unless the parts which open are more than 1.7m above internal floor level). The overall conversion must not add more than 50sqm to a semi or detached house, and no more than 40sqm to a terrace. This limit includes any habitable roof space that might have been added by a previous owner.


Just because you’re avoiding a formal planning permission, doesn’t mean you can build whatever you like. There are a range of parameters you need to know about when it comes to permitted development rights. The next few paragraphs relate to England, but the guidance is similar across the UK.

One of the first things to bear in mind is that permitted development rules only apply to houses. So if you live in a flat, maisonette or other style of dwelling, you cannot take advantage of the relaxed regime. PD rights will also be restricted if you live in a designated area, like a national park or conservation area So, look closely at how the rules apply to your location and project And whether you need formal consent or not, your project will always be subject to the Building Regulations.

The size restrictions for different classes of PD extensions and outbuildings relate to the original house. This is defined as the structure as it was when it was first built or as it stood on 1st July 1948 (if it was constructed prior to that date). For instance, additions can’t be bigger than 50% of the land surrounding the original house, and there are size limits for each type of extension, If your property’s PD rights have already been used up, you’ll need to seek full planning consent (unless you intend to knock down and replace an existing extension).

PD rights don’t allow for verandas, balconies, raised platforms or alterations to the roof (with the exception of rooflights and some dormers). They also exclusively forbid building forward of your home’s principal elevation (unless you’re adding a porch), including side elevations that front a main highway. As much as possible, external finishes such as cladding, roof tiles and render should be in keeping with the existing materials. Visit www. for the full list of rules.


It’s not just extensions that can be enabled through permitted development. Here are some of the other works you can do without planning permission that will refresh your home and add value:

Internal remodel Switch up your interiors with a fresh lick of paint, updated flooring, brand new kitchen, creating an ensuite or even moving your walls around. Just be sure to take advice from a structural engineer for load bearing walls.

Add a porch Increase your home’s kerb appeal with a covered area over your entryway. This should be less than 3m2 in footprint and must be more than 2m from the front boundary.

Replace windows & doors Updating the fenestration with new materials, or a change of colour, can breathe fresh life into your property. Opt for double or even triple glazing where appropriate for a higher level of energy efficiency in your home.

Change the external materials Refresh the outside of your home with a lick of paint, or replace tired cladding or render with something similar to the original covering (potentially with a modern twist).

Replace roof tiles We’ve already seen that you can make minor alterations like adding a rooflight or skylight, so consider also changing the covering up top to give your property a whole new look. You could also add solar panels or solar roof tiles for a greener abode.

Garage conversion Normally used for storage, you could turn your garage into a bedroom suite, home office, games room or workshop. As long as the alterations don’t have an impact on the exteriors, this will usually fall under PD (although it can be worth checking with your local authority). By contrast, newly constructed PD outbuildings can’t be used as primary residential accommodation.

Now that so many of us are working from home, building a standalone studio in the back garden might be more appealing than trying to carve out space inside for a home office. Garages, sheds and workshops also fall within this PD category as popular projects that don’t need consent.

To count as PD, outbuildings can only be erected behind the front elevation of your main house. They must be a single storey with a maximum height of 4m with a dual-pitched roof, or up to 3m for any other roof type. If it’s within 2m of a boundary line in the garden, then you can’t build higher than 2.5m. You also can’t include a veranda, balcony or raised platform in the design features like this will need full planning consent.

The rules specify that you can’t take up more than 50% of the land surrounding the original house with build structures. This includes any other extensions you might already have, so you’ll need to take these into account when drawing up your plans. If you’re in a national park, area of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage site or the broads, this is limited even further: you can fill just 10sqm of the land with additional structures. Houses in designated areas, or listed properties, will need formal planning permission and possibly conservation area or listed building consent to construct an outbuilding.

Good Homes Dec 2020


Tessa Milton was inspired by the look and colour palette of her childhood kitchen when designing this relaxing family space


Q? Why did you want to change your existing kitchen?
It was dark and narrow and had a cramped extension stuck on the end, which was only big enough for a tiny dining table. I always knew I wanted to knock it down and build a new extension, so when I had the budget I approached design and build company, Plus Rooms. They took my ideas and provided all the technical know-how, such as how many rooflights would be needed. I knew that I wouldn?t be able to project-manage it myself as I was working full time, so it was reassuring to know that one company could look after everything for me.

Q? Did you face any challenges in the process?
Fortunately, setting up a temporary kitchen in the living room meant we didn?t have to move out, even when the back wall was taken down! The work only took around six months, but it was completed over the winter, which meant we were quite cold at times, especially when the water and heating had to be turned off for a couple of days! As there?s no side or rear access, the builders had to bring everything through the house, but they were extremely careful and considerate. My tip would be to order items such as taps early, because any delivery delays can hold up the project.

Q? What inspired your design for the kitchen cabinets?
I worked with my mum to come up with the sage-green colour; she was also an interior designer, and we had a green kitchen when I was growing up. The cabinets were made by a local carpenter from spray-painted MDF, and it took about five attempts before I found the perfect shade! The idea for rattan inserts came from the designer Matilda Goad, who uses it in her designs. I soaked the rattan in water so that it swelled, then cut it to size and attached the panels to the cabinet doors with staples and glue. I?m so pleased with the finished result ? everything in the extension has turned out even better than I could have imagined.



Interior designer Tessa Milton (, lives with children Tom, 14 and Flora, 12, in this three-storey, three-bedroom terraced house in Putney, south-west London

To demolish an existing dated lean-to, extending out to the side of the property to create a wraparound timber-framed kitchen-diner that opens out onto the garden

Design, build & materials ?51,800 Doors & windows ?12,046 Kitchen cabinets ?12,000 Worktop ?5,000 Parquet floor ?3,400 Patio tiling ?1,400 Furniture, lighting & appliances ?24,350

TOTAL SPEND ?109,996

Tessa?s trips to Morocco motivated her to lay encaustic tiles as a patio, bringing colour and interest to the small rear garden and creating a low-maintenance feature to enjoy inside and out

Designing the new layout and cabinetry herself, Tessa chose bespoke sage-green doors inspired by her childhood kitchen, and a glazed Zellige tile splashback. Engineered parquet flooring has been laid over underfloor heating

‘I worked with my mum to come up with colour as we had a green kitchen when I was growing up – it took a few attempts before I found the perfect sage shade’

CREATE HIDDEN STORAGE A practical L-shaped dining bench was made by a local carpenter to Tessa’s specification, which she uses to store items such as cutlery and placements within handy reach of the dining table

Windows & doors, ?12,046, Integral. Habitation Mountain Chalet parquet flooring, ?89.99 per sqm, Claybrook. Antique handmade reclaimed Hacienda patio tiles, ?150 per sqm, Maitland and Poate. Kitchen cabinets, ?12,000, Slawek Smiech. Composite worktop, ?5,000, Stoneworks. Oslo dining table, ?1,749, and bench, ?949, Heal?s. Chair, ?139, Cult Furniture. Aquila wall lights, ?105 each, Pooky. Zellige tiles, ?98 per sqm, Mosaic Factory. Flora mirror, ?940, Balineum. Lucia L bracket wall light, from ?288 each, Hector
Finch. Rattan wave pendant lights, ?160 each, Matilda Goad. LG GSJ560PZXV American fridge-freezer in stainless steel, ?1,249, Appliance City. Rangemaster PDL90DFFSS/C dual-fuel range cooker, ?12,069, Donaghy Bros. Aged brass kitchen tap, ?607, Perrin & Rowe

DESIGN-IN-THE-DETAIL Inspired by designer Matilda Goad, Tessa fitted the distinctive rattan inserts on the cabinetry herself, finishing with brass knobs and cup handles that perfectly complement her chosen shade of green

On Trend Decorating
Primarily used for chairs and inserts on 1970s sideboards, this versatile natural material is currently enjoying a style resurgence in UK homes, appearing in everything from dining room furniture to quirky cabinetry. One of its great selling points is its lightweight, pliable quality, and it also stains well – meaning it can be painted or sprayed to suit your decorating scheme. Tolerant to extreme heat and moisture, rattan is the ideal material for kitchens and bathrooms in particular; plus its purse-friendly price tag is perfect for projects on a budget.