From cramped house to spacious family home

Kate and Sean Ashley expanded their twenties house upwards and outwards to accommodate the needs of their growing family.

For years, Kate and Sean Ashley stuggled with the cramped layout of their twenties home. ?Sean and I would eat breakfaststanding up, and the family had to sit in a line when we were in the living room,? says Kate.? When the couple bought the house in 2005, their twins, Harry and Jamie (now 12), were toddlers, Kate was pregnant with their son George, now nine, and two years later Grace, now seven was born.

?The children had to squeeze around a tiny breakfast bar in the kitchen, which left nowwhere for me and Sean to sit,? says Kate.? ?The house had lots of little rooms, with a separate living room, dining room and kitchen, whichwas impracticalfor a family of six, but we didvery little to the house for the first seven years because we knew we wanted to extend.?

MAKING PLANS An advert for Plus Rooms (0800 917 7127; plusrooms.com) in a local magazine caught Kate?s eye, and in 2012 she invited the design and build company to visit the house as one of three potential builders. ?Plus Rooms really stood out from the other companies,? says Sean. ?They seemed genuinely keen to take on the project.?

The Ashleys considered a variety of designs, but finally decided to replace the garage with a single-storey side extension to expand the living room and kitchen, and build a two-storey rear extension to crate a family room and another bedroom.? They also decided to convert the loft into a main bedroom and a wetroom, with dormers on three sides clad in reclaimed tiles to match the existing roof.? Thanks to the clever design, the footprint of the house would hardly change, and everything apart from the first-floor rear bedroom was granted under permitted development rights.

KEEPING WITHIN BUDGET ?To save money, we rented the smallest three-bedroom semi-detatched house we could squash into and put all our belongings into storage, because there was no way we could live at home once the work started,? says Sean.

In September 2012, the roof was stripped and covered for protection. Soakaways and foundations for the extensions were dug and new brick and block walls erected.? The garage to the side of the house was demolished and an extension was built in its place.? A new chimney breast and fireplace were added to the living room at the front of the house to lend the space more character.

GOING OPEN PLAN? A wall was removed between the old kitchen and the rear reception room to create one large open plan kitchen and dining area in the side extension, which is lit by rooflights.? A dining table and chairs let the whole family sit and eat together instead of hovering around the breakfast bar.

The two-storey rear extension was built in rendered blockwork under a pitched roof, with a 1.5m single-storey section to house the new family room, where two sets of bifold glass doors where installed. ?Opening up the back of the house means it?s easy to keep an eye on the children indoors and out? says Kate.

A first-floor shower room was sacrificed to create space for for a staircase leading up to the loft, where there is now a main bedroom and wetroom, making it a peaceful retreat for Kate and Sean at the top of the house.? Some more floor space was added to the family bathroom, and a former box room was enlarged to give Grace a larger bedroom with roof lights.

Kate and Sean compiled a scrapbook of ideas for the house and sourced a new kitchen and bathroom fittings, lighting, radiators and floor coverings, including travertine tiles and underfloor heating in the open-plan kitchen, dining room and family space.

The building work finished ahead of schedule in March 2013 and the family moved back in a month later.? ?Nobody believed it could be done in six months, but it all ran incredibly smoothly,? says Kate.? ?We refer to it as our ?new house? because it?s so completely different to how it was before.? All six of us can be in one room at the same time cooking, eating, watching television and doing homework.? The days of standing up to eat our meals have long gone.?