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How to plan and design an extension without an architect

This family were one of our first clients back in spring 2018. One of our friends and neighbours had recommended us to them as they were wanting to embark on extending and reconfiguring their ground floor to create a more family friendly open plan living space as well as the ever-popular utility/boot room.

They’d already extended in the loft a year or so earlier and wanted to make sure that their living spaces downstairs balanced out their bedroom space upstairs. They asked us to help make sure we planned out the space appropriately and built the size of extension that they needed but without having to overspend. They key thing being to make sure they got the most out of the extension and create all the necessary zones that they needed as a family.

When we had our first meeting with them, they had pencil sketches of how large an extension they through they needed as well as thoughts on how to lay things out and provide access from the original house to the extension.

And, to be honest, their ideas were pretty sound and made a lot of sense. However, there were some initial elements of the design that we thought could do with some tweaks and some more fundamental changes in terms of the position of the extension to the original house as well as the layout and areas where we could save them money on the build.

Their 1930’s semi has a very traditional layout with a separate front living room, dining room and kitchen. The previous owners had built a rear extension (with flat roof) and knocked through a small walkway between the kitchen and dining room at the back of the house but it wasn’t enough to offer the family space they needed where somebody can be cooking and the children doing homework etc.

However, the size of the kitchen and dining spaces were sufficient and by opening up the wall between them we felt that there would be enough space to create that open plan space they were craving, including an additional living space with sofa/armchairs.

What an additional extension had to deliver was a sizeable utility/boot room/pantry/bike storage and a downstairs toilet was a fundamental requirement of the re-design, so that needed a home.

So, what we proposed was a side extension positioned to the back of the house and opening up the wall between the kitchen and dining room.

The kitchen space would stay where it was, but the kitchen replaced with a new L-shaped kitchen and separate island (or peninsula, to be exact, coming off the structural pillar). It would have been possible to remove the pillar, but the expense and disruption of installing the steels required didn’t feel worth it. And we quite like how a pillar can separate the kitchen from other living areas, more broken plan than open plan, if you will.

The dining area would then be at the back of the rear extension. We recommended that a new pitched roof was added to the previously flat roof extension, allowing for new roof windows to be installed above the dining table and kitchen sink letting more light into the space, as well as new bifold doors into the garden.

The extension would be accessed through an opening from the kitchen and split into separate sections: pantry, utility/laundry and boot room/coat storage.

Although tight, the downstairs toilet could just about be fitted under the stairs by opening up a doorway from the hallway for access rather than accessing from the kitchen as per the original footprint. It would mean a minimal toilet and sink would need to be installed, but it was a sufficient space and already had a side window which would help light the small space and make it feel larger.

We visualised the space in 3D to allow our clients to visualise the spaces better and to see what it would feel like it in different areas of the rooms.

We also provided alternative options for the pillar in the kitchen, providing more worktop space and an additional floor unit, but removing the large bookcase.

We also recommended utilising the space where the old doorway into the dining room was placed. There was no need for dual access into the new space so rather than this being dead space, we suggested building additional storage and using the original door as a way of closing that storage area away.

The loft extension had been such a positive build process that this family had decided to work with the same builders on their side extension as well. So, once we had the final plans and drawings they could then gain a more detailed quote for the work. That came through a bit over budget so we also drew up a smaller extension (1.7m wide rather than 2m) to make sure they could still get the utility space that they wanted.

You may have noticed that the finish of the kitchen, flooring and furniture is neutral in the 3D visuals. That’s because we want our clients to focus on the space and layout, rather than the finishes at this point in the process. Once the layout has been agreed we then move onto the look and feel of the space and incorporate specific colours, furniture and finishes.

This particular client was keen to do that part of the project themselves and chose the grey and yellow colour scheme for the space. The kitchen was sourced from Four Seasons, here in Roundhay and the tweaks they made to the design really finish the space off.

The client also designed and sourced all the other elements. We particularly like what they’ve done with the downstairs toilet, that bold teal wall is exactly what should be done in a such a small space. If you can’t have fun and try out something bold in this type of space, then, where can you?!

They also decided to build the storage unit where the original doorway to the dining room was. But they decided to access it from the hallway, rather than the other side, which has given them the hallway storage they were craving for.

The long, narrow utility room is the hardest working part of this family home and although they were a little embarrassed when we were there to take photos as it’s not the tidiest part of their home. However, the fact that all the other parts of the house were clutter free meant that it was doing its job, housing all those things that don’t have a natural home otherwise.

It also had a fun pop of colour with the green glass splashback, keeping the same element of fun that they’d had with the toilet.

We also like how, as you walk in, the kitchen seems quite serene with its grey doors, wooden worktop and wooden floor. But then as you walk around you find pops of yellow with the peninsula stools and the yellow glass splashback.

There is still some finishing to do but it’s already providing this family with the space that they wanted and is enabling them to spend more quality time together, which was the purpose of the project all along.

We really enjoyed going back to take the photos and seeing what a difference it had made and were so pleased to hear how much they’d enjoyed the process of working with us. And don’t just take our word for it. This is what they had to say in their own words.

“Jon and Beth met with us to fully understand our requirements and the existing space. The resulting proposal contains a range of options, containing many innovative solutions, which were quite different to our original ideas.

Their design has a lovely flow and makes best use of the existing footprint and light. The proposal clearly took a lot of consideration and experience to put together.

We now have a clear idea about the best design and feel confident to engage with builders for the next phase. Fresh Start provide a highly personalised service that we would recommend to anyone who is considering changes to their home.”

We couldn’t ask to work with better clients. It was an absolute pleasure working with them and we’re chuffed that they’ve got what they want.

If you are thinking about making changes in your home and need some help or inspiration, do get in touch with us here. And don't forget to follow us via Instagram, Facebook and our upcoming blogs.

Fresh Start Living is based in Leeds, West Yorkshire and covers surrounding areas as well as offering a remote interior design service.

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