Our clients, Dan and Rachel had a modest but perfectly adequate family home situated in a pleasant part of the historic city of Winchester. However, with a growing family and an itching desire to make something more of the house, they approached us in 2013 to see what could be done.
Whilst the upstairs was attractive and functional and gave them all the spaces they needed, the ground floor was dark and cramped, with a convoluted layout and small fragmented rooms that left no meaningful space for the family to gather.
The connection with the garden, as with so many properties of the era, was compromised by small windows and a lack of a direct access from the kitchen.
Perhaps most significantly, the house was architecturally of little value; the plain, dated facades didn’t reflect the lovely setting looking out over the South Downs.
So how can a modest 1970s house be transformed into a bright contemporary family home on a relatively limited budget?
We realised at an early stage that the upstairs worked very well for Dan and Rachel and that it was more prudent to invest their money developing the living spaces at ground floor where they tend to spend most of their time together as a family.
We started by looking at how we could open out the rooms in a cost-effective way without compromising the structural integrity of the house and blowing the budget on a complex steel frame arrangement.
The first move was to extend the entrance hall out at the front to create a welcoming new double height glazed area. The stairs were re-orientated and the hallway widened to create a more generous entrance to the house.
The existing reception room worked well for the family but felt slightly disconnected from the rest of the house, so a large new opening was created between the room and the hallway, and glazed sliding door was inserted to maintain the visual connection.
A bespoke plywood sliding door was placed at the end of the hallway, which could be opened up to connect the new open plan family room to the front of the house.
Beyond the hallway, the cramped arrangement of the kitchen, dining room and utility room was opened out and extended into the garden to create a large kitchen/dining area with a raised ‘snug’ to the side, providing a light and spacious room for the whole family to enjoy together.
Three panels of glazed sliding doors were placed along the rear elevation to connect the room with the garden, whilst two windows were placed in the kitchen and snug area with oversized cills to create small window seats.
Light grey matt finish kitchen units and a composite worktop is set against an oak parquet flooring to create a mid-century modern look to the room. A vivid blue splashback provides an accent of colour that is picked up elsewhere in the room with the coloured Eames chairs.
As the room faces north-west and is starved of sunlight in the morning, we proposed two large glazed roof lights above the dining table to bring more daylight into the room.
We created a small study overlooking the snug area, and a WC and utility room discretely accessed from the kitchen through a hidden door in the kitchen wall units.
The original dark, heavy staircase leading up to the bedrooms was replaced with a new bespoke oak stair with a timber slatted balustrade allowing the light to filter through.
We chose to express the new extension as a simple white rendered box with bronze anodised framing to the glazing. The full height glass doors rise all the way to the top of the extension and culminate in a thin profile at the head allowing as much light into the space as possible and providing views of the tree tops in the garden.
At the front of the house, in spite of there not being many changes, the new double height timber and glass gives the house a renewed character and brings more life and interest to what was quite a modest frontage.
Dan and Rachel’s unwavering commitment to the design process has allowed us to radically transform their property from a cold, inward looking, box-like house, to a warm, welcoming, light-filled family home.