Four Months In | Designing Our Kitchen And Family Room Extension So Far

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Coming at you from the middle of a cloud of dust and chaos, we are now only a few weeks away from completing building work on our new open-plan kitchen and family room.

It’s the next major development on the 1900s Victorian house that we’ve been slowly turning from three unloved bedsit flats into a home we can be proud of.

It’s been an exhausting few months of living in a building site and saving as hard as we can to pay for all the work - as it’s hot on the heels of our development of the top floor of the house into a master suite (I can’t wait to do the reveal on that, but it just needs a few more details…)

Our Victorian Home Extension Ideas…

In this post, I want to share some inspiration for the new social space in the house and our plans. If you’re planning to add a new kitchen or an extension to a period home, I hope it might spark some ideas for you too.

Renovating a home can be a messy, long, problematic process that challenges your sanity at times,  but we’re finally getting to the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel here.

How The Room Looked Before

Unfortunately, the only ‘before’ shots I have of the old kitchen are pretty low-quality, but that might be fitting seeing as that phrase also perfectly describes the kitchen itself!

As the property was previously rented to students, the landlord had done everything as cheaply as possible. The kitchen was a great size, but with tired blond wood units, yellow-ish walls, scratched black worktops, cheap appliances and scuffed lino on the floor it wasn’t going to win any prizes for beauty.

Mr A-F and I both love cooking, so we knew we wanted to tackle the kitchen from the moment we moved in, back in November 2014. The trouble was, we also knew that we wanted to extend the house to add a living area with doors out to the garden, so we held off until we could afford to get that done at the same time.

There was an absolutely beautiful (definitely sarcasm) pebbledash garage on a patch of hard standing immediately behind the house.

This was useful for storage, but useless for anything else - as both our house and the neighbour’s house had been extended slightly to the side before we moved in, you wouldn’t have been able to get a car down there. It also obstructed the view down the garden, which backs onto a waterway.

The great thing was, taking down the garage and clearing out this area meant that we could extend the house without losing much of the garden.

Now, the area is finally getting the major overhaul it deserves.

What We’ve Done So Far

At the end of 2018, we decided to build a large extension to the rear of the property, working jointly with our neighbours in the semi-detached property. This process was a little less straightforward than we would have liked.

There were a number of technical issues with the houses which we didn’t foresee. This meant we had to go through the process of applying for planning permission several times, as the designs for the extension kept getting rejected.

It also meant we had to make a number of changes to the original design in order to get it through. Everything was more complex because the plans for both extensions were submitted as one - so any problems with either and the whole thing had to be redone.

The site of our houses posed some issues. They sit on a bend in the road, so the gardens are at right angles to the houses rather than straight back. There is also a waterway bordering the end of the gardens, and a significant level change between the front of the houses and the back.

In all, it took us around seven months to get an approved layout and then we had to wait a further few months until the builder we had chosen became available again. Work didn’t start until September 2019.

At the same time, we had decided to redevelop the existing third floor of the house into a master suite so that work was carried out first.

Finally, just before Christmas 2019, the bricklayers came on site to do the foundations and begin constructing the shell of the extension. In the meantime we had gotten rid of the freestanding garage that used to be at the back of the house - we actually managed to sell it on eBay, and the winning bidder came and dismantled it too!

For a while, it wasn’t too bad for us as the building work on the new shell took place outside of the old patio doors of the kitchen, so we were insulated from the worst of the dust, noise and mess.

Progress came in fits and starts and the builders worked through freezing conditions and the worst of the storms at the start of 2020. The timber frame of the double-aspect roof went on, and the steels to support the building went in.

The flooring area was constructed in a timber frame and filled in with insulation panels to help keep temperatures regulated and make the house more energy-efficient, and the new part of the building was plasterboarded. Then the party wall between our house and next door was built back up.

About two weeks ago, the build was ready for an important milestone - the knock-through from the old part of the house to the new. A temporary plywood wall was put up about two-thirds of the way down the existing kitchen to shield the rest of the house from this, which is the messiest stage of the works.

When the wall came down, it was a jaw-dropping moment. It was the first time we could really appreciate what the new space would be like.

I’d had some concerns about the shape of the design and whether it was going to look too narrow, but when I saw it together I really loved it. There are some very quirky angles going on that make the space unique and suit its historic character.

Since then, construction has begun on the framing for internal walls. We’ve opted to create a new utility room and downstairs toilet. This will allow us to remove the toilet that is currently under the stairs and give us back access to the property’s large cellar - possibly another future project, if we aren’t too put off by this one!

After working our way round lots of kitchen suppliers, we found 'the one' at Howdens, who helped us to look at the space a little differently from how it was initially laid out in the architectural plans.

They found a new flow for the kitchen by removing a peninsular half way across the room and replacing it with an island, integrated appliances, shaker-style units and a layout geared around being sociable and family-friendly.

Kitchen And Family Room Ideas For A Victorian House Extension

Now we’re only a few weeks away from the finish date, and we’re in the process of choosing the nicer bits, like the kitchen and the furnishings.

The new space will be the heart of the home - somewhere for the family to spend time together and to entertain our friends. We want something which is stylish but also functional, and achieves a design-led approach while still being suitable for two small children.

In terms of the styling, we like choices which nod to the heritage of the house while also adding a modern element (Mr A-F has helpfully dubbed this ethos ‘meritage’ - you heard it here first!).

Let’s start with the basics, the walls, flooring and windows.

The design of the new space features a wall of bi-fold doors with a glazed apex to the gable roof, which will eventually open out onto a decking area and the garden beyond.

These have come from Fab & Fix and are finished in dark anthracite grey, with spotlights embedded into the roof overhang.

In contrast to the dramatic colours used in the master suite, we wanted to keep the walls in here plain and neutral. This is to maximise the light, as there are no windows at the side, only two skylights above.

Because the construction itself is quite quirky, with a split level roof and angled walls, it's interesting enough without lots of colour. Opting for soft neutral tones also makes the space feel restful.

For the flooring, we’ve made a choice that I wasn’t expecting - to go with a hard wearing laminate.

My mental impression of laminate flooring wasn’t very positive before starting this build - I had images of cheap looking 80’s lino in my head! But this choice was driven by a number of factors.

First of all, we need something very durable. Because the room opens directly onto the garden, and there will be kids running in and out, it needed to be able to withstand knocks, scrapes and dirt.

Secondly, we made the decision to go with underfloor heating. We’re using a system called Wundatherm which is a thin web which sits on top of the flooring rather than a pipe system that needs to be dug into it. Underfloor heating systems can’t be used with solid wood flooring, so that was ruled out.

When we went to look at modern laminate flooring options, we were so surprised. There are some great quality finishes out there that you could never tell apart from the real thing. We choose this Heanor design in a light oak Hungarian point effect, which we sourced oursleves from B&Q.

It has a grained finish which makes it pretty hard to tell apart from solid wood, and a 15 year quality guarantee. The panels come in a chevron design, which gives the effect of an old-fashioned parquet.

We wanted to use the same flooring throughout the kitchen and family room area to give it a unified appearance and emphasise the space. In the enclosed utility room and toilet, we’ve opted for these Hydrolic porcelain floor tiles in this 3d pattern of blues, creams and greys, also from B&Q. As it’s a smaller, plainer area, I wanted to add some fun and a point of difference.

The Lighting

When it comes to designing the right lighting scheme for a new space, it's all about ambience and functionality. We have opted for a mixture of zoned lighting to define different areas of the space.

The kitchen and utility room will have LED spots which provide bright, clean task lighting to help you get stuff done. We’ve also added LED spots to the roof overhang, as well as a downlighter lamp, which will bring light to the decking area.

The kitchen cabinets will feature undermounted concealed strip lighting so that area can be illuminated at a low level when we aren’t using it for cooking. The space will also feature two statement pendant lights to add character and interest.

We’ve bought this large brass sputnik light from Laura Ashley for the family room area, and this Morentz brass and frosted glass pendant light from My Furniture which will go over the kitchen island to really define those spaces.

I’m also planning on adding in a couple of lamps - one floor standing and one on the sideboard so that the family room area can be really cosy and intimate if we’re having friends round or cuddling up to watch a film.

The Kitchen

Choosing a new kitchen is a big project on it's own, and we put a lot of time and research into finding the right one for our home. I’m planning a separate post going into detail about the specifics of the kitchen design, but broadly speaking, we knew we didn’t want to go ultra-modern as the age of the house is something we really love about it.

We cycled through lots of design options and suppliers before settling on the 'Lewes' design in Slate Grey from Howdens. We loved that it was a traditional shaker style but with a slim border on the units that made it look more contemporary than others.

We chose slim rectangular brass handles and a brass mixer tap to match, and paired this with solid white quartz worktops that we sourced from Granite Earth. We opted for all the appliances to be integrated to give a more seamless look, and we're bought a Rangemaster Nexus SE and matching flat cooker hood from Appliance City to handle the cooking.

In the utility room, we have gone for more cost-effective handleless ‘Clerkenwell’ units, also from Howdens, and a cheaper white glass worktop to save on costs. I also sourced this 'Harbour Clarity' chestnut wood sink unit from Drench, and a modern 'Voss' close coupled toilet from Better Bathrooms.

I would like to add 'Victoria Ghost' perspex bar stools from FusionLiving, as I love the mix of the traditional shape with the modern clear finish.

We need an extendable dining table so that we can seat lots of friends, so I've been looking at tables and chairs from, but I haven't chosen one yet.

The Finishing Touches 

With the windows, lighting scheme, flooring and walls taken care of, it's becoming time to think of the finer details that will really bring the scheme together.

I’m determined to source a big piece of art to go on the huge expanse of wall we have. In an ideal world I would like to give a local artist a commission to do it - we live in a wonderful neighbourhood that is quite artsy and creative, so I’m sure it can be done.

In the meantime, I'm planning to put together a gallery wall section featuring an eclectic selection of prints. I like the concept of grouping together different images which appeal to me or have some meaning in our lives. The prints are from Etsy, Belle Et Boudoir, Penguin and Desenio and are all either monochrome or featuring a touch of pink.

I also want to include some of the stunning 'Nuvolette' wallpaper design from Cole & Son, whose prints we absolutely adore.

These are all chosen to contrast with the teal blue velvet sofa we'd like, which is the 'Aberdeen' model from VidaXL, where we have also sourced the vanity unit for our master suite from. I knew that I wanted a large corner sofa with an ottoman, as we weren’t planning on including a coffee table.

I liked the tufting detail on this one, which is a nod to vintage styling that works to tie together the heritage and the modern elements in the room.

The other hero of the room has to be this stunning ‘Ziggy’ sideboard from Swoon Editions. I love the starburst pattern and the beautiful brass finish. This will look amazing dressed with some slim vases.

I also adore the crockery and cushions from Fornasetti with the faces printed on, so I'm hoping to include some of those.

Finally, a beautiful modern tripod lamp, some planters with metal hairpin legs and some geometric patterned cushions are also in my sights!

We're in a weird position where things are really happening and yet the end result feels so far off. The last of our old kitchen units went the other day - we'd been lucky enough to keep a small section of them including the sink and oven, as they were sited where the new utility room will be - so now we have nowhere to cook and everything from the kitchen decanted into the dining room.

It's really crunch time, but all we can do is keep reminding ourselves that in a few more weeks, we'll hopefully have our dream kitchen.

See you on the other side!


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