London: Couple transform home using space-saving tricks

London: Couple transform home using space-saving tricks

Couple transform home using space-saving tricks to make room for growing family

The couple spent nearly £500,000 creating their dream home (Picture: David Lynch/ Will Scott)

Renovating their Victorian end-of-terrace house in Blackheath, south-east London, was a response to changing family needs for Kate and Gary Westlake.

When they bought their home in 2004 for £525,000, their eldest child, Archie, was only 12 months old and their daughter Bea wasn’t yet born.

The previous owners had already extended at the rear to create a galley kitchen, with a bathroom at the end of the extension.

To suit their lifestyle at the time, the couple worked with Kate’s architect brother, Ben Minifie, demolishing partition walls and designing and building a glass infill side return, to create an open-plan kitchen dining area, keeping the bathroom where it was.

Upstairs, they simply redecorated the double bedroom and two single bedrooms. But as time passed and their son and daughter grew older, Kate and Gary realised the space they had didn’t suit their family any more.

30/06/21 Metro Home : Blackheath Vale Picture shows Kate & Gary Westlake photographed with their cockerpoo dog at their heavily renovated home in Blackheath, South London. Credit: Daniel Lynch 07941 594 556.

Kate and Gary made their house work for their family needs (Picture: Daniel Lynch)
The kitchen was transformed with an open-plan design and huge skylight (Picture: Daniel Lynch)

‘We initially started looking for other homes, both close by and further afield,’ says Gary. ‘We even had an offer accepted on a house across the road, but unfortunately it fell through.’

Eventually, the couple decided to stay put and transform their existing property. ‘We were emotionally connected to the area and couldn’t find anywhere else that suited our requirements,’ explains Gary.

They decided to use the money they’d have had to spend on another house to adapt their existing home, making it more useable for the children as they grew up, and for the family as a whole.

They didn’t have to search too long to find an architect to design their new living space — Kate’s brother Ben was there again with ideas for the next stage of development.

Ben set to work drawing up plans to reconfigure the first-floor space by extending 1.2metres at the side of the property, across the driveway, to create a double bedroom for their now 18-year-old son, and on the ground floor beneath that, a family bathroom with a sunken bath and a separate bike store and utility space.

He then reconfigured the box bedroom used by 13-year-old Bea, at the back of the house, by taking off the whole rear roof of the property and reconstructing it to include a dormer. Internally, he removed the ceiling and opened up the space into the loft.

Under-stair storage maximizes space (Picture: Daniel Lynch)
The sunken bath becomes a feature of the ultra narrow bathroom (Picture: Will Scott)
The main bedroom now has a sleek en-suite (Picture: Will Scott)

Doing this effectively doubled the floor area and provided enough height to build a staircase up to a mezzanine level to accommodate a double bed, designing in a wardrobe and cupboard storage under the stairs and adding a study desk area.

In the main bedroom a simple redecoration was planned and an en-suite shower room was created.

Downstairs, because the family bathroom had been moved, it freed up the old bathroom at the rear of the house to be extended out at the side in line with the new double-storey side extension and transformed into a snug TV room, which also doubles up as a guest bedroom.

With planning approved, work began in December 2018 and took more than a year to complete. The couple let the main contractor go towards the end of works.

‘It couldn’t have come at a worse time because we had just gone into the first lockdown and finding materials and contractors to finish the job was really difficult,’ says Gary.

‘Fortunately, because I was at home more I was able to take on a lot of the work, such as the exterior cladding — it’s surprising what you can learn with YouTube.’

With the project completed in June last year, the finished result is a masterclass in maximising space.

How they did it

  • Fitted cupboards in the garden room conceal a bar and DJ decks. There’s also an office desk area
  • By adding a mezzanine with bed above, the box room now has double the amount of floor space
  • The sunken bath makes height for a shower, while a glass rooflight floods the narrow space with light

As you walk through the property you see the small yet clever changes that have had a big impact, such as the new family bathroom.

It has been fitted into an extremely narrow space in the new side extension, with the large sunken bath carefully created using porcelain slabs and installed to allow enough head height for a shower above.

‘It was an awkward space to work with, but by stepping down we gained extra head height for a shower,’ says Gary. ‘And Ben designed a floating ceiling with recessed light all the way round to give the illusion of more height, as well as help frame the space.’

At the back of the garden is an enviable outbuilding clad in western red cedar, offering extra living space and an office desk area, with a bar and DJ decks integrated into the wall cabinetry.

There’s room for a study space (Picture: Daniel Lynch)
The garden is fully kitted out for outdoor dining (Picture: Daniel Lynch)
The pendant lights and flooring tiles were chosen to create an indoor-outdoor illusion (Picture: Will Scott)

The newly landscaped garden was thoughtfully designed to be an extension of the living space, with pendant lighting above the dining table and matching interior and exterior floor tiles, while mature planting was installed for instant impact.

‘Before, it felt like a garden. Now it feels like another room in the home,’ says Gary.

The couple are extremely grateful they didn’t sell and move on. With the build costing around £425,000 and the house now valued at £1.6million, every aspect of the design meets their needs.

And the timing had its advantages, too.

‘We can now enjoy the benefit of all the hard work we’ve put in and, because of Covid, we’ve been able to spend more quality time here together as a family in an improved space,’ says Gary.

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