LONDON SIDE RETURN EXTENSION & LOFT CONVERSION - BEFORE & AFTER PHOTOS
Updated: Sep 20
Finding run-down properties in London is not hard but finding a decent Victorian end of terrace property without a side-return extension that has not been touched for decades is becoming rare.
A few years back we found a Victorian end of terrace corner property in Sydenham SE26 that was completely run-down and upon inspection it was clear that it hadn’t been touched for 50 years or more. A bit of mad diy had taken place but the main character of the house was intact.
The property was situated on a corner and built at an angle to the side street which was a huge bonus as the property got wider at it went back and by the time you got to the back addition it had increased in width by about a metre. This is a point worth noting when you are looking at end of terrace properties because most of them take the line of the junction which means that they either get wider or narrower as they go back. In our case by the time we got to the back of the garden we were about two metres wider.
Another point to consider on end of terrace properties is that many of them will give you side access to the garden which is effectively a back door. If you take it a step or two further like we did you can add a dropdown kerb and some gates to create a rear drive which will have a huge impact on how you use the property.
CREATING THE DESIGN BRIEF & ESTABLISHING PROPERTIES
Given that there was so much that needed doing it was effectively a blank slate from the point of view of modernising. It was clear from the start that we could enlarge the living space with a side return extension but because of the size of the rear garden a wraparound extension was not feasible.
One avenue I was keen to explore was the subject of heating and insulation as I had lived in a few Victorian houses before which looked really great but had absolutely no insulation and it cost a fortune to try to keep them warm throughout the winter. I was keen to ensure that this house would benefit from a serious rethink in terms of heating and energy as it was destined to become a fabulous family home.
The problem of course is that the four main rooms on a Victorian property usually have beautiful cornicing and fireplaces which tends to rule out any form of drylining which would be required to reduce heat loss. What made it worse is that the property was end of terrace which means the front side and rear was exposed to the elements so without some form of remedial work the property was going to be even colder than I remembered with loads of heat loss through the Victorian brickwork.
Clearly, if we removed the Victorian features such as the cornicing and the fireplaces it would change the character of the property. The main question then is whether we wanted to live in a Victorian period home with Victorian features or if we wanted to live in a more comfortable modern home and that was more suited to modern lifestyles and comforts.
In the end we decided that whilst a Victorian period home was incredibly beautiful, elements would be sacrificed to provide a more comfortable and beautiful living space. If you look closely at the before and after shots of the lounge and main bedrooms you will see that the cornicing, and picture rails have been removed which allowed for all of the exterior walls to be insulated and dry lined which meant a warmer more comfortable home that would save thousands in energy costs in the years ahead.
LOFT CONVERSION DESIGN ELEMENTS
Adding a loft conversion was a certainty right from the start. We didn’t need the extra bedroom or bathroom, but I was acutely aware that a loft conversion would add more value than the cost of the conversion.
In the end we opted for a hip to gable dormer loft conversion which gave us one large bedroom with en-suite. We also added a small dormer to the lower back addition roof not to create an additional floor but to enhance the existing one. You can see the photos of the top floor back addition with the mini dormer which completely transformed the room.
Another big consideration was the use of dark grey aluminium windows to form the face of the main dormer. We kept the grey aluminium to the interior also which fed the modern aspect of the interior design. On the outside the dark grey with loads of glass worked really well with the eternit slates, dark aluminium facia and soffits and black gutters and pipework.
Again, doing the loft conversion and raising the roof of the back addition gave us the opportunity to add serious insulation which yet again will save us thousands in the years to come through greater energy efficiency.
VICTORIAN SIDE RETURN EXTENSION WITH FAMILY ROOM
A standard site-return extension to a Victorian period property makes a huge difference as to how you use the property. In our particular case, because the house was getting wider as it went back the side-return extension was substantially wider than normal.
To add to that that we removed the wall between the rear reception and the back addition to create a family room and the overall effect was a huge back addition with tons of space for the kitchen, the dining area and a family area to keep an eye on the kids.
OPEN PLAN KITCHEN DESIGN
Most modern kitchen designs now features a breakfast bar or an island but you have to be careful how you use the space as it can end up looking too cramped or the space between the kitchen and the island is not wide enough. As a general rule we look to have 110cm as a minimum space between kitchen worktops and an island. If you can’t achieve this, then be careful how you go.
As our side extension wall was angled, we created an isosceles trapezoid shaped island which looked far better that a standard rectangular. Check out the photos to get the idea and the thinking behind it.
For the actual kitchen units, we didn’t go out of our way in looking at kitchens as we knew from the start we were after a shiny modern clean looking grey door with integrated handles. We found exactly what we wanted at Howdens; it was the Clerkenwell Gloss Kitchen in Dove Grey.
As for the worktops, again we knew what we wanted and choose a White Alpine Granite from Granite & Marble UK in Lambert Road London SW8.
BATHROOMS & SHOWERS
What amuses me is that when this house was built there would have been a very basic bathroom and ground floor w/c setup. We installed a new common bathroom on the 1st floor half landing, an en-suite for the master bedroom at the front, another en-suite for the top floor back addition bedroom and of course we added an en-suite to the new loft bedroom.
In total we had 4 fully tiled beautiful bath/shower rooms installed and a ground floor w/c.
LIGHTING & ELECTRICAL
I’m of the opinion that homeowners don’t give enough consideration to lighting and sockets when they refurbish. Low voltage recessed lights cost a bit more but nowadays these are essential forms of lighting to kitchens and bathrooms. It will also pay you dividends if you can find way of using them in the entrance hall landings and stairwell so do give consideration when planning your lighting requirements.
If you have an island or breakfast bar give consideration to pendant lighting above. Worktop lighting also works great as does a bit of outdoor lighting for the garden.
When it comes to sockets it seems the more the merrier as it provides you with choice later down the line. It’s frustrating when you spend £100k or more modernising your property and then you don’t have a socket when you need one. So, take it from me, in this modern world we live in, make sure you have a socket on every wall of a habitable room.
Broadband or LAN outlets another headache for many. I had LAN outlets installed in every room of the house because I knew that one broadband router wouldn’t get the job done. We had 3 floors to cover with a long back addition, so it was necessary to install 2 other routers in the house which have proved to be a great success.
A Ring doorbell was also added which allows us to answer the door when no one is there. For more details visit www.ring.com
FLOORING & CARPETS
For flooring we choose American planked wood effect tiles to cover the ground floor entrance hallway, w/c, kitchen and dining room. We also fitted tiles to all the bath/shower room floors.
The staircase and bedroom were fitted out with a really good underlay and Olympia Almond wool carpet from the Flooring Superstore in Shilden Co Durham.
HEATING & HOT WATER
For a large 3 floor home with 4 bathrooms you will always need a substantial boiler and hot water system. We choose a Greenstar 35CDI Classic system boiler and combined it with a Megaflow which provides a substantial and satisfying shower to all floors.
For controllability we added 4 heating zones and 4 Nest Learning Thermostats which enables us to fully control the heating and hot water zones from anywhere over the internet.
DOUBLE GLAZED DOORS & WINDOWS
All the windows to the property were way past refurbishment and were replaced with
traditional style upvs sash windows. To finish off we installed Plantation Shutters throughout.
For the front door we choose a traditional Victorian style Composite door and frame from Solidor which is about as good as it gets for an impressive front entrance.
On the rear we had various options for the doors to the garden and in the end, we opted for fairly standard double doors. Check out the photos for the design and layout.
All in all, this was a lovely project as you can see from the photos the condition of the property when we found it and the completed build. The layouts on the upper floors are much the same as the original layout but the style of finish is far more contemporary. In particular, the use of floor to ceiling glazed panels fitted in to slimline dark grey aluminium framing work wonders and gives off a lovely modern vibe both to the interior and the exterior.
On the ground floor the side extension and the open plan rear reception has had a huge impact on how the property is used. Again, we used slimline dark aluminium framing for the glass roof of the extension making the entire area light bright and spacious.
Another huge bonus is the rear drive which does its bit in making our Victorian end-f-terrace one of the most unusual properties you are likely to find.