Make relaxed, multifunctional living a reality with a sociable and spacious open-plan addition. Read our step-to-step guide on how to plan and build your house extension.
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The kitchen is probably the busiest room in your house, so it’s no wonder that creating a family friendly, multifunctional space is high on the agenda for plenty of homeowners. Faced with a warren of rooms or a lack of space, the best way for many of us to achieve this is with an extension.
Open-plan kitchens don’t just provide a more sociable area for families to spend time together, they’re also more versatile, and can be adapted to suit changing needs. However, with a fluid variety of functions, the design of a kitchen extension is vital to it's success. Planning the build in tandem with the kitchen is key, to ensure that essential services are in the right place for your extension and that you won’t have to make compromises on the layout of your building further down the line.
Planning your build space
Deciding what you want your extension to include is the first step – as well as a kitchen and somewhere to eat, consider if you’d also like a living area, a desk space, extra storage or direct access to the garden.
Next, think about how you want it to look inside and what type of addition would suit your property: for example, a single- or double-storey extension, a lean-to or side return, or a rear addition. Take clippings from magazines, look online and see what has been built in your local area for inspiration. All these factors will affect your budget, time frame (check if you need planning permission or if it will fall under permitted development) and level of disruption. For example, lean-tos and side returns usually require less foundation work and garden space, but may need more internal structural changes, such as removing walls, disguising pillars or levelling floors and ceilings.
Image: Edmondson Interiors (01580 212 934; edmondsoninteriors.co.uk)
Once you have a rough idea of the size and type of extension, you’ll need to work out a schedule. Remember to factor in time to submit planning applications and party wall agreements with neighbours if required and find an architect and builder (the best companies are often busy), as well as time for the actual construction, which often takes between three and six months.
Permission isn’t always necessary for an extension, although this can depend on what sort of home you have, for example if it’s terraced or detached. ‘An extension can be considered to be permitted development if it meets certain criteria,’ says Adrian Stoneham, MD at Stoneham Kitchens (020 8300 8181; stoneham-kitchens.co.uk). ‘For example, a side extension can’t exceed 4m in height, or be wider than half the width of the original house.’ Check the permitted development guidelines at planningportal.co.uk, so you’ll know whether you will need to apply for planning permission and allow extra time for your project.
Image: (01443 449 499; masterclasskitchens.co.uk)
Hiring an architect is a good idea, although not essential for straightforward schemes, where a structural engineer or builder may suffice. An architect will ensure that your plans are structurally sound, take care of plumbing and electrics – which need to be considered at the planning stage – and recommend reliable trades or manage contractors. ‘If you want to employ an architect, RIBA’s website is a good place to start,’ advises Paul Schofield, commercial design manager at Apropos (0800 328 0033; aproposuk. com). ‘Asking neighbours and friends is also a great way to find an architect.’
Choose your kitchen company at the planning stage, so it can work with your architect or builder and advise on lighting, extraction and zoning the new space. The layout of your kitchen comes down to personal choice, but you may want to position cabinetry so you can enjoy garden views, socialise with the rest of the room while cooking or supervise children. ‘Kitchens do not need to hug an internal wall, or have any form of traditional layout in an extension,’ says Wayne Dance, MD at InHouse (01661 842 304; inhouseltd.co.uk). ‘Instead, they can be used as a natural divider between old and new.’
Image: C&C Kitchens (020 8363 7244; candckitchens.co.uk)
Set a budget
Costs vary by project, but the average spend is around £25,000, with a square metre price of £1,050-£1,450 for a basic extension and £1,450-£1,850 for high-end specification. A two-storey extension may be more economical in terms of price per sqm. Costs for basement conversions will rise if the space needs tanking, a drainage pump or underpinning. The Basement Waterproofing Association (basementwaterproofingassociation. org) suggests £750-£1,400 per sqm for the conversion of a cellar. Reworking an existing extension may not be cheaper than starting from scratch, so seek expert advice.
Image: Bureau de Change (020 3287 6547; b-de-c.com)
While it’s best to plan the building before the kitchen, it’s a good idea to research suppliers and choose the company you want to use at the start of your project. Not only will it be able to suggest a programme of works, costs and concepts for the extension, but designing the kitchen sooner will minimise the chance of later alterations, such as moving doors or windows. ‘The layout is a major factor in an open-plan space; you need to think carefully about the aesthetics because your kitchen will always be on show,’ explains Graeme Smith, senior designer at 1909 (01325 505 598; 1909kitchens.co.uk).
‘There’s a fine balance between a space that doesn’t look lived in and one in which there is clutter strewn across the worktops. When planning storage, think beyond the obvious cabinets and consider where to stash everyday things such as electronic devices, homework books and children’s games.’ You’ll also need to make sure that messy areas, such as sinks, aren’t directly in the line of sight, while planning in central features such as a seating area or wine cabinet.
Image: (020 8487 9440; hollowayskitchens. com; hollowaysbuild.com)
Image: Laurence Pidgeon (020 7610 6166; laurencepidgeon.com)
Making it multifunctional
Every layout will be different depending on the space, but there are a few standard rules for zoning the room. Start by deciding where you want to eat and the view you’d like to have while cooking; it’s also useful to track the passage of the sun overhead. ‘It’s crucial that in a large room, functionality is not lost,’ advises Richard Davonport, MD at Davonport (0845 468 0025; davonport.com). ‘Imagine how you want to use the space and zone it so that each part has a clear function, such as distinct cooking, eating, cleaning and living areas. How they’re arranged is down to personal preference, but there should be a natural flow between the zones. For example, it’s nice for a seating or breakfast bar area to open on to the garden, so position it near the windows or doors leading outside.’
Image: Smallbone of Devizes (020 7589 5998; smallbone.co.uk)
Larger rooms may need some design tricks to help define the zones. Peninsulas, different floor types and freestanding open shelves are useful for creating this visual division.
An extension will displace some of the daylight that would normally reach your original rooms, so consider supplementing it. ‘A bank of roof lights or a roof lantern is a good option,’ says Richard Witcher, partner at Witcher Crawford architects and designers (01962 813 344; witchercrawford.co.uk). ‘Positioning the light sources nearer the back of the extension will help the sun flow into now-darker areas of the original room.’ Adding mood lighting to your kitchen, such as undercounter spots, in addition to task lighting, will ensure adequate illumination in the evenings.
Full-height glass doors are a common feature of extensions, but remember that they’ll reduce the amount of wall space available for storage. Tall cupboards and islands have a large capacity in relation to their footprint, but also consider a larder and adjacent utility room to ease the storage demands on the kitchen.
Image: Martin Moore (0845 180 0015; martinmoore.com)
Image: Matteo Bianchi Studio (020 3006 2113; matteobianchi.co.uk)
Create a seamless scheme
Your extension doesn’t have to be exactly the same style as your home, but there should be a sense of cohesion. This is important if you’ve created an open-plan kitchen, with a cooking and living space in one. If there are large areas of glass, the extension may be brighter than the rest of the house, so consider this when choosing materials and colours. Many kitchen designs have more of a furniture feel and come in wood veneers and muted tones, so are ideal in an open-plan room or one that flows from a more traditional interior.
Another way to unify the extension and the rest of your home is with flooring, lighting and paint – using the same materials or colours will ease the transition.
Linking an extension with an outside area is popular and often achieved with glazed doors. ‘When planning the space, think about where the doors will be installed and the effect they will have on the view,’ suggests Peter Watkins, general manager at Centor Europe (0121 701 2500; centor.com/uk). ‘For example, bi-fold doors provide a seamless connection and unrestricted access to outside, while sliding doors may be a better choice if you expect to have them closed the majority of the time.’ A final consideration is how you are going to dress glass doors. Window treatments provide privacy, insulation and a softer aesthetic, plus they will prevent your glazing from looking like an expanse of black at night.
Image: Michael Wright Kitchens and Interiors (0845 050 6539; michaelwrightfurniture.co.uk)
As your kitchen-diner will be on display, getting the details right is essential. Consider hiding power points in a cupboard with a tambour door, or adding pop-up sockets, so the lines of your design remain uninterrupted. Similarly, integrated appliances and a downdraft extractor that recesses into the worktop will make the space feel less utilitarian when the kitchen isn’t in use.
The materials you choose can also help the room to work as one. ‘To create a unity of design within the space, consider a graduation in height from the kitchen, through an informal dining zone to media units in the living area in one continuous run, with a single finish for surfaces and cabinets,’ suggests Michael Wright, founder of Michael Wright Kitchens and Interiors (0845 050 6539; michaelwrightfurniture.co.uk).
Alternatively, introduce a contrasting top to differentiate individual zones. A wooden worksurface to delineate the dining area at the end of a stone or laminate peninsula has the additional advantage of being warmer, both on the eye and to the touch.’
Image: Sybaris Interiors (020 7460 6560; sybarisinteriors.co)
Words: Rachel Ogden