Rear view of the Grand Designs graveyard house with bi-folding doors to the modern extension open

Graveyard lodge renovation

A spacious extension replaced a 1960s building adjacent to the Victorian lodge.

By Hugh Metcalf | 5 January 2021

Ex-army officer Justin Maxwell Stuart was at a crossroads in his life when he spotted a run down cemetery lodge for sale. He would often venture into the graveyard in south-west London while walking his dog, and found the building utterly fascinating. When the for-sale sign appeared in late 2014, he had to find out more. ‘I was brought up in Scotland where houses have so much character, and I liked the idea of recreating that in London,’ Justin explains. His Grand Designs graveyard house adventure was underway.

Exterior view of the graveyard house in south west London

The modern extension contrasts with the lodge. Photo: Jefferson Smith

Full of possibilities

The lodge dates from around 1860 and stands beside a 1960s single-storey building. It had already been bought by a developer who had gained planning permission to convert them into a house. But Justin asked architect Simon Gill to cast a fresh eye over the plans. ‘The original scheme didn’t make the most of the possibilities,’ says Simon. ‘I saw the potential to create something really wonderful as the building had such great character.’

A building of merit

Simon proposed renovating the lodge, deemed a Building of Merit, to give two bedrooms and a study. And replacing the 1960s block with an extension for Justin’s ground-floor living spaces. These include a kitchen/dining area, snug, living room, and a basement with a subterranean swimming pool. Further grand flourishes include a stone staircase leading down to the basement and a moat along one wall of the house.

Looking into the living room of the Grand Designs graveyard house with upholstery in different shades of blue

The elegant living room is in the new extension. Photo:Jefferson Smith

Linking to the past

The question was if the extension should mirror the style of the stone-built lodge or whether it should be something different. ‘I am used to living in old buildings because my family home in Scotland dates back 1,000 years,’ says Justin. ‘Left to my own devices, I would probably have built the extension in a gothic style. But, I have watched enough episodes of Grand Designs to know this might not have worked. When Simon suggested that the new section should be contemporary, built from Bath stone to form a link between the two halves, I followed his lead. The stone is a defining part of the build and despite the massive price tag, it was crucial as it would marry both parts together.’

Dark blue and wood cabinets in the fitted kitchen with island unit and bar chairs in the Grand Designs graveyard house

Dark wood cabinets run from the kitchen into the dining area. Photo: Jefferson Smith