Victorian semi renovation in Wandsworth, London

Jon and Jenny Plant turned their run-down house into a stylish home with bespoke touches of joinery and glazing.

By Jane Crittenden | 9 May 2017

Jon and Jenny Plant turned their run-down house into a stylish home with bespoke touches of joinery and glazing.

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Jon and Jenny Plant went into the renovation of their Victorian semi in London with firm ideas about how they wanted their new home to look. ‘We didn’t want to make an elaborate design statement but we did want more than a tacked-on extension with standard roof lights,’ says Jon. ‘Our goal was to create a stylish family home with well-designed details.’

While they knew they wanted a renovation project at some point, they weren’t seriously looking to move when the opportunity arose to view this Wandsworth home in February 2014. Their own house wasn’t on the market at the time, and Jon almost didn’t attend the viewing with Jenny because he was busy with work. What they saw when they arrived wasn’t a project for the faint-hearted. ‘We needed a lot of imagination,’ he says. ‘There were massive cracks down the walls, gaps in the windows and no heating. Later, we discovered there was no hot water downstairs either. But we loved the location and we could see that the house had the potential to become a beautiful family home.’

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The couple put an offer in straight away, and it was accepted, even though they hadn’t sold up yet. ‘We were slightly surprised but very pleased,’ says Jon. ‘We weren’t concerned, though, as selling in London isn’t usually a problem; it’s buying that’s tricky.’

From the start, the couple wanted to make the house more spacious for their children Barnaby, 3, and Adeline, 1. Visiting grandparents needed a guest bedroom, and Jon – who works remotely in marketing and sales – wanted a home office. To achieve the extra space, they decided to extend to the rear and side, convert the loft and turn the cellar into a utility room.

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The family moved into the house in June and started looking for an architect. Soon, James Munro from local firm Granit Architects was on board and he worked up drawings. ‘James suggested interesting, concrete ideas to solve problems in the house,’ says Jon. ‘For example, planning restrictions meant we couldn’t raise the roofline, but James found a way to fit my office, the guest bedroom and an en suite into the space we were allowed, even though it was complicated.’

James also suggested a span of glazing in a new flat roof above the previously gloomy stairwell. However, it was the open-plan ground floor, linked to an L-shaped extension with a glass box, that really struck a chord. ‘Family life revolves around our living area and this is now one of our favourite parts of the house,’ says Jon. ‘The glazing in the enclosed courtyard provides a sightline throughout downstairs, and the children love playing in here.’

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By November, a design for the extension, utility basement and loft conversion with a small roof balcony had been approved by planning, and Granit put the plans out to tender. Jon and Jenny had earmarked a budget of £275,000, so they were astounded when the quotes came back closer to £400,000. ‘Demand had caused building costs to rocket during the five months we’d been planning the design,’ says Jon. ‘We thought about tackling the project in two stages but it wouldn’t have been practical or cost-effective. We had to move forward so we borrowed more money and then made compromises on the design to make the project work.’

The Plants and Granit went through the itemised costs to scale down the build. They downsized the roof windows and changed the rear windows from wood to PVCu. They decided to replace the front windows and front door later on, and scaled back the underfloor heating. However, they fought to keep the courtyard and downstairs joinery. ‘It forms the transition between the new and the old,’ says Jon. ‘We couldn’t compromise this aspect of the design, so we decided we would cut the kitchen and bathroom budgets to help make up for the cost.’