Victorian terrace city house side extension

An extension was the answer to Ella and Tom Richards' London Victorian home, creating an open and flowing space.

By Duncan Hayes | 17 January 2017

An extension was the key to unlocking the potential in Ella and Tom Richards’ London Victorian home, giving them a flowing open-plan space that connects to the garden.

Victorian terrace city house side extension4

Ella and Tom Richards loved the elegance of their Victorian home, but knew something had to change from the minute they moved in. ‘Although the house was beautiful, it was designed for the way people lived over a century ago,’ says Ella, ‘and the downstairs was a warren of higgledy-piggledy, light-starved rooms.’ With Ella recently pregnant and Tom working in a demanding job, the couple decided they needed help to transform the awkward space, and contacted architects Poulsom Middlehurst, who had previously worked on a project for Ella’s brother.

‘The couple came to us with a strong idea of what they wanted,’ says Amy Poulsom at Poulsom Middlehurst. ‘Even though the space was limited, they wanted a single large, open-plan room that allowed the ground floor to flow, finally creating a suitable transition between the house and rear garden. Light had to feature significantly, as did the creation of plenty of storage, including a utility space.

Victorian terrace city house side extension4

Unusually for a period house, the couple wanted a relaxed industrial aesthetic, a concept that was driven by Ella, who’d created scrapbooks packed with inspiring room schemes and quirky ideas. ‘Ella had tons of creative ideas,’ says Poulsom, ‘and we discussed the pros and cons of these concepts and materials – a collaboration that really paid dividends.’

Ella also knew she wanted a side extension to help transform the skinny, 1.5 metre dead space down the side of the house into a dining room, and she’d taken the time to visit several neighbours who’d already done this. The initial scheme, for which planning was granted, was for the side extension to go right to the edge of the existing house, but it quickly became apparent that this posed serious problems. Not only would it have meant completely removing the original side wall to the rear room, with its period  replace and two-storey chimney stack, it also required a lengthy structural steel. ‘We realised that the steel just wouldn’t fit through the narrow access,’ says Poulsom, ‘which meant we’d have had the prohibitive cost of hiring a huge crane and closing the whole road.’

Victorian terrace city house side extension4

Consequently, the plans were reworked to reduce the length of the extension, which meant they stayed on budget, and the revised plan still created a dining room, with the adjacent kitchen lit by borrowed light from the glazed roof. ‘Actually, I think the final scheme works better than our original plans,’ says Poulsom. ‘Ella and Tom now have a functional door to the garden that they use for easy access, as well as the large, living-room doors that play more of a social role for when the family is relaxing or entertaining.’

To fit in with their busy lives, Ella and Tom chose a full architectural service – from consultation to snagging – with Poulsom Middlehurst overseeing all work and appointing a main contractor. ‘How we work with clients is often down to how much time, energy and money they can devote to the project,’ says Poulsom. ‘A full service is far less stressful for the owners, and we’re constantly on site to ensure that the quality of the work doesn’t suffer, which can sometimes happen if it’s handed over to a builder.’