Discover projects where original character and contemporary alterations combine in perfect harmony.
Image: The living room of the Edinburgh flat renovated by Luke and Joanne McClelland
With careful intervention, an older building can be transformed into a unique space adapted for modern living, overcoming issues such as listed features, previous alterations and dilapidated structures. From an apartment in a Glasgow tenement block to a 17th century timber framed cottage in Oxfordshire, these ten examples provide a diverse source of inspiration and prove that the charm of a period home can be retained and even enhanced.
1. Merging space and time
Image: Architects Luke and Joanne McClelland renovated this Edinburgh flat spread over two Georgian townshouses
Spread over the drawing room level of two Georgian townhouses in Edinburgh, this flat was renovated by architects Luke and Joanne McClelland when they moved back to the city. The couple had spent years living in London and wanted more space, seeing potential in the generous proportions of the property. On a budget of £75,000, they reconfigured the interior to create an open plan kitchen-diner and a large living room, then stripped back the three bedrooms to reveal original features including floorboards. A previous owner had replaced the living room fireplace with an orange brick fire surround. Instead of removing it, Luke and Joanne painted it black, creating a bridge between the Georgian architecture and their mid century furniture. To make their budget stretch further, the couple adapted Ikea kitchen fittings.
2. Made flexible
Image: Industrial designer Alexander Gerber and graphic designer Matthew Fenton overhauled their two-bedroom flat.
A two bedroom flat inside a Victorian house in north London has been overhauled to create a live-work space for a young couple: industrial designer Alexandra Gerber and graphic designer Matthew Fenton. The apartment had been repeatedly altered over time, so the couple called in architecture practice Morales Finch to salvage what was left of its original bones and reorganise the layout to suit their needs.
Making the most of the generous proportions and the natural light, as well as the £65,000 budget, the architect focused on creating flexible spaces that could easily change use over time, and making new openings to allow for easier movement through the flat. Original features were retained and refurbished. But where these had been lost, they were replaced with simplified, modern versions at the same scale, helping to create visual links between the rooms without completely glossing over all evidence of the previous alterations.
3. Small change, big difference
Image: Austin Maynard Architects performed 'keyhole surgery' to tranform this house for its owners.
A modest project has transformed a single-fronted terraced house in Melbourne, retaining an extension that was added in the 1990s to allow the owners to invest their moneywhere it would have the greatest impact. Austin Maynard Architects performed ‘keyhole surgery’ to transform the house for the couple, their two children and the family dog. The front and the back remain largely untouched, apart from new carpets and joinery in the three bedrooms. But the middle of the house was gutted, removing a wall dividing the kitchen and a small, dark dining room.
The new kitchen is designed as a unit that includes storage and a perforated steel staircase. The ceiling and deck above have been replaced with a pitched glass roof with sliding awnings so that the space could be filled with greenery. A similar project would cost around £3,550 per sqm.
4. Letting in light
Image: Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors worked with the council to create a scheme that preserved the historic fabric.
A Grade II listed terracedhouse in Primrose Hill, north London, has been renovated and extended, adding a gigantic pair of pivoting glass doors at the back that create newsight lines through the house andout to the garden, filling the interior with plenty of light.
The family who own it had lived there for more than 20 years,but wanted to rethink the rooms to suit their changing needs.They commissioned Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors, who worked closely with the council to create a scheme that preserved the historic fabric of the four bedroom home where possible,helping it win planning permission.The ground floor conservatory at the rear was removed, creating a two storey space, while a small conservatory on the first floor was replaced with a glass box, merging with the landing and creating new views of the garden below.
5.Grand on a small scale
Image: Alexander & Co. used features from traditional properties to make this small home feel like a bigger period home.
A Victorian cottage in Darling Point, Sydney, has been updated inside to suit a young family of five. They wanted to make sure that there was plenty of space for privacy despite the building’s relatively limited footprint.The stairs, four bedrooms and a garden terrace were moved to create a new layout, while preserving most of the house’s historic appearance outside. Each of the children’s bedrooms has its own desk,wardrobe and play area, while the family bathroom references historic winter gardens with a steel framed skylight and timber panelling on the ceiling.
Architect Alexander & Co included a number of features from traditional properties, helping to make the small house feel more like one of the bigger period homes in the surrounding conservation zone. These include an interpretation of a grand staircase and lightwell, paved limestone flooring in the kitchen, a contemporary updateon traditional panelled walls and hand finished materials throughout.
6. For the love of timber
Image: Gresford Architects refurbished the Great Barn, located in Buckinghamshire's green belt and conservation area.
Having raised a family in their Grade II listed barn since buying it in the 1990s, in 2017 the owners decided to undo some of the original conversion work to reinstate historic features and celebrate the timber frame structure. Gresford Architects was tasked with the restoration and refurbishment of Great Barn, which is in the green belt and conservation area of Beaconsfield Old Town, Buckinghamshire. Many of the 1990s alterations have been stripped away, including opening up the kitchen to create a double height area by removing a bedroom shoehorned into the roof space.
The 404sqm home has five bedrooms and a den. A new staircase and study separate the kitchen and dining areas from the living space at the other end of the house. Upstairs, a private staircase is hidden inside the timber panelling, leading up to a guest bedroom and bathroomin the attic of the garage.
7.Flipping the layout
Image: Architect Loader Monteith reconfigured this dining area and kitchen in a single storey garden extension .
The owners of this three bedroom ground floor flat in a Glasgow tenement from the late 1800s used their backgrounds in design to update most of their home themselves.
But they asked architect Loader Monteith (loadermonteith.co.uk) to help with the £35,000 job of reconfiguring the dining area and kitchen in a single storey garden extension. To make the kitchen feelless cut off, the layout was flippedby moving it into what had been the dining room – a space with a high ceiling and original cornicing that opens onto the hallway – and making it the new heart of the home.With Design Engineering Workshop (designengineeringworkshop.co.uk), the architect removed the ceiling in the extension and added a new rooflight, dropped the windowsills and added frameless windows, and moved the washing machine andboiler into a utility space by the backdoor, making the rear of the flat look bigger and brighter.
Image: Wood fibre and natural lime render were used to improve insulation while allowing the original structure to breathe.
Working alongside his wife, architect Ben Mailen renovated Manor Cottage in the Didcot conservation area,Oxfordshire, creating a four bedroom family home that they share with their two-year-old son.
The cottage has an original stone above one of the fireplaces that bears the stonemason’s initials and the construction date, 1672. It had been through a number of layouts – including being divided into two homes in the 1700s and serving as a village general store – before sitting empty for two years when the couple bought it. It took another two years to strip it back and fix it up to create a contemporary home.
The aim of the £200,000 project was restoring the original oak timber frame and masonry, and taking out the layers of additions and modifications accumulated over the decades. Wood fibre insulation and natural lime render were used to improve the insulation while allowing the original structure to breathe. Inside, the historic materials are complemented by a palette of neutral tones and mostly natural materials.
9.Conservation area update
Image: Architect Siri Zanelli wanted to be bold with colour and texture whilst designing a functional and cosy home.
In the words of Norwegian architect Siri Zanelli (collectiveworks.net), UpSideDown House in Highgate, north London, was ‘an absolute dump’ when she bought it, making it hard to get a mortgage. But the £350,000 transformation of the Victorian property proved to be worth the pain for Siri, her husband and their two sons. Siri wanted to be bold with the use of colour and texture,while designing a home that was both functional and cosy. So she collaborated with Koi Colour Studio to create a vibrant palette, using tones of pink, yellow, green and blue throughout the house.
A stepped extension was designed to win over the planners, which can be difficult in the Highgate conservation area, and holes were punched through the interior of the structure to open it up. The kitchen forms the heart of the home, while loft and basement extensions created enough space to add two extra bedrooms, taking the total to five.
10. A new arrangement
Image: Johan van Staeyen restored the stained-glass ceiling light in this 19th century Flemish townhouse
Johan van Staeyen was originally invited to refurbish the three kids’ bedrooms on the top floor of this four bedroom, 19th century townhouse in Antwerp, Belgium. But his efforts helped the family realise the rest of the house didn’t reflect how they wanted to live. So they asked him to take that on too.
While reorganising the interior – including removing walls and floors tobring more light in – Johan respected original features, restoring the stained glass ceiling light above the staircase, the ceiling mouldings and parquet flooring, even adding more mouldings in the kitchen. The back wall was removed to extend the kitchen and dining area and create a stronger connection to the garden, while bespoke, built-in furniture provides ample storage in the corridors and bright splashes of colour inject some fun. The project cost around £135,500.