Renovation tour - a 1950s arts and crafts house is transformed into a wonderful family home
This week's renovation tour is from forestviewhouse on Instagram, and it's a must read for anyone who wants to project manage and be very much involved in their renovation project.
Philippa who owns the property did so much from the start....from designing the extension and renovation all the way through to the building control submission, she used her creative flair and desire to learn something new, which has paid off.
We also love all of the cost saving tips...from working with your builder sourcing the materials, through to buying discounted appliances, there are some great budget ideas that can really help save on your renovation.
Thank you to Philippa for sharing her advice and photos of her beautiful home!
The stunning arts and crafts home which has been thoughtfully renovated in-keeping with the style of property
Can you tell us about your renovation project?
We bought our 50s arts and crafts revival house 3 and a half years ago. It was a good balance of charm and practicality, but we always knew we’d need to extend as it was too small from the start. It also had a poor downstairs layout and tired kitchen and bathrooms. We were lucky in that original features were all in good order and no one had added any terrible later modernisations that would be costly or hard to remove. It was quite a blank canvas.
I’m a graphic designer specialising in fashion textiles but I’ve always been obsessed with domestic architecture and designing homes, ever since I was a small child. My Dad, a building surveyor, undertook the initial survey and drew up the existing plans, I then designed all of the architectural remodel and extension myself. It was all to scale and structurally feasible, I used a structural engineer to design the steelwork but other than that I did it all and submitted the planning application myself, as well as the building control plans. Our builder said it was one of the best sets of plans he’d worked from. This is one of my proudest life achievements.
We’re just outside the conservation area so there weren't too many restrictions on the design but it's a pretty house and it was important to me to honour the original aesthetics and make the extension seem authentic and seamless. There’s no bigger compliment than when people say it looks like it’s always been there, or that it looks even better now. This was achieved by a combination of painstaking design and working extremely closely with our builders to ensure every last detail was executed how I envisaged. Luckily they were perfectionists too and never complained (to my face!) if I asked them to refine the finish or make a small change. It was a major renovation, not one interior surface was left untouched and we increased the square footage by over a third.
Beautiful crittall internal doors break up the open plan area
What was the most challenging part of the renovation?
So much of it was ridiculously challenging, getting used to builders timeframes and schedules (finishing for the day at 3? Um ok then 🤷🏼♀️), having a very steeply sloped site, our home being completely ripped apart and all of the upheaval that entails… not to mention living in the one bed granny annexe in our friend’s garden with our 4 year old for nearly 6 months, 40 minutes from site until I was full-term pregnant. With a porta potty. Dealing with remortgaging and raising finance when you’re both self-employed was a complete nightmare too. But unbelievably, above all that, the hardest thing was dealing with the plumbing.
We had a great team working on site and I had a really productive relationship with all of the trades except for plumbing. I found it all unnecessarily obstructive, anything we requested seemed like we were asking the world (concealed valves – GASP), so much of the leap between what required sourcing technically and what we wanted aesthetically was left squarely at my door with not a great deal of guidance in terms of what I needed to get on site and by when. I constantly felt like I wasn’t keeping up with their requirements and consequently holding up the project.
I worked hard to educate myself of all of the technical aspects, you have to become an overnight expert in pretty much every trade when you’re managing a site like this, but even so the subtext was that the ‘fancy fittings’ we had specified as opposed to standard fayre from the plumbers merchant in town was ultimately the root cause of any problem. And there were mistakes and messes made on site which put us out of pocket and held up proceedings. Not wishing to generalise as we were perhaps unlucky and it may largely have been due to a personality clash/miscommunication but I’ve yet to find anyone locally who will confidently recommend me a great plumber and whenever I had a cathartic whinge up about it in Instagram, I’ve had a slew of replies from people who have had the same experience. It’s also the only trade that we’re still snagging with 8 months after we moved back in.
The en-suite is stunning and well worth the challenges faced
Did you have a budget and how did you stick to it (I love your tips on Instagram!)?
Budget is a funny one because I don’t think a project on our scale whereby you’re extending and remodelling extensively can be accurately budgeted for. We had an idea of how much we had in the bank plus how much we could borrow against the mortgage and the builder was pretty confident we could get to shell plus a good proportion of the finish for that. He proposed an alternative way of running the project whereby he would oversee the trades and the schedule of works, but I would help manage the trades on site and they invoiced me directly on a weekly basis.
I also purchased much of the building materials and site hire directly. While this meant there was more for me to keep on top of, it meant I had complete visibility across the project. It also meant that at any one time, we were up to date with payments for labour and materials. I loved working in this way, it built a good atmosphere of trust, we didn’t have any unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved by a certain amount of £, we all were working with the understanding that we’d keep going until the money ran out. Luckily it just stretched far enough to get it habitable.
I made sure we achieved value for money by designing everything ourselves and searching far and wide for the best quality for price, for example our vanity units by Aspenn Furniture were custom built to our specifications but cheaper than vanities from the big bathroom retailers. Thanks to a contact on Instagram, Naomi @barnconversionblog, I sourced our steel sliding doors less than a third of the cost of my first quote from a well-known supplier. I love that the Instagram renovation community is so supportive and ready to share tips and insight and that’s why I always strive to give back in the same way.
Our kitchen is a copy of a handmade Scandinavian design which would have cost as much as £40,000, designing it and sourcing the separate constituent parts from far and wide meant it cost about a quarter of that fully fitted. A good tip for anyone buying kitchen appliances is to search online for graded stock, that is items which are as-new with full manufacturer warranties but have slight defects. For example our fridge and freezer both have slight dents on the outside but being as they’re integrated, you’d never know. Our oven was heavily discounted due to a scratch on the handle. A replacement handle would have cost about £10, a fraction of the discount. It turned out the scratch was imperceptible and we never even bothered to replace it.
The modern kitchen with the wood cabinets works so well in the arts and crafts property
What is your favourite place in your home now?
Am I allowed to say the entire downstairs?! The layout is everything we’d hoped for. Open-plan kitchen diners aren’t a renovation cliché for a reason, they’re make life infinitely easier, as is having that space open to our family room which means I can get on with things in the kitchen while keeping an eye on the girls. This is a world away from the series of small poky, disconnected rooms we began with.
Having a good-size utility is as brilliant as I’d hoped and a large entrance hall with built in storage makes life so much easier. One surprise is how much I love our sitting room which was probably the simplest to plan and realise as all we were doing was relocating the downstairs loo (which originally stole a chunk from the corner of the sitting room) and adding the steel sliding doors to separate it off from the open-plan family spaces. I always hoped this room would work as a grown-up retreat but I wasn’t prepared for what a plush sanctuary it would feel. Retreating to a luxurious, spotless space after the girls have gone to bed makes up slightly for the fact that with two small children we’re NEVER GOING OUT EVER AGAIN 😩
Another angle of the fabulous kitchen in the open plan area
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a renovation?
I could go on all day with hard-realised advice but number one is find builders who you really really get along with. We went with a recommendation from a trusted family friend. As previously mentioned, we worked in a slightly unconventional way and we never had a contract or anything in writing. This might sound risky but it made perfect sense and above all it felt right. I trusted my instincts and it paid off.
We’ve been in each other’s lives now for almost two years, along with the team, and the relationship is still great. I actually miss having them around every day, they became like family. Aside from one incident whereby I totally lost it when no one turned up to site one day for various reasons and I bawled out the foreman and threw a pile of letters at him… but we laugh about it now. And I was 8 months pregnant with no fixed abode at the time and feeling very stressed and hormonal so I don’t think that’s too bad going in the context of a year-long project…
We love this corner sofa in the living area of the downstairs - the radiators also work so well with the period of the home
What do family and friends say about your home now?
I think most can’t believe it’s the same house. I had a fixed vision in my mind throughout and oversaw every step of the way but I forget I was the only one privy to that and to everyone else the transformation is quite startling. It's nice when people say they’d never have thought to have a black kitchen/industrial doors/insert-unconventional-design-choice-here, but they absolutely love it now it's done.
The most commented on room is probably the smallest and cheapest to fit out, the utility, because anyone who has ever managed the laundry logistics of a growing family knows what a game changer it is!
The fabulous utility which is perfect for a young family!
Published: February 19, 2020