A Light And Bright Contemporary Family Home







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This week's renovation tour is of the lovely @ourhouseinlondon - a 1930s home which has been extensively extended to create a fabulous contemporary family home.

We love how bright and welcoming this house is, which has much to do with the open flow which gives such a sense of space. The decor is seamless throughout, with a soft Scandi scheme which gives the home such a calm and relaxing look.

We chat to Alia who shares with us her renovation story and some wonderful advice, including why planning every single detail pays off.

Can you tell us about your home and renovation project?

This was our first ever renovation project. We bought the house in 2017 and we knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done but we were ready for the challenge. 

We found a house on a street we really liked but it needed to be extended and updated to give us more living space. We could see the potential based on the extension others had done on their homes on the street. But before jumping in we stayed in the house for about a year and a half before getting the renovation under way. 

This was actually a really good idea because we got to know the house, could picture where we wanted to extend and could save as much as possible. We worked with our architect to draw up our plans which took a long time but after many iterations we were finally happy and could start the work.

We decided to do a double storey extension to the side, a single storey extension at the back and also made two rooms and a bathroom in the loft. 

The fabulous open plan living area with the impressive sliding doors

What was the most challenging part of the renovation?

We had quite a few challenges along the way! From the planning to the party wall to the build itself. 

But I think the biggest challenge was controlling our budget. We spent a lot of time (with lots of spreadsheets) working out where we would spend our money but as it was our first time doing a renovation we had surprise costs along the way. 

The pressure was also on to complete certain stages of the build on time. We had to move out, and rent a small house whilst the structural work was happening - at one point we were paying rent, the mortgage, for a storage container and the builders! 

We love the warm tones in the walk in shower

Costs also increased as we tended to upgrade on certain items - from better underfloor heating, internet cables, wired security cameras and internal intercom systems to certain fixtures and fittings. As it was our home we were renovating it’s difficult to scrimp on items that would be hard to retrofit later.

The other challenge is that a renovation of this size, especially as novices, takes an incredible amount of time, effort and patience. 

We both were working and we have three kids, so to renovate alongside your normal life is a challenge. I remember getting calls mid meetings about things and making decisions whilst at kids birthday parties. We couldn’t be on site everyday and would miss certain milestones. 

It’s really important to have a good relationship with your builder and ours kept us up to date along the way. We would visit the site every morning and evening and have 8am Saturday morning meetings (I don’t miss them). I also had really good neighbours who would send me update pics! 

Visualising the finished product was something I had a hard time doing. I’m indecisive and I took time to choose tiles, fixtures and fittings which would drive my husband crazy. You really do get decision fatigue, and at points I didn’t want to see another tile. I’m happy to say the final decisions have paid off!

How fabulous is this storage bench with the feature panelling

Did you have a budget and any advice on sticking to one?

Ah the budget, the glorious budget! We had one, did we stick to it? No. If anyone has any tips on how to stick to a budget I would love to know! 

We had a nifty spreadsheet with all our costs and a budget that we wanted to stick to. We were told you should always add a contingency budget and put on an extra 10% on top - which we did. But we went about 50% over our initial budget. 

It’s amazing how much the costs can spiral when renovating. You have the build cost, but you need to think about every single detail. For example we had no idea how expensive fire doors were. We bought the doors but you need to buy special fire safety hinges and handles. Also if it’s a glazed door it’s more money. It’s the small details that you need to take into account.  

We love this shower room with these fabulous hexagonal tiles

What part of the renovation are you most proud of?

There was one vision we both had and that was a seamless uninterrupted view from the front door to the garden. I think we’ve achieved this in the build and it’s something I love. Now that the garden is slowly taking shape and we finally have grass it’s a really nice touch. We opted for a three track sliding door system and this helps with the view as there are less panes and more glass. 

The uninterrupted view from the front door through to the garden

Where is your favourite place in your home now?

Oh this is a good question and I would say our open plan living area. This is something we’ve never had before and actually it works really well for us as a family - it is the heart of the home. All the buzz happens in this place but it’s a killer to keep clean! 

The lounge area in the open plan space

What would be your advice for anyone about to start a renovation?

My advice for anyone taking on a renovation project would be to:

  • Budget as best as possible and add on extra, then add more to that! Think of every detail of your home and what you need. This is our family home so we wanted to make it as perfect as possible!
  • Plan plan plan. Where will your boiler go? Where is your house alarm going? Where’s your fuse box going to go? Water softener? Water tank? Internet cables? All these utility bits that run the house need to be thought of and housed. It was a pain but doing lots of research really helps - you can’t imagine how big a megaflo water tank is and that it needs to be housed somewhere that doesn’t impact a bedroom, bathroom or utility room. You will realise that architects use “standard” sizes for certain things so when you want to “go bigger”, you need to work with your builder to understand the impact. One thing we also did is go to lots of kitchen stores before the floor plan was finalised - it’s a central part of the house so we wanted to plan this perfectly so the space could accommodate everything we wanted. 
  • Choose a trustworthy builder and someone who has the same vision. Our builder was great like this and would say to us; “try this it will look better” - and he was right. 
  • Shop local. We found some great deals by going local for some of our needs. For example for tiles, carpets, Quooker tap, water softer… local shops had the best prices - surprisingly better than the internet. Also it helps to talk to someone over the counter especially when you’re buying something you don’t totally understand.
  • Keep your neighbours sweet. They’ll have to deal with the mess, inconvenience, and noise for months. Make it as easy as possible for them.
  • Choose a good architect. We had one who provided us with a good final plan but through the build we found some inconsistencies. 
  • Get a party wall agreement in place
  • Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day

Enjoy it and have fun! For us this was a once in a lifetime and I started an Instagram page just for close friends and family (I didn’t even know how to use hashtags) and now I’ve made such lovely friends through the reno community - they’re the ones with all the tips and inspiration 🙌  

We love this bedroom which is so tranquil

If you are thinking about a renovation project in the near future and need some help finding an architect or architectural designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

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