© Photographs by Faser Marr
"Three architects visited us to talk through ideas but they just didn't take on board what we wanted to do; it was very frustrating," says Lucy. "A friend then told me about her neighbour Anna Smith, who is an architectural designer running annasmithdesign.co.uk. She visited us, and as she has a young family of her own, she understood what we were looking for."
Plans were drawn up for a two-storey side extension with a single wraparound ground-floor extension at the back, plus a loft conversion. But things got off to a rocky start when their planning application was turned down. "We wanted a hip-to-gable loft extension to make best use of the space but it would have been different from the style next door. We appealed against the decision but lost," says Lucy. "It felt unfair and was stressful at the time, as other houses in our road had already done the same style of conversion."
Anna changed the plans to a hip roof, which was approved, but the planning process had taken eight months. Luckily, the rest of the project went more smoothly. Lucy and Russ contacted Ron Klingenberg of construction firm Inner Space Developments, who had worked on the neighbouring house.
"Ron started work in February 2011 and he advised us to move out while the work was being carried out," says Lucy. "We stayed in the property for the first six weeks but the living areas we could use were getting ever smaller. It was actually more cost-effective for us to rent a house nearby for six months, as the builders could rip everything out in one go, rather than having to work around us."
The roof was off for about three weeks and the couple decided not to fit a canopy over the house. "It would have cost an extra £3,000 but the walls of the house had been taken right back to the brickwork, so we felt it couldn't get too damaged," explains Lucy. "Luckily, the weather stayed dry."
At ground level, the two-storey side extension wraps around the rear of the house to create a spacious open-plan kitchen, with room for a utility area and home office at the side, while the second floor has gained two bedrooms and a family bathroom. The original bedrooms have remained, with the old bathroom now an en suite for the guest room. The small third bedroom was used to make a hallway to the two new bedrooms and bathroom.
"With the property taken back to the bare brick, almost everything was redone or replaced, from the plastering, wiring and plumbing to the new box-sash windows," says Lucy. "Unfortunately, when we bought the house there were no original features left, except fireplaces in the living room and in Louis's bedroom, which I wanted to keep as they are part of its history."
The couple sourced a lot of the materials themselves, such as the bathroom suites and tiles, but did have some bad luck. Lucy says: "We had paid a deposit for a new kitchen from Möben but the company went bust soon after, so we lost our money. It was a setback but, thankfully, Ron's company was able to hand-build us exactly what we wanted to our own specifications.
"I asked him for as many floor-to ceiling cupboards as possible, with a big island unit. Ron then suggested spraying the units a dark grey to match the sliding doors. He had great vision and often gave us design ideas when we were stuck. I chose the white worktops, although Russ was sceptical as he thought they would become very stained but they are made from Corian so they are really hard-wearing."
It was also Ron's idea to build a unit on the ceiling to hide the extractor fan above the island and he designed a bespoke housing unit at ceiling height. Then they decided on the design details. "I originally wanted lime-green splashbacks to add some colour but Russ felt we should go for a more subtle shade. I'm pleased with our choice now, and we can always change the colour in the future if we want a different scheme," Lucy says.
Lucy is thrilled with the final results but wishes they had been able to extend the front living room. "We looked at ways of making it bigger but nothing really worked. It's a nice little room to relax in, and is mainly used by the children to play in or to watch TV. It's also quite a cosy, quiet space to sit in with a coffee and a magazine."
Any thoughts of emigrating have become a distant memory. "We are so happy here now," says Lucy. "We don't miss the garage and the extra space makes the house feel more relaxed."
And having bought the house for £545,000 in 2009, and having spent about £250,000 on renovations, the couple were pleased to have the house recently valued at £950,000.
Photographs by Fraser Marr
This feature first appeared in Real Homes magazine — the latest issue is on sale now.