New heart of the home: Benji Philipson ploughed his savings into a new kitchen and dining extension "big enough to entertain three families." Images: John Lawrence
All in all, says marketing consultant Benji Philipson as he looks around his new 900sq ft kitchen and dining room extension, he's "pretty happy about the evolution from spending my weekends choosing building materials to spending my weekends choosing furniture".
Perched on one of his new worktops above handmade American tulip wood cabinets, in the house he bought in Kensal Rise, north-west London, just over a year ago, Benji, 37, admits he remains pretty vague on how to work the new ovens.
There are still a few boxes to unpack but he already looks settled in the extension to his Victorian terrace house. His strategy was to buy a place that did not need a vast amount of work, so he could plough his £160,000 savings into turning the bland rear area of the house into an unusual design statement - and the heart of the home.
Design statement: the light, spacious dining area big enough for three-families to fit
The refurbishing was done by an architect, a jewellery designer and a Brazilian building team, but he says it was a mammoth task managing the project while doing his full-time job. "The property ticked all of my boxes in terms of location, space and having a south-facing garden," he says.
"I knew I could build on it. I wanted this big room at the back, large enough for entertaining three families easily around my kitchen table. But there seemed a lot to do. I remember bringing my twin brother over when I first bought the house and him saying: 'This is a big project'."
Modern touch: Angular lines bring the property up to date, and add layers to the large, bright space
Benji engaged architects Tyeth Gundry and Christian Ducker from Gundry & Ducker, Alex Hughes Builders and Phoebe Coleman Design. "I was so lucky with [jewellery designer] Phoebe, she is very selective in taking on interior design jobs."
The main work started in September 2012 and ended in October last year. Benji and his design team wanted to keep the feel of the four-bedroom house's Victorian history. This was largely achieved through a careful choice of materials, textures and colour palette in the 15ft-high extension. What he did not want was a "bland, modernist box".
An eye-catching element runs along the top of the space - a simple, white 5ft by 20ft matchboard panel carved with a distinctive chevron pattern. The matchboard is a nod to the material used in the original property and the sharp, angular lines bring it up to date.
Angular shapes continue on the floor, lightly patterned with giant hexagons that add a feeling of width and texture to the large, bright space: "That was one of Phoebe's ideas," says Benji. "I love it."
Not a bland, modernist box: left, the extension houses a second, midnight blue, bathroom. Right, the first-floor bathroom is in keeping with the style of the Victorian terrace.
Other quirky touches include a midnight blue downstairs bathroom with gold taps and sink found by Phoebe in Marrakesh, sliding doors covered in wipe-clean chalkboard panels, bare hanging light bulbs above the kitchen island unit, and bright red and yellow stools.
The kitchen and dining area opens out on to the garden, from where you can see that the lower half of the back of the house has been covered with Spanish slate, hung in a style most commonly found in Lyme Regis. Each tile has been cut with a hexagonal wave to create a sense of movement.
"What was a small family home is now a large practical house with everything I wanted it to be for entertaining," says Benji. "There's state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, including a large cinema room in the loft. I am very lucky I had such a strong team, and that we all got on so well - especially Phoebe's creative input and project management. I just couldn't have done it without her."
As Benji ponders over how to use the ovens, he has another factor to consider: the work he has had done has added 35 per cent to the value of his house.