© All photographs by David Butler
Edwardian builders were an exceedingly busy bunch, and the results of the construction boom they enjoyed at the start of the 20th century survives today in countless streets across London: row upon row of carbon-copy terrace homes, their 100-year-old bricks now mellowed to a delightful russet.
Simon and Nuria Copp bought just such a home three years ago in May 2010 for £1.6 million. Its layout will be familiar to almost everyone: a small living room at the front of the house, a little-used dining room behind that and, at the end of the entrance hall, a long, narrow kitchen overlooking a garden.
This particular property appealed for a number of reasons. They liked its location, in Crouch End, north London, and with six bedrooms there was more than enough space for them and their three children, Oliver, seven, Natalia, 16, and Emily, 20.
The family also liked the large garden and the impressive open stairwell. But, of course, there are downsides to living with a blueprint dreamed up a century ago. "The rooms were dark, very cold, and the living room and dining room were just generally uncomfortable places to be," says Simon, 46, who works in human resources.
Nuria, 51, a full-time mother, loves cooking, and the dated, narrow kitchen was not working for her at all. Unlike the Edwardians, today's households want large, light and open communal spaces to share as a family.
So they hired architect Gareth Allison, then working for Paul Archer Design, to draw up plans to reinvent the ground floor of the house.
He decided to extend the back of the house, adding a generous 320sq ft of extra space for a large kitchen/dining room. A system of stacking glass doors can be fully opened on fine days, blurring the line between house and garden, while the extension's zinc roof has been designed to overhang slightly to protect the south-facing room from sunlight. Above the extension is a small terrace.
Allison, who now runs his own practice, Gareth Allison Design (gaarchitect.co.uk), also opened up the living and dining rooms into one unified space, leaving folding doors so they can still be separated if required.
Because of the size of the project the Copps needed to apply to Haringey council for planning permission, and three neighbours objected to their pro-posals, mainly because of concerns that the extension would block out light.
Playing by the rules
By law the extension could not be more than two metres high at the boundary with the neighbouring property for just this reason, a problem Allison got around by creating a "step" in the ceiling height.
They were also not able to build straight across, thus the dining area of the extension runs slightly further into the garden, while the kitchen area is inset.
Though this was a planning requirement it works aesthetically; this is not an glass-fronted extension but what appears to be a series of modular sections in a subtle exterior palette of render, wood and zinc.
In order to assuage the neighbours' concerns, Allison created a series of three-dimensional images showing the impact the new building would have on the light reaching their garden and, after 16 weeks, planning consent was granted.
The build itself was as straightforward as tearing the back wall off a house can be. The family set up a kitchen in their small basement and remained in situ during the five-month project.
In all, the work cost £250,000 — a sizeable investment but one that Gareth justifies on the basis that the family plans to stay in the house for many years.
The property is now valued at more than £2 million, and he points out that if they had left the money in the bank it would have earned precious-little interest.
"We didn't do it with that in mind — but at the moment it is better to invest money than have it sit in the bank, and you can also enjoy it," he says.
When it came to the interior the new kitchen is entirely modern and blindingly white: the glossy units are sprayed panels of MDF built bespoke for them by LWK Kitchens (lwk-home.com), the units are subtly sparkly Caesarstone, the oversized porcelain floor tiles are also white, while the dining table and chairs are translucent and chrome.
All of which — plus roof lights which mark the boundary between the old house and the new — drench the space in light and make it feel huge. And, on a practical note, underfloor heating and insulation mean the room is now cosy rather than chilly.
To avoid the room feeling too sterile it is accessorised with some bright pieces — an armchair provides a pop of red, while a section of one wall is papered in Graham & Brown's Londinium graphic wallpaper (grahambrown.com).
The living and dining rooms, however, are a complete change of pace, with taupe walls, wooden floors and period-style folding doors. They are lit by chandeliers (as well as more modern uplighters) and the original chimney breasts have been left in place — although to avoid feeling too olde worlde the fireplaces are modern and the sofa is white, low-slung and modern.
The couple lived in Beijing and Singapore before moving to Crouch End, and these two rooms are filled with mementoes of their travels, including a glossy red lacquer cabinet and statues displayed in a unit designed by Allison.
Five months on and the family are delighted with their period house. "I hardly ever go upstairs now," says Nuria. "Before, I would have sat in my office using the computer; now I am always down here because the space is warm, light and generally really lovely to be in."
Photographs by David Butler