How we turned a dark rabbit warren into our perfect, bright kitchen-diner

A north London couple saw in an instant how they could transform an Edwardian terrace house near Alexandra Palace from a dark rabbit warren of rooms into a light and bright open-plan family space. So they put in an offer and got straight to work...
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There are times in life when, if you see the right thing, you must jump. That’s what happened to Lindsey and Chris Reed in 2011 when, after looking for a new home for two years and giving up hope of ever finding the right one, they were told about a house that had potential.
Lindsey, a market researcher, and Chris, who runs his own PR company, were living with their sons, 12-year-old Fin, and Ollie, nine, in a big house in Finsbury Park. They’d bought it from Iwona Blazwick, who runs the Whitechapel Gallery, so it was very stylish. But the basement kitchen where the couple, both 44, spent a lot of time was dark. As well as more light, they wanted somewhere safer for the boys, with more outside space, and a more neighbourly feel.


They had looked around the desirable village of Crouch End, but gardens there tend to be small. Then the Edwardian terrace house near Alexandra Palace popped up. At the top of their budget, it was on a street they had earmarked. “The moment we saw it, Chris and I had the same vision for what to do to it - which has never happened to us in our lives,” says Lindsey with a grin.
They made an offer on the spot, before it went on the market, and before they’d put their own home up for sale. “So the owners knew we were serious,” adds Lindsey.
In their old place they’d had a bathroom added by architect Andrew Mulroy, so they took him round to the house to see if he agreed with their idea for extending the back. Then they put their house on the market and sold it to the first people who saw it.
And that was that. They moved in.

Families in this part of north London stay for a lifetime in these well-built, charming houses with big gardens near the park. “People leave their wellies on the front doorstep,” says Lindsey. The old owners had stayed for 25 years.
The 1910 houses were often built from a pattern book, and many still have lovely details, such as encaustic tiled floors, stained-glass windows and original fireplaces with Art Deco tiles. All that was the case here.
However, the house was a rabbit warren at the back. The ground floor was carved into three little rooms - a small breakfast room, an even smaller kitchen “with the same cooker I had at university,” laughs Chris, and a tight living room with a French window offering views to the unspoilt garden, which is perfect for teenage footballers.
Chris and Lindsey wanted to knock it all into a big kitchen-diner, and extend out, with full-width sliding glass doors.
They also fancied an unusually big skylight over the dining area, made from a single pane of toughened, triple-laminated glass.
“We didn’t want a bar down the middle, but as soon as you start talking glass, the price skyrockets,” says Chris. For the whole works their architect estimated it would cost £80,000-£120,000, depending on the quality they went for. He started making drawings six months after the family moved in, and the works began six months after that, with no planning problems, and using the same builder, who brought with him the same team.
“He rebuilt the little kitchen in our back bedroom,” says Lindsey, “and sealed off the ground floor with lockable doors.” Such attention to detail meant they could stay on site, save thousands, and feel secure during the five months of the job.
Spacious: the couple replaced three small, dingy rooms at the back of the house with an extension that features a kitchen-diner leading directly on to the garden
Lindsey and Chris admire their architect. Not only because he can, they say, draw in perspective upside down, but because he didn’t try to talk them out of or into anything. However, the one special thing he suggested was to set the sliding garden doors into a 15cm shadow gap at the top, totally concealing runners, so that all you see is floor-to-ceiling garden and sky. This is a neat touch.
The local kitchen design company did a good job, too, trying to save the couple money - although an attempt to talk Lindsey out of a Quooker boiling-water tap fell on deaf ears and the budget was blown. One brilliant idea is that the dishwasher is in the island, directly opposite the cutlery and plate drawers, which means that you unload and store its contents standing on one spot. Over the years, this will save literally miles of walking around with armfuls of tableware.
Unusually in a project this big, nothing went wrong, and Lindsey says the whole thing is exactly what she had dreamed of. More importantly, in a modern world where teenagers are constantly plugged in to technology, rather than being tucked away in their bedrooms, in this home they often go online in the same family room as their parents, who are busy cooking or relaxing - “and that’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it,” says Chris.
What it cost: house bought for £940,000 in 2011
Works, including architect: £120,000
Value now (estimate): £1.5 million
Architect: Andrew Mulroy
Builder: Alex Baran on 07796 008275
Sliding glass doors to garden by Sunparadise
Skylight by Glazing Vision
Weitzer parquet (suitable with underfloor heating) from local company Jordan Andrews
Kitchen units from Abacus, in Harrow
Silestone quartz work surface from
Quooker boiling-water tap
Metro wall tiles from local company Checkalow Tiles
Woodburner from Clearview
Enamel hanging lamps over kitchen island bought “for  a song” from eBay 
Photographs: Adrian Lourie and Arcaid Images

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