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Room Tour: A 1930s House Gets a Spacious, Sensitive Extension

Part of a substantial extension, this airy kitchen-diner complements the original house yet also feels modern and bright

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This roomy extension was designed with great sympathy to the original building, since the between-the-wars house is in a conservation area. But it also had to be designed as a flexible, future-proof space for the family of five who use it. Growing families thrive in flexible spaces; one minute little ones need constant watching, then before you know it teenagers are demanding privacy. When architect Kieran Hawkins set about designing a total of five new interconnecting rooms for the house, he had those changing needs in mind and at the heart of his plans was this generous kitchen-diner. It is divided into zones for cooking, eating and relaxing, and has a real connection to the main house. “This space had to be big enough to be flexibly used by a family of five,” says Hawkins, “but still feel homely and warm.”

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Room at a Glance
Who lives here A family of five
Location Cambridge
Property A detached 1930s house with 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 3 cloakrooms
Size of room 53 sq m
Architect Kieran Hawkins of Mailen Design
Main Contractor SKU Building Company

Photos by Peter Landers

Hawkins’s clients had lived in their house for about three years before they called him in to extend the ground floor. “They had the chance to really think about their priorities,” he says. “They wanted a space that had lovely proportions and light and suited the family, not one that felt like a showroom.”

Read our beginner’s guide to kitchen extensions

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“The cooking and eating areas were arranged to make the most of the garden and natural light,” says Hawkins. A wall of windows and doors and two generous roof lights make a connection with the outside, while pendants define the eating areas at the dining table and island.

White oak distressed flooring, Floors-2-Go.

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Hawkins and his clients were both keen to avoid creating a vast, characterless space. “It had to be light and open, but not feel cold or soulless,” says Hawkins. Materials including wood, ceramics and concrete were key to the characterful feel of the room. “It’s important to use natural materials that age well wherever possible,” adds Hawkins.

Design details were also an important part of adding character. The door next to the fridge, which leads to the larder, is a vintage model, but others are new, designed to echo the architectural style. “They’re a mixture. Some are reused from the original house, some were made to match by the contractor,” says Hawkins. The exposed wall is made from bricks cut into tiles.

Roger large bar stools, French Connection. Walls and island unit painted in Strong White and cabinets painted in Down Pipe, both Farrow & Ball.

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The Shaker-style kitchen has a contemporary look thanks to the white composite worktop and sleek extractor fan, but Hawkins was keen to put it in context. “We wanted to make a room that respected the feel of an English early 20th-century house. The rhythm of the windows and doors, and views of the garden, also helped define the layout.”

Kitchen, Bryan Turner Kitchen Furniture. EXT0009489 wall-mounted extractor fan with slab-style hood, Westin.

See a period property with an ultra-modern extension

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The beams supporting the house add a sculptural element to the ceiling and are a reminder of the original architecture. “We wanted to keep them exposed to provide a trace of where the walls used to be – a kind of ghost of the old smaller kitchen on the ceiling,” says Hawkins. “We also wanted to avoid a featureless plasterboard that can contribute to a feeling of a cold white box.” As well as the aesthetic appeal, there were also practical benefits to this feature, as Hawkins explains. “By exposing the beams, the rest of the ceiling could be raised to 2.8m to improve the overall proportions.”

Arundel dining table, Neptune. Chairs, Graham and Green. Glass Globe pendants by Old School Electric, Heal’s.

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The built-in L-shaped seating is ideal for entertaining a crowd and includes useful power sockets. “The family do quite a lot of entertaining, for which the big kitchen-diner is perfect. They always try to eat together at the table or out on the patio in summer,” says Hawkins.

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An absence of wall-hung units adds to the sense of a very generous space. “There was a large enough area to provide plenty of low-level storage and there’s a larder, too,” says Hawkins, “so high-level units weren’t needed.”

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The snug area is a great spot to sit and read or enjoy a glass of wine. “It’s positioned at the edge, where it feels safe, secure and cosy,” says Hawkins. A hatch in the wall shows a peek of the formal dining room. The parents can sit in the snug and listen to the children practice their music in the dining room and tell them that dinner is ready. This kind of connection is central to Hawkins’s design.

Wall painted in Prussian, Zoffany.

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The main doors to the garden are positioned between the eating and cooking zones. Bright cushions provide colour.

Windows and patio doors, Velfac. Roof lights, The Rooflight Company.

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The extension helps to connect the rest of the house to the garden. “When you open the front door you can see all the way through the glazed doors and outside. That was important,” says Hawkins.

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Many extensions are designed to blur the lines between outside and in, but Hawkins’s clients were keen to create a clear separation between the two. “They wanted the new rooms to feel like they were part of the house, not like a lightweight conservatory or glass room tacked on the back,” says Hawkins. The distinction between the interior and exterior means the best of both worlds. “For a lot of the year, when it is cold and grey outside, the kitchen will feel warm and cosy, not exposed. Then in summer, the doors can be opened wide and the patio becomes an external room.”

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“The garden is a beautiful space and a real priority was helping the family make the most of it,” says Hawkins. The view from the garden shows how sympathetic the extension is to the rest of the house. “Being in a conservation area meant that the appearance had to respect the original building. But we would have approached the project in this way in any case.”

Do you live in a period house that you’ve extended or plan to extend? Tell us about your project in the Comments section.

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