Part of the importance of removing the chimney stack has been to allow us to turn the big room upstairs into a usable double bedroom, but the extension plans don’t stop there.
We wanted to be able to make the most of the fabulous views from the back of the house, so we (Rob, mostly, with Sarah making encouraging noises) designed a full width extension to the back of the house. Rob’s proficiency on Sketch Up meant that it was easy to show our architect what we wanted when it came to him drawing up the plans.
Almost inevitably, we had to make some compromises in order to secure planning permission – this felt frustrating at the time, especially given the reasons the planning officer gave for the initial rejection – but we have essentially come out with what we wanted.
The biggest differences between the first and second planning drafts was that the extension now looks (from the outside) like a big dormer extension, rather than the initial asymmetrical roof we had planned. The planning officer also asked that we changed our originally-planned timber cladding for a tiled finish. What difference this makes, we don’t know, but she requested it, so we did it!
The other change to upstairs is that the bathroom is moving up there from downstairs, into one quarter of the upstairs space. The other available quarter will be a “landing” (so called so it doesn’t have to have a door to meet building regulations), leading on to a small balcony.
All this is yet to come – it looks very much like a building site up there at the moment. The lining of the ceiling is gone, as have the previous walls that gave storage in the eaves, so the next big step is for the roof to be taken off, but that requires scaffolding, so the builders are doing all the interior prep work in advance.
Work really feels like it has started now – the wall of the kitchen is gone (or, rather, is piled around the room waiting for the skip to be replaced) and as a result we’ve got a much clearer idea of the space.
The door that used to lead from the bathroom in to the hall is staying where it is, but will be enlarged slightly to meet modern door measurements. To fit a basin into the downstairs loo (you can just about see it the toilet in the “after” picture above), the width of the room is being increased slightly, but as the wall is load-bearing, our fabulous builder has suggested an alternative that means that they don’t need to replace the wall entirely. Instead, they are going to cut a notch in the brickwork (you can see the pencil line on the wall) and adjust the spacing of the partition wall to allow for a basin.
When the house was originally built, the toilet was in a room on its own (as was the done thing at the time, apparently), but as fashions changed, the bathroom was knocked into one and the original toilet doorway blocked up and a cupboard built in opposite the toilet. The parquet flooring was left in place, making an interesting base for the cupboard!
Having been up to the house during Sarah’s half term means that we have been able to take these photos, but also gave us the chance to think more seriously about kitchen planning, which is quite exciting. Here is a sketch of our current thoughts, which will probably evolve somewhat before we order the final kitchen!
We have now visited a few kitchen showrooms too, so have a good idea about the style of unit and worktop that we want, but are holding off ordering anything until we’ve got the final measurements when the new walls are up. Hopefully we’ll be able to put in our order at Easter – until then, the tea and kettle have been relegated to the cellar!
Our builders have been hard at work for the last few days, and the fruits of their labours are evident. Where there once was a chimney, there’s now half a pile of rubble (which has now been moved – some to save, but a lot for the skip).
The change in the room is already pronounced, and we can see the huge change that this will have to the available space, particularly when the doorway is blocked up and so the room isn’t doubling up as a corridor.
When we were clearing out the cellar, we found a box of spare parquet bricks, so when the chimney is gone completely we will be able to fill in the gap with matching bricks. We will be sanding back the floor (when all the brick dust is gone!) and bringing back the natural wood colours, but that job seems far off when we are looking at a pile of bricks!
The kitchen was always the hub of my Grandparents’ home. From breakfast around the slightly-too-big table, with Grandma and Granddad and fruit salad on cornflakes, to everyone pitching in after Christmas Dinner to clean all the plates and sort out the leftovers before we opened presents.
I want it to play the same central role when we move in to the house, but with the opportunity to remodel, we are enlarging the space by knocking through into the downstairs bathroom (our main bathroom will be upstairs). This will create a separate space for a table without encroaching on the cooking area, lots of storage, and a fantastic long worktop for food preparation.
At the moment, the kitchen links onto the living room with an open doorway, but this will be blocked up and replaced with a door at the opposite end of the kitchen from the porch door, creating a through route to the main hallway.
The “front” door is a bit of an oddity – it’s very much at the side of the house, and you have to walk across the front of the house to get to it from the driveway. When Granddad first built the house, the front door was at the opposite side of the house to the kitchen and, as you might expect, opened on to a hallway. When he put the garage on the side of the house in the early 1960s, the natural main entrance moved to the kitchen, with a porch added in front of the kitchen door much more recently (it was one of those projects that kept being put back). To the eternal confusion of the postman, there appeared to be two front doors, complete with two letter boxes. We have simplified this slightly by replacing the front of the garage so removing the smaller garage door – hopefully this will mean we get half as much spam post!
We stayed in the house last summer and, as well as sorting through my Grandparents’ possessions, we started to take apart some of the kitchen units. It was both great and sad to remember lots of family stories, but exciting to look forward to making new memories (and jam and cakes) when we live there.
My grandparents had a gas fire in their living room. This always caused great distress at Christmas – how would Father Christmas get in? Would he get stuck? Grandma solved this problem by showing us that the front door was left unlocked before we went to bed and the stockings we left by the hearth (presumably because that’s where Father Christmas was expecting them to be) were filled when we woke up in the morning.
The problem with the chimney, however, is the structure – which is fine downstairs, but runs from the cellar, up through the living room and then right through the centre of the bedroom upstairs. The result of this is that you can’t fit a double bed in the bigger bedroom upstairs, though you can (and we did) fit a single bed in each corner of the room.
My grandparents had their bedroom downstairs, so this was never a problem for them, but we plan to use the upstairs room as our bedroom, so removing the chimney has been one of the first priorities of the build. The removal has been done this week, which is quite exciting, so we’ll share some pictures when we visit next week.
The land our house is built on has been in my family for over 90 years, having been bought by one of my Granddad’s uncles in the 1920s.
It’s a fantastic TARDIS – it looks small and unassuming from the front, but it’s surprisingly big inside. Until we cleared it last summer I hadn’t really appreciated the size, but it must have always been that way, particularly as it fitted six adults and six children in when the whole family visited my grandparents at Christmas, and even more people usually arrived for Christmas Dinner.
There are two distinct layers in the house at the moment – the stone layer, which was built by my Granddad’s uncle, and the brick layer, which was built by my Granddad. The intention is that our alterations will give another (tile clad, probably) layer that shows the next evolution of the house.
“Our” layer involves a dormer extension to the top floor, turning what was my Auntie and my Dad’s bedrooms (and later the rooms my family stayed in when we visited) into a big bedroom, a bathroom and a landing area with a balcony. None of the construction has started yet, so we’re waiting to see how it really evolves.