How do you make a Victorian house fit – in every way – for 21st-century living? This was the question that our clients were wrestling with. Eager to find out how this could be done, they engaged us to carry out a comprehensive feasibility study while they were completing the purchase of the house.
We examined how we could add space to their home – but, just as importantly, how the space could be used better. For instance, there was a conservatory that was effectively stuck on the back wall, and didn’t allow light into the rest of the ground floor.
Lack of light was an even bigger problem on the lower ground floor, where the kitchen/living room, a small bedroom and a pokey bathroom existed in gloom on all but the sunniest days.
We suggested to the clients that there were real possibilities for improving the potential of their Victorian house – and that these should be possible without creating a huge extension on the ground floor, something that would likely have been impossible in the conservation area.
There would be two strands to the ambitious plans for this house: the first concerned the livability of the space, and the second would make it much more sustainable.
To make the lower-ground floor bright and inviting, we extended it at the rear by around 5m and then created a larger and more open lightwell, with stairs going up into the garden. The new bedroom here has two glass walls and a door onto the lightwell. That also allowed the old bedroom to be converted into a larger bathroom - which is much more of a usable space.
On the ground floor, the conservatory was replaced with a new extension, still with glass walls and roof, but now fully opened into the rest of the Victorian house, so that the whole storey is one big, light-filled space.
That’s just half the story, though. With the addition of photovoltaic panels on the roof and a ground-source heat pump, the need for power from the mains is significantly reduced. Meanwhile, the loft insulation was upgraded to lower energy consumption. Finally, the front courtyard was redesigned to make it much easier to store bicycles, which our clients use as their primary transport.
This is a bold reimagining of a traditional house while still fully respectful of the conservation area. The council appreciated this, and granted planning permission.
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