‘One of my earliest memories,’ a friend recently remarked (having decided on a building extension), ‘is of eating roast lamb on Easter Sunday, with the whole family sitting around my grandparents’ enormous kitchen table. I might not own a house with a kitchen as large as their Victorian farmhouse – with its high ceilings, large windows and well proportioned rooms – but I would really like to recreate that sense of space and elegance in my own home.’
For most of us, our house seems never quite large enough, whatever it’s size. The dilemma is often not should you move or add on, but how to achieve an extension that gives more space – and yet retains the warmth and character of your home.
Although approaching building projects from differing angles, Nick Anderson of Guild Anderson Furniture and Melanie Latham of St Ann’s Gate have similar objectives – primarily to deliver something that adds to and complements the style of the original house.
Melanie Latham remarks ‘At St Ann’s Gate, as architects specialising in historic and sensitive alterations, my primary aim is to design an extension that is in harmony and sits well with the original structure. Clients are sometimes surprised that the building always comes first! Each house is unique and I believe successful, sustainable development comes above all from reacting and responding to this.’
Gaining additional internal space is what many of Nick Anderson’s clients wish for. The majority of projects are often just part of fairly major building alterations, and being involved early in the planning stages gives far greater opportunities to achieve this – and for the new rooms to run seamlessly into the rest of the house.
Guild Anderson are fortunate to design cabinetry for the upper end of the market, where an extension can be a room of beauty not just necessity. Nowhere are there more issues to consider making the style of a kitchen extension fit, than in a country home.
Nick’s designs are created individually for each client and each house, a flexibility much appreciated by clients in older or listed houses. An extension also brings the opportunity to create a more modern room in a traditional building – the freedom to try a contemporary or country style or a cross between the two, such as their ‘Modern Shaker’ or ‘Below Stairs’ designs.
A good extension is light and spacious – although both Nick and Melanie agree too many windows may be too much of a good thing. Modern materials deliver better insulation against extreme temperatures of winter or summer, but Melanie sees an Architect’s responsibility is to ensure the new development also considers ecological design and energy conservation, maximizing thermal efficiency. ‘St Ann’s Gate focuses on seeking the best architectural design and environmental solution at the same time, which is crucial in an older house, rather than as an aside’.
Similarly, Nick Anderson sees a disadvantage to walls of glass. ‘A new or enlarged kitchen needs to look good – but to also deliver excellent storage, even in a ‘Garden Room’ conservatory kitchen – so there is a pull between practicality and light,’
Nick achieves a balance of both through his meticulous design work. Where to place tall and wall cabinets or a kitchen sink, plumbing and electrics all need creative, practical planning alongside the windows and French doors. Appliances can be skillfully hidden in a central island and the utility room becomes a combination of a laundry and pantry.
My friend continued to say ‘What I wanted from our extension was additional room that in the week provided space for us to eat and watch TV together, for the children to play and do homework, and at weekends, somewhere we can all get together with friends or our wider family, without losing the essence of our old home. It was a fine balance to gain this seamlessly and sympathetically in an older house, and without moving. I think we achieved it though by taking a holistic approach and asking our design teams to work together and to consider both the outside and inside from the start’.
Melanie Latham, St Ann’s Gate Architects: t: 01722 555 200 / www.stannsgate.com