Real Home

Re­plan­ning the ground floor of an ex­ist­ing ex­ten­sion has made Char­lotte Asquith and Chris Shaw’s dream of open-plan liv­ing a re­al­ity

Real Homes - - Contents -

Re­design­ing the lay­out made Char­lotte Asquith and Chris Shaw’s dream home a re­al­ity

Hav­ing spent six months mak­ing do with gar­den fur­ni­ture in their cor­ri­dor-like din­ing room, Char­lotte Asquith and Chris Shaw still can’t quite be­lieve how much light and space they’ve gained by sim­ply hav­ing a wall knocked down. Although the pre­vi­ous own­ers of their four-bed­room semi had con­verted the loft and car­ried out a rear ex­ten­sion in the early noughties, the lay­out wasn’t suit­able for a grow­ing fam­ily as it was split into a long gal­ley kitchen and sep­a­rate nar­row din­ing room.

‘As the prop­erty faces north at the front and south at the rear, it’s like a tale of two houses,’ says Char­lotte, who is ex­pect­ing an­other baby in spring and has taken a break from her work in fi­nance while her chil­dren are young. ‘The front is quite dark but the rear is the com­plete op­po­site – it’s lovely and bright all year round, and knock­ing the two rooms to­gether has re­ally made the most of that.’

Find­ing a home with such po­ten­tial, how­ever, wasn’t easy. The cou­ple had set­tled in Tad­caster, North York­shire, when Char­lotte was study­ing at New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity, as it was be­tween Chris’s home town of Wetherby and his job in Leeds. Five years later the pull of Char­lotte’s friends and fam­ily in Leeds brought them fur­ther south. ‘It’s only about 15 miles away but it makes a big dif­fer­ence,’ she says.

As a for­mer es­tate agent, Char­lotte sen­si­bly held back from house hunt­ing un­til their three-bed­room Ed­war­dian ter­race was sold. She didn’t bank on it sell­ing within 24 hours though, so in or­der to avoid panic buy­ing their next place, the cou­ple moved in with Char­lotte’s par­ents for six months while they viewed around 30 prop­er­ties.

‘Chris wanted more prac­ti­cal things like off-street park­ing and a garage, while I had a vi­sion of a Vic­to­rian ter­race with lots of pe­riod fea­tures,’ says Char­lotte. ‘Noth­ing hit the spot un­til we saw this place, which had been owned by the same fam­ily for more than 30 years. It was clearly much loved but in need of up­dat­ing. It was in a great lo­ca­tion, not over­looked and ticked a lot of boxes in terms of both prac­ti­cal­ity and po­ten­tial.’

After get­ting the keys in De­cem­ber 2013, the pair con­cen­trated on get­ting one room fin­ished and cosy in time for Christ­mas, start­ing with the front liv­ing room.

‘As grey was very much the “in” colour, we went for grey on the walls, sanded and stained the floor­boards dark brown and painted the pine fire sur­round white,’ says Char­lotte. ‘How­ever we soon re­alised the north-fac­ing room needed a lighter shade and later opted for a creamy beige in­stead.’

The large open-plan kitchen-diner at the rear pro­vides a won­der­ful con­trast to the front room’s cosi­ness. ‘We wanted a light, bright Scandi-type space with white kitchen cup­boards, a nice big is­land and mar­ble work­tops,’ ex­plains Char­lotte. ‘As it’s open to a seat­ing area, we didn’t want to feel like we were sit­ting in the kitchen so we’ve tried to make it blend into the space by not hav­ing any wall cup­boards. How­ever, there’s am­ple stor­age in the large is­land and the floor-to-ceil­ing units.’

The work in­volved knock­ing down the di­vid­ing wall and rais­ing part of the ceil­ing which now boasts three rooflights, re­plac­ing the white UPVC win­dows with dark grey alu­minium frames and swap­ping the pa­tio doors for bi-folds.

De­spite it be­ing the cou­ple’s first ren­o­va­tion pro­ject and de­signed ‘on the back of a nap­kin’, it only took their builders a few weeks, and Chris’s es­ti­mat­ing skills as a quan­tity sur­veyor meant they didn’t wa­ver from their bud­get ei­ther. ‘It’s turned out so well con­sid­er­ing we went to the Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val half way through when I was seven months preg­nant, and kept get­ting calls from the builders,’ laughs Char­lotte.

Look­ing back, there’s just one as­pect that the cou­ple wish they’d con­sid­ered more, and that’s the light­ing. ‘We were lim­ited by all the ceil­ing beams and had to make quick de­ci­sions for the elec­tri­cian,’ she re­calls. ‘If we did it again I’d maybe chose wall-mounted lights in the kitchen or move the hang­ing lights fur­ther apart.

I’d also re­duce the num­ber of spot­lights as it’s a bit much when all the lights are on.’

The cou­ple have man­aged to keep costs down in many ways; Chris fit­ted the kitchen and laid the wood floor­ing him­self with help from his dad, and in the bath­room they re­painted the ex­ist­ing units and re­placed the car­pet with mar­ble­ef­fect lam­i­nate. Buy­ing bar­gain fur­ni­ture from Home­sense and cut-price lights from Ebay and Ama­zon has con­trib­uted to the sav­ings, too.

Next on the wishlist is a wood­burner for the open-plan room, and dec­o­rat­ing the spare bed­room for Lu­cas as they pre­pare for the new baby. Chris also wants to cre­ate a decked ter­race area off the rear bal­cony with a gar­den seat­ing area un­der­neath. As the house is built on a slope and has a full-width base­ment, they may even con­vert the stor­age rooms below into a proper room.

‘I can imag­ine us stay­ing for at least 10 years as we love the area,’ says

Char­lotte. ‘There are great parks nearby and quirky in­de­pen­dent bars and res­tau­rants open­ing up all the time. We couldn’t ask for more.’


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