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