Our Side Extension: Planning and inspiration

When myself and my boyfriend, Wayne, moved into our three-bedroom Surrey home 10 years ago, it was in pretty bad shape. It hadn’t been updated since the 1930s and had a hole in the roof, dated décor, and a strange rockery at the front with uneven paving and lots of weeds. Despite that, we fell in love with it and gradually set about updating it, both inside and out.

The house was the perfect size for us too, and although the Chalet-style design of the house lent itself well to a big extension, we had already spent our budget on buying the house and some of the more pressing projects (such as installing heating and updating the electrics), so a side extension is something that’s always been on hold.

Skip forward to last year and things had changed quite a bit. Both of us now work from home – I’m an interiors writer and stylist – and we’ve had to adjust the space we have to work for us. Wayne built a cabin in the garden, which he uses as an office, and I took over the small third bedroom, again as an office.

But, what I didn’t take into account, was that working for myself as an interior stylist means that I have to hold onto certain props. Cushions, vases, bits and bobs – the items I use time and again on shoots – and they all need storing somewhere.

So, after continued grumblings from me about ‘no space to work’ and ‘office looks like a tip’, Wayne took it upon himself to build us a side extension, that we would use not only as a dedicated storage space, but also as a utility room. Somewhere to house my props, the washing machine, tumble dryer and cleaning materials. I couldn’t have been happier.

We may not have the budget for the whole upstairs/downstairs renovation, but a single-storey side extension on the side of the house meant a lesser budget was needed, and as it was going to be made from timber we wouldn’t have to apply for planning permission, either. Wayne’s pretty handy and has done most of the work himself on our house, so he decided that he would do the side extension to save on cost.

A very messy side return, taken just before works started.

The space in question ran along the left side of our house, from the front to the back, separated by a large wooden gate. It was pretty much dead space and always felt like a bit of a neglected area. We didn’t use it for anything and it seemed to accumulate any boxes that needed throwing out, along with the barbecue (under its protective cover) in winter time. To turn it into another room that we could utilise every day seemed the perfect solution.

We worked out that building the extension in this space would give us a 6 x 2 m internal area for storage, and then a 3-metre porch area at the front. I’m not going to lie – the thought of having a porch was, in itself, a blessing, as there has been many a day I’ve stood outside fumbling for keys while it rains and wishing I had one to keep me dry.

If you’re planning a renovation or have completed one, I think you’ll agree that a project like this is NOTHING without a bit of research, so it was on to Pinterest and Instagram (follow me on mine here), to see what we could do with the space. I realised quite early on, that with a long, narrow space, and so many different props to house, that to make it look in any way neat and tidy, we were going to have to hide everything away behind closed doors. And thinking about how we were going to use the space, I knew that I’d most likely be coming in and out of the room with my hands full, whether it was with boxes of props or a basket of laundry – so having sliding doors for the storage was probably the easiest route to go.

We looked at our budget and knew that the £3,000 we had set aside for it wasn’t going to go far unless we were clever about how we used it. Wayne went to work researching materials, and I was in charge of planning how I wanted the space to look. I love Scandi-style interiors with a bit of industrial thrown in, and after seeing a few images of floor-to-ceiling plywood storage I decided that was what I wanted.

Larch House, designed by Nicholas Szczepaniak Architects, taken from Pinterest.

For the porch area at the front of the house, it was always going to be dark cladding. We’d painted our house a bright white, and so having black or a dark-coloured extension next to it would make a good contrast. Wayne also suggested we incorporate some storage into the front of the porch to house our bikes, so that we wouldn’t have to wheel them through the extension when we want to use them.

Renovation inspiraton - black cladding

Although it’s of the back of the house, this picture shows the look I wanted for the front. Design by YARD Architects, taken from Pinterest.

In mid-December 2019, the build began! Pop back soon to see how it’s taking shape…

Featured image: The house when we first bought it – crying out for a bit of a TLC!

Follow Laurie on Instagram @lifeofaninteriorstylist and @secretstylingclub

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