Transforming a small Victorian terrace into a functional home

With an expanding family unit and a tight property market in London, this couple opted to tackle a renovation of a dilapidated terrace villa with the view to creating a modern, family home.

Living room in white background with grey sofa
ARTICLE Tina Stephen PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Landers

Having previously owned a small one-bedroom apartment, they engaged architectural firm Russian for Fish to provide a cost-effective, yet future-proofed design. 
What resulted was a complete overhaul of the tired building, into what has been a successful project on many accounts.
With a list of prerequisites for the design brief, the architects set about transforming the small Victorian terrace into a functional home. The original terrace layout of two-up and two-down with a kitchen and bathroom outrigger, had been extended to create a rear utility space, which encroached on the original garden.
As a result, the house and the extension were in poor condition with rising damp issues, as well as serious drainage problems. The rear garden had been unceremoniously covered in concrete, limiting access drainage inspection chambers, with suspected damage during the aforementioned extension build.
A new kitchen with grey cupboards
Tackling the renovation from the ground up, the architects engaged closely with the local council and the neighbouring property owners during the planning stages, to ensure the maximum efficiency was achieved in terms of the interior layout and external property boundaries.
At the rear of the building, the existing extension was demolished, which allowed the architect to design a full-width living that opened directly onto a garden space. In addition to this, the kitchen was relocated to the front of the building, allowing for an entirely open ground floor. This increased natural light to the centre of the home, and unearthed garden vistas for that elusive indoor-outdoor living.
Aesthetically, the house had lost many of its original features due to piecemeal renovations, and the architects worked hard to retain the few which remained. The staircase was a prime example of this, and now serves as a stand out feature, connecting the two levels, literally and aesthetically. The ground floor now boasts a strong contemporary feel with simple skirting boards and architraves. The first floor had more traditional features reinstated, such as mould skirting boards that was more in keeping with the original style of the home.
A dining place with white background and stairs
Part of the brief was to ensure the renovation was kept to a strict budget, so innovation was key in keeping costs down. Where possible, existing materials were reused, including pine floorboards that were simply sanded and painted. Cost-effective materials were also engaged, such as inexpensive commercial brick paving to line the garden patio.
Budget aside, the whole house required re-wiring, re-plumbing, and windows and doors were upgraded through the home; future-proofed with double-glazing. Striking full height bi-fold doors were installed between the living area and garden, and aluminium-framed roof lights were installed within the side return of the extension as a contemporary counterpoint.
Although the interior fit-out was the final stage of the renovation, it was by no means an afterthought. Meticulously detailed during the planning stages, the interior succeeds in terms of liveability, providing the owners with a warm, private home with an equal balance of old and new. 
A bathroom with tiles decoration
In contrast to the traditional brick exterior, the interior walls and ceiling was uniformly painted with a brilliant white, which not only maximises the increased natural light, but also highlights heritage features, such as the kitchen bay window. This was softened with a muted satin grey paint on the pine floorboards, and contrasted sharply with a dark yet warm grey on the kitchen façade. 
To ensure the home read as a whole, this colour palette was extended to the upper-level, with the addition of dark grey tiles and natural timber accents in the bathroom. While the new design has a minimalist disposition, these darker counterpoints help balance the spaces and create a sense of depth.
The end result of this project is the conversion of a tired and rundown building, into a property which embraces the future, and capitalises on space and light to create a generational family home.  



London, United Kingdom

Project type

Private residential extension and refurbishment

Project budget



On-site six months

Key features

Side return extension with glass roof, internal alterations to plan, new kitchen and courtyard garden.

You might be interested in reading this Modern home renovation in the UK

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This article by Tina Stephen featured on page 72 in Issue 020 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. This is not a Refresh case study.

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