The Existing House.
The existing house is a 5 storey narrow fronted terraced property built into the slope of a steep hill. There are 3 storeys to the front street elevation and 5 at the rear. In plan the house footprint is 4m wide by 10m deep. The house was built in the late 19th Century and is typical of New Mills.
The house is entered at street level which is between the second and third stories and a short flight of stairs brought you directly up to the third storey front room. Dogleg stairs sit across the full width of the plan dividing the house between front and back. To get to the stairs one had to walk across the front room from the entry stairs to the door to the main stair. This not only compromised the use of this room but could also compromise a safe means of escape in the event of a fire as the route was not fully protected. Our clients were using the front room as a place to dump coats and other things as they entered the house but not as space to live in. Their living room was on this level at the rear of the property where they benefit from south facing view overlooking the Goyt valley and Chinley Churn.
On the second storey at the rear was their kitchen which they also used for dining. At the front below the front room was a windowless basement room which they were using as a music room. The room suffered from a lack of light and ventilation and was damp as a consequence.
On the first storey the room at the rear was being used as a utility and storage room whilst the rooms on the fourth and fifth storeys are bed and bathrooms.
Our clients are a couple who have travelled widely and lived in Japan for some time. They have a collection of modern and Japanese art and a taste for modern design. They had lived in the house for a number of years and whilst they like it’s unusual size, the views from the rear and it’s location close to New Mills town centre their main problem was that they had no separate dining space.
If they were entertaining they would have to cram their guests into their kitchen. Despite the fact that they had a wealth of space within the dwelling none of the rooms provided the right sort of environment for comfortable dining.
In our initial consultation with them they asked us to look at ways that the second storey could be turned into a through kitchen and dining room with the stairs reconfigured in some way and entrance area opened up to get light down into this space.
We sketched out some options and quickly realised that there were a couple of issues constraining what would be possible and what would be desirable.
• At 4 metres the narrow plan meant that if we tried to reconfigure the stairs from the centre of the plan to running front to back half the footprint would be lost to circulation leaving difficult spaces for the kitchen and dining area. There was also the danger that the house could become a labyrinth of stairs and circulation.
• The house did not have a safe protected route from the upper storeys to street and garden level. Any new intervention would need to ensure that a protected route was provided to street level or rely on an expensive installation of sprinklers.
Stairs, Hall and Gallery.
We decided to keep the main stairs in their existing location as they provided an efficient way of circulating up through the house. We linked the entrance via a new hall to the half landing of these stairs. This allowed us to take out the floor of the third storey and open up a new double height kitchen lit by the existing third storey front window.
We were keen that the hall benefited from the visual connections into the double height kitchen and vice versa. The issue was how to achieve this whilst ensuring that this route would remain protected in the event of fire. Our solution was to create openings in this wall with gallery doors held back 180 degrees behind a coats cupboard. These 8ft doors were the biggest standard door size available and are held back with a magnetic device. The self closing mechanism posed a challenge as the standard perco type self closer would not go back 180 degrees and we were keen to avoid having a unsightly overhead closer. The solution we arrived at in close consultation with Building Control was the combination of a rising butt hinge with a gas spring that slings and releases the door giving it enough momentum to close. After a few initial difficulties and some trial and error the operation works perfectly and the doors slam shut.
We also created a gallery accessed off the 3rd storey landing which overlooks the kitchen with a solid and glazed balustrade. This provides a small space for the couple’s dog to use as a base and a space to come into off the landing to engage with people in the kitchen.
The new double height kitchen is now the centrepiece of the home and is made up with mostly off the shelf high gloss black kitchen units and an Iroko worktop.
The main run of worktop has been slotted under the bulkhead to hallway. The level of the hallway was set by the entrance level. By careful detailing we squeezed every centimetre of extra height we could get and achieved 1.8m. The worktop as it is positioned just forward of the bulkhead and even our joiner who is much taller than 1.8m feels comfortable standing at it.
At 1m width the extra depth of this bulkhead offered the opportunity to use bespoke shelving in the space above the worktop rather than more standard wall units. Behind the hob the kitchen extract is housed within the depth of the shelving and fronted by a stainless steel splash back and vent grill. The extract is ducted behind the shelving to the outside. The existing gas meter is also hidden within the shelving.
Within the main kitchen space an island unit houses sink, dishwasher and fridge and provides an informal place to sit and eat.
The new dining room is located where the old kitchen was just across the landing from the new kitchen. We were keen to avoid any barriers between these 2 rooms as our initial brief had been to try and bring these two rooms together. To achieve this the doors to these rooms are held open on magnetic devices but this time with standard perco closers as they only open 90 degrees.
In this room the existing kitchen was stripped out ,made good and painted and decorated. From their new dining room our clients now benefit from the great views out to the rear.
The rest of the house.
The rest of the house largely remains as it was. All the doors through the dwelling were upgraded to flush fire rated with matching ironmongery. Interlinked smoke alarms were installed at every landing. Decorating was also taken up through the stairway.
Our initial estimate was £27K excluding VAT for the project. We tendered to 3 contractors and had 2 quotes at around £34K. A value engineering exercise took place which mainly looked at the kitchen units as we had originally specified bespoke 1m deep drawer units to go beneath the bulkhead. We agreed a price of £31K with Lime Construction and let the contract to them. The final contact sum was around £34K the extra being down to additional items and specification upgrades the client asked for during construction.
A key issue during the construction of the project was that the clients would be living in the property throughout. Fortunately the clients could access their property from the rear whilst the builders came in through the front. They also had use of their existing kitchen until the new one was ready to use. The agreed contract period was 7 weeks. In the end the bulk of the project took 9 weeks with some loose ends tied up a few weeks later. Practical completion was achieved just before Christmas 2011.
Through careful and considered design we have reduced the floor area of the dwelling but increased the amount of useable space to create a new kitchen that kitchen is now the centrepiece of the dwelling