How to extend your home with style, for less than you might think.

Written March 2017…

Our extension plays such an important role in our home life, it has brought us a sense of freedom, space to exist alongside each other, but also room to breathe, to play and create. It means we can stay in the house which we had already made into a home.

You see photos of it almost every day in my Instagram and Facebook posts, I followed the progress of it’s creation last summer in several blog posts, but as time goes on I receive more and more messages from people who have questions about the specifications. My opinion on the space, the size, recommendations, warnings…so I thought it was about time I got it all down in one place.

I’m aware that some of the information included will be specific to geographical location and therefore not of use to many of you reading, but you will be able to find local people who offer the same services. I want to be in depth, so it may be a bit of a long one!

As I have talked about in previous posts such as Home is where my heart is and here in The anticipation of a dream come true there came a point where our house just wasn’t working for us anymore, we had outgrown it and I was desperate to move. But after looking at the housing market and how much more we would have to spend to make it a worthwhile upheaval it soon became apparent that moving wasn’t really an option. Yes it could be done, but we would be signing ourselves up to an added financial commitment that we didn’t really want. So instead we turned our full attention to the idea of extending.

How to extend your home with style for less than you might think. Alice in Scandiland
The back of our house previously…

We don’t have a large garden, but being end of terrace means it wraps around the side of the house and it has a feeling of seclusion. Extending would mean sacrificing outside space, but I felt if done right it would only serve to pull the house and garden together, blurring the line between the 2, improving both.

I started by getting several builders to come and quote for what I had in my mind, a solid structure with 2 large Velux windows in the roof to let in light. I was concerned about affecting the feel of the 2 existing downstairs rooms, which were filled with daylight for most of the day, but saw no alternative. Quotes came in and I was quite shocked at the costs, I couldn’t have what I imagined and yet would still be paying way over what we could afford. My heart started to sink, perhaps this idea wouldn’t work out.

As I explored cheaper alternatives I found myself thinking about conservatories. I would shudder a little at this word, the image of a small cold white plastic box stuck on the back of the house made me feel sad, surely this wasn’t a route we had to go down? Nonetheless I booked for some well known companies to come and quote, but yet again I was shocked by the cost and this time for something that was SO far removed from my imaginings.

Let me warn you now, avoid Everest and Anglian like the plague, they were very unhelpful, super pushy and had absolutely no vision to go off plan. And the cost!!!!

So then I turned to friends for recommendations of local glazing companies, this is how I came to find Window Solutions (Network Veka registered), the company we went with. The guy came around, I showed him my drawings and then we worked on the design from there, I had full input and felt able to really get my vision across. Price wise we were looking at almost half what I had been quoted by the bigger companies, half AND I didn’t have to put up with the awful boring sales pitch and tactics, Ian knew his stuff, was very matter of fact and I liked that I was actually talking with the person who would be building it, that gives you much greater confidence than a man in a suit, with his brochures, hiding behind his company’s tv adverts and promises. Urrrgh, they really pissed me off, can you tell?!

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My specifications were –

Absolutely no white plastic, absolutely no wood grain affect (this is the norm so you must specify otherwise it would seem, WHY would you want plastic fake wood?!), dark grey, as high a pitched roof as possible, one solid wall coming out from the kitchen, same floor levels throughout ground floor, as few sections as possible, larger than standard doors, several ventilation options. I would have loved Aluminium, but this would have increased the price by nearly half again and we just couldn’t justify it.

I initially wanted bi-folding doors, but it soon became apparent that they wouldn’t suit the space as you would be looking at the side profile of the doors from one room or the other, as well as cost and the fact they need more space in which to travel, it was just a big fat no!

The designs came back and after a few tweaks (I pushed to increase the pitch of the roof even more, something at the time they were rather sceptical about, but I was confident in my vision) we were in agreement and work was booked to start the following month. I couldn’t believe it, this was really going to happen!

Boring things you may need to know –We didn’t require planning permission as it’s technically a conservatory, but we did have to go through Building Control as it’s classed as a ‘Highly glazed extension’ and due to having it all open plan they were concerned about heat loss etc. This cost a couple of hundred pounds in total, we had to get a Mining survey report, something quite common in Cornwall and also had to agree to have a Radon Sump fitted, again, a Cornish requirement due to the granite in the ground.

The summer holidays came and with it a lot of mud and big holes. We were unlucky with the weather which slowed things down a bit but overall I just couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened. Garden to slab in about 3 weeks.

Once the slab was poured I couldn’t help but have a play to get a sense of scale.

The frame went up in about 2 days and suddenly my vision was really brought to life. The area measures 2.6m x 5.5m approx and has almost doubled our ground floor space.I’ll never forget the day the wall was finally taken down in the kitchen, the sun came flooding in and our lives were transformed.

Finally I had the home I had imagined…

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The solid wall out from the kitchen was crucial in my design. Without it I feel all sense of architectural wow factor would be lost, it ties the extension to the house, creating a flow and continuity, it’s really hard to imagine it could have been any other way.

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Then…
2019

The height of the roof is a really wonderful surprise as you walk out into the space and realise it goes up, as well as out, again this is crucial to making what is still a pretty modest sized build have a lot more impact and drama.

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Here’s some of the nitty gritty –

HEAT LOSS/TEMPERATURE CONTROL – This is the number 1 most asked question, is it too cold in the Winter and too hot in the Summer? This is another reason why I have waited to do this post, it’s now March and we have been living and loving this space since August last year, so we have experienced both ends of the temperature scale. In the Summer, yes, it can get a bit toasty, but we designed the space to have lots of air sources. We have extra large sliding doors at the end and along the front, as well as small windows above the daybed AND 2 openers in the roof, lots of opportunity to create a cross draught. If it gets too hot, within minutes of opening these it’s back to a comfortable level. If it ever gets too much, which I really doubt, but *if* it did then we will put up sails to create some shade. I can’t stand the standard blinds that are available and so would never go down that route. In addition to this the roof glass has a UV tint on it, it’s called Solar Control, to help with heat retention and reflection. I had a complete freak out about this initially, including tears the morning the glass was going in as I had specified that I did not want tinted glass and I thought what they were installing was exactly what I hadn’t asked for, it looked SOOO blue! But, once in you could hardly tell, in fact all it does is makes the blue of the sky look slightly more saturated, like a brighter summers day.

It’s orientated to the west but gets full sun from midday onwards in the Summer.

Cold – short answer…no! The reason this extension works so well for us is because the open plan style means hot and cold air circulate. We had electric underfloor heating installed (bought from Living Heat) which keeps the floor a nice temperature for bare feet in the winter and with the wood burner so close by in the living room we can heat the whole downstairs within half an hour. We don’t have central heating (night storage heaters instead) and as yet we have not felt the need to put any other heat source in the extension.

Is it aluminium? The grey plastic frame looks so good people do mistake it for aluminium. I’m so happy that we went with this choice and trust me, I never thought I would say that!!

Cost – *edited* While I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about large sums of money I guess it’s really what everyone wants to know. It was CONSIDERABLY less than moving to a slightly bigger house at approx £18.5k (not including furnishings/ floor)

Time frames –making contact with glazing company to confirmation of plans – 2 weeks, wait until work began – 3 weeks, From start of groundworks to pouring slab – 3-4 weeks, Erection of frame – 2-3 days Fitting glass – 2 days, Plastering – 2 days

What makes this conservatory stand out? The solid wall at one end and pitch of the roof mean that it looks much more high end that the standard spec styles. The changes I made to the initial design I feel have really made this something special.

The beautiful continuous engineered Oak floor, which you can read more about here, flowing from the front door, all the way to the back creates the sense of even greater space and quality of finish.

The open plan layout means the spaces flow, there’s no real boundary so furniture can be moved back and forth to make one space bigger, another more snug, every inch of space is utilised and enjoyed.

The daybed!! I’m not going to lie, the idea of my beautiful Ercol daybed came first in my mind and then I built up the design of the room around it!

So there, my longest blog to date I think, but so hard to skimp on the details, well done if you made it this far!

I hope if you have been considering your house options, should you move, should you extend then maybe this has been helpful, perhaps some questions have been answered, I’m sure there is so much more I could say but I don’t want to frighten you off!I can say in all honesty I wouldn’t change a thing about it, everything is as I wanted and I think that’s because I felt I was in control of the whole process. I guess it does help that I’m not afraid to make my feelings known!

I’d love to hear what you think of the transformation and if you have any further questions send me a message or comment below.

☆ Edit -I have been asked by a few people about what it was like living with the building work so I thought I would add to this piece as it’s very relevant and I can’t believe I didn’t talk more about it to be honest!

Anyway, generally it was much better than I expected. For the most part the work was all outside, we could close the door/ window…and even sometimes the curtains in the living room when I wanted to lounge unashamedly in my PJs at 11:30 in the morning and block it out. From outside they cut about 95% of the way through the wall, beneath the kitchen window, right at the start. This was because it creates a lot of dust/ mess so they didn’t want that going into the actual structure once built. Everything else was done externally, then once it was sealed and watertight they then too the patio doors and kitchen window out and knocked the remaining wall down with a sledgehammer. Yes it did get the kitchen really dusty, no I didn’t pack everything away, I just carried on and pretended it wasn’t happening!

Living with the bare, dusty concrete floor for several weeks, whilst it dried out enough to lay the wooden floor, was a bit of a drag, but I knew what was coming so really it wasn’t a big deal.

Overall it was a pain free, exciting and quick process.

Soon after the floor was put down, this seems like a lifetime ago now.

159 Comments Add yours

  1. clare burt says:

    Hi-Im trying to basically do the same as you did_add more space(stylishly) for as little money as poss.I caslled your guys but im in london and its too far.Could you possibly tell me a verrry approximate cost for the basic shell please?i have literally no idea as to whether its 20k or 70k….
    Thankyou

    1. Hi Clare, the cost is included in the blog post. It was around £18k x

  2. Melissa W says:

    Hi, I absolutely love this blog! Thank you for taking the time in writing it. You have given me great ideas! Have a nice day xx

    1. My absolute pleasure x

  3. Paul says:

    Hi we’re looking to do a similar build. Just wondering what it’s like acoustically in the extension? Does it echo and how much difference did adding furniture and soft furnishings make? Thanks!

    1. Hi Paul, I don’t find it echoey at all, I think being open to the kitchen and living room means sounds don’t bounce off too many surfaces.

      1. Paul says:

        Hey thanks that’s good to know. Ours is likely to be just open to our current living room as our kitchen layout doesn’t lend itself to knocking through that window opening as you’ve done. So it will be more square than rectangle (4m x 4m ish) One issue we’ve found in getting quotes/designs is that conservatory companies seem to want to sell us more orangery style rooms or special roof systems with some solid panels and some glazed panels. Not really the look we want!

      2. Try local glazing companies and give them very clear instructions on what you do and dont want. A lot of them totally take the piss.

  4. Jacqueline power says:

    Hi Alice, can I ask if the cost of £18,000 is for the structure?

    1. Hi Jacqueline, all works exc wooden floors, furniture x

    2. Hello, for everything in there, minus flooring and furniture x

  5. ClaireT says:

    I’m so inspired by this post and your beautiful extension. I’m going to copy it almost exactly. 🙂 D you have any blogs about your garden? It looks so nice with the large pebbles and your dining table.

    1. Hi Claire, think you found the garden blog xx

  6. Stephanie says:

    It looks fantastic, and very high spec. for the price. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Stephanie xx

  7. Prem says:

    Hi, I was looking at doing a conservatory but was told that it can not be open plan as in there should be a door to separate it from the kitchen and not walk through passage like you have. Have the building regs changed ? Thanks

    1. Hello, if it is open to the house then you have to go through building regs, if it isn’t, you dont x

  8. Barbara Giardelli says:

    OMG I am in love with this ❤
    Such an incredible result!!!
    May I kindly ask you the 2 hight of the eaves? (the highest point and the lowest)

    I am planning to do something similar and I love your result!

    1. Hello and thank you. I don’t know off the top of my head, I’ll try and measure tomorrow x

  9. Paola Valle says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for your post and pictures, it´s helping me convince my family that it is doable. Sorry If you have already replied this, I didn´t read all the comments, but is there any chance you could share the blueprints or constructive details, I´m specially interested in the ventilation you mentioned.

  10. Paul says:

    Hi did you have any issues with the height in regards to planning permission and neighbours? Did you have to consider the impact on neighbours? What we’re planning is very similar to yours in design and location right up to the boundary. Thanks!

    1. Hi Paul, no planning needed, we did have to go through building regs, as it’s open to the house, no doors between the original and new. We discussed with our neighbour, but they had no issues at all. The glass above the wall (where the Ercol day bed is) was my doing, for their benefit, to help as much light as possible still get to that part of the garden.

  11. Carrieb says:

    Just found this blog post it’s fantastic, wish I had seen it a year ago. We spent a year being indecisive about whether to move or extend. We put in offers on fabulous old school houses, way over budget etc luckily we were outbid as since the lockdown my husband has lost his job. We are in the middle of a large kitchen extension and house renovation, worst time to ever build as no building allowed at the moment… Don’t think our project will be half as fab as yours and probably more than double the cost. Can’t wait to get in though and use some of your clever styling tips.

    1. Hello Carrie, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had such a tough time of it, thank you for the kind words.
      All the best with you build.
      Alice

  12. Jennifer says:

    Hi Alice,

    Your build looks amazing! We are planning something similar but I keep wondering about privacy……can your neighbours see into the extension from above?

    Thanks,
    Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny, thank you I’m so pleased you like it.
      We aren’t really over looked, the established trees around the area give cover. So it’s never been an issue.

  13. Viv says:

    Love your extension. We use our conservatory all the time as it has underfloor heating. However it’s old now and trying to sell our house we realise most people want open plan. What you have done has given me ideas, I just wonder about the noise when it rains? As we cant have a conversation in ours as it’s too loud😄.

    1. Hi Viv, hahaha, yes it can definitely be loud when it rains, but honestly? Since having it built, the number of times it’s been loud enough to really notice is probably no more than 7 or 8 times. And even then, it’s never actually been a real bother…

  14. Amy says:

    How inspiring! Do you mind me asking how tall and wide your sliding doors are? Thanks, Amy

  15. Andras Ridovics says:

    Hi guys,
    We are thinking to do something similar, do you need an architect for this kind of jobs?
    Thanks,
    Andras

    1. Hi Andras,
      No, I wouldn’t think so, I designed the space I wanted, you can just find some images of what you like and discuss that with the glazing company, they should be able to then make you a digital image to illustrate how it would look on your home.

      All the best, Alice

  16. Andrea says:

    Hi I absolutely love what you’ve done, did you have to have an electrician to wire the space for electricity? I notice you have a lamp in one of the pics and wondered if there are plug sockets in the conservatory or if this is an extension lead from the main house? Thank you!

    1. Hello Andrea, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, we had an Electrician, he was an absolute joke though, lashed some things royally. The only negative of the experience really.

  17. sjw says:

    Thank you..this has been a very useful read. We have a similar property in Somerset and have been talking about doing exactly the same as you… adding a mid century modern makeover. Thanks again

    1. So pleased you enjoyed reading, good luck with your home x

  18. Jenny Ford says:

    Hello, this is lovely I live in a middle terrace cottage with an awful white plastic lean to conservatory with polycarbonate roof. Off this is a room that’s been divided by a stud wall in to a kitchen and dining room. I am thinking of knocking the conservatory down and knocking the external wall down to have one large kitchen/dining/sitting room. Please can you tell me the contact number for Window Solutions I googled it but, not sure if it is the same company. Thank you Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny, sounds like you have a plan!
      Window Solutions only work within Cornwall/ maybe Devon I think.
      Where are you based?
      https://www.cornwallswindowsolutions.co.uk/

    2. Elizabeth Bristow says:

      Hi Jenny,
      Alice mentions that Window Solutions are Network Veka registered (I am assuming they are glass-specialist builders). I am going to try and find a builder on this register near us. I am sure there are other people doing similar things … just need to find them.
      Lizzie

    3. Hilary says:

      I love this extension. Showed it to my daughter who has just bought a house & is going to do an extension and she loves it too.
      Think it’s made her rethink her plans!

      1. Thank you so much Hilary and good luck to your daughter and her new house x

  19. Fiona Whiteman says:

    Hi Alice. I have looked at your extension many times as I always seem to come back to it as my main inspiration in my research to replace/improve our very old ugly white UPVC and polycarbonate roof p-shaped conservatory we inherited on our house. One of the potential ideas has been similar to yours in order to bring the light back in to the back of the house so that we can finally see and appreciate the garden but as we are south facing I worry about being boiling and uncomfortable in the summer (which it is now and v bright) and then freezing in the winter which would both negatively impact opening up to the kitchen and living room, like you have. How do you find the heat and cold? I think I would lift the current floor and put in underfloor heating as you have. Thank you. Fiona

    1. Hello Fiona, OK, so yes, it does get pretty toasty in the summer, but not enough to make us wish we didn’t have it. When it’s like that we have all the windows and doors open and would most likely be found in the garden anyway.
      I never find it too cold in the winter, but then we don’t have central heating and it’s possibly always a bit cooler here that other people’s homes. We light the fire and that warms the space quickly enough.
      It’s a tough one to pass comment, as my feelings will be very different to yours..

  20. Emer says:

    Hi there. An absolutely beautiful result. We have the same style of property with an existing conservatory (which we want to replace) which has no door between it and the living room.
    My question is, as there is no door, what do builders use to block up the gap whilst work is being done. Not sure if we would have to remove all our furniture and leave our house as work would be done. Sorry, might seem a daft question, but am a complete novice at this. Thanks so much. Emer.

    1. Hi Emer, they didn’t remove the patio doors in the sitting room or window in the kitchen until the extension was built, with glass installed. So it was only very close to the end that it was a bit more chaotic into our house, plus we had to wait about 6 weeks for the concrete floor to dry out, before we could lay the floor.

  21. Lee says:

    Great blog. Do you remember the company that supplied the lean-to frame and glass?

    1. Thanks Lee, the company name is in the blog post.
      All the best.

    2. Hi Lee, thanks very much. The company name is in the blog post.

  22. Natasha Qizilbash says:

    Fantastic. Going to try this all the way in Pakistan. Thanks for all the details mentioned! The place looks great!

    1. Hello Natasha, so pleased you found it useful, thank you and good luck with your project.

  23. Rowena says:

    My friend sent this to me as we are planning to do something similar, absolutely love what you have done it looks amazing. Random question but what is the paint colour in your sitting room (wall with the log burner on) sorry if this has already been asked!

    1. Thank you Rowena, it’s Oval Room Blue, by Farrow & Ball.
      Xx

      1. Rowena says:

        Thank you so much and thank you for the inspiration. Such a lovely family space, enjoy it xx

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