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VICTORIAN HOUSE EXTENSION
ST. ALBANS CONSERVATION AREA

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History and Context
The site is located in the St Albans Conservation Area, close to the centre of the city. The building is Locally Listed and dates from the first decade of the twentieth century. It was constructed as part of a planned development known as the ‘Spencer Park Estate’ and is situated on a road that contains other properties of a similar size, but with a degree of variety in their street frontages and overall arrangement.
The house was built independently of its neighbours and has a narrow passageway to one side that provides access to the rear garden.


Client’s vision
The building is thought to have has been used as a family home for over a century, and while some interior modifications have been made, the overall arrangement and appearance of the house remain largely unchanged to the present day. The client’s ambition for the project was to develop and extend the house to make it more suitable for modern family life, whilst retaining the historic features and character of the building externally, and in key rooms within the house. In addition, the client wished to improve the cramped arrangement of the existing kitchen, to make better use of a half-basement area, and to create a better relationship between the ground floor rooms at the rear of the property and the garden.


Design approach
One of the main challenges of this project was the sloping site, which resulted in the existing garden being at considerably lower level than the main house, accessible only by means of steps from a side door to the kitchen. After consideration of various options, the agreed solution was to lower the floor level in the complete outrigger. This enabled us to create a large, open-plan kitchen/living space at the rear of the house, to provide direct, level access to the garden by means of full-height bi-fold doors, and to bring the semi-basement area into use as part of the enlarged kitchen/living space.
In addition, a small extension was added to the side of the existing house, which considerably enlarged the kitchen/living area, allowing the introduction of an island unit and a more practical arrangement of the kitchen and dining spaces. Instead of the kitchen being cut off from the rest of the house, it will now be at the heart of the home, with ample space around it for dining, relaxing and access to the garden. Lowering the floor has also resulted in an increase in the room height, which creates the scale and outlook appropriate to the new function of this space.
In order to achieve these outcomes for the interior spaces, careful consideration needed to be given to the design of the exterior of the property, particularly given its sensitive position within the Conservation Area. Various strategies were used to achieve this, including minimising the height of the extension adjacent to the boundary, so as not to affect the amenity of the adjacent property; conserving and retaining existing sash window openings; careful design and detailing of the extension roof, particularly adjacent to the rear lounge window; and incorporating a frameless glazed slot between the existing outrigger and the side extension in order to visually separate and distinguish new and existing constructions, whilst bringing as much natural light as possible into the depth of the plan.