Jessica and Harry Gold doubled the size of a Victorian house in Surrey, combining traditional and modern features to create a stunning, light-filled home to relocate to from London
TEXT DEBBIE JEFFERY IMAGES DAVID BUTLER
“We didn’t have children when we bought our London townhouse, so school catchment areas weren’t an issue then,” says Jessica Gold. “By the time I was pregnant with our second child our priorities had changed, though, and we began hunting for a home outside of London.”
Jessica and her husband Harry, a ship broker, searched for a family home in areas within easy commuting distance from London. “For us, the location was everything, so we kept looking further and further afield because we could buy far more for our money,” Jessica
new home before their son was born. “It was becoming increasingly stressful, and we decided to view a house which had been on the market for some time and was a bit below our budget,” says Jessica.
The detached Victorian house in a popular Surrey village was dark, poorly laid out, and in need of complete renovation. Jessica and Harry had never previously tackled such a large project, but both recognised the potential that the property offered.
“It was quite a small, pokey house. The ground floor had a sitting room and separate dining room to the front, and two rooms at the back had been combined to make a kitchen,” says Jessica. “Upstairs there were four bedrooms, a bathroom and en suite. The garden was completely overgrown and there was a tatty detached double garage to one side, so leaving our lovely open plan London home to come here was quite depressing!”
In May 2017, the couple moved into the house with their daughter, Georgia, who was then two. They had decided to live there for a short time before later moving out while the renovation and extension work was completed. Their son, Jackson, was born shortly after, and the new layout was initially designed around a family with two children.
“We Googled architects in the area and loved the look of Concept Eight Architects’ projects,” explains Jessica. “They were very responsive, operated on a fixed-fee basis, and I knew immediately that these were people I wanted to work with.”
The award-winning practice specialises in residential architecture of all scales, in London and the south east, and its work has featured widely in the media. Director and founding partner, Mufajel Chowdhury, says: “One of the big things for us is to identify and understand the setting, so a detailed site appraisal is something that we start with on all projects. Then it’s about how someone feels in our spaces, as much as how they look, and we try to really understand how a family wants to live | in the house.”
The family spent most of their time living in the kitchen to the rear of the house, in order to keep close visual contact with the children, but this meant that the other ground floor rooms were rarely used.
“It felt like we were living in a tiny flat, so our brief was for light, open plan spaces,” says Jessica. “I was probably quite bossy when it came to the design, but although I knew what I wanted, I didn’t know how to bring everything together and make it look cohesive – that was where our architects came in!”
Demolishing the existing shabby double garage would have created plenty of space for a side extension, but Jessica knew that this west-facing part of the garden was a real sun-trap. She asked Concept Eight Architects to design a double height extension to the other side of the house, freeing up the former garage site as a terrace.
A single-storey kitchen/dining/living extension to the rear would then connect to the terrace and garden through glass sliding doors, designed to wrap around the structure. When fully open, these would create the impression that the kitchen/dining area was part of the garden, with just one slim supporting column on view.
The new extensions would double the size of the house, with a two-storey side addition forming a ground floor playroom/snug beside the kitchen, as well as a utility, plant room, boot room, shower room and pantry on the ground floor.
Above this, two new bedrooms were created for the children, allowing the first-floor layout to be reconfigured to form a generous principal bedroom with an ensuite and a walk-in wardrobe. The existing sitting room was extended, and the former dining room turned into a study as part of the ambitious project, which involved rewiring and plumbing the entire house.
“Previously there were only north-facing windows to the rear, with none to the side, and the huge trees in the garden cast shade and made interiors dark,” explains Jessica, “It was dingy, cold and miserable, so the priority was to bring in as much natural light as possible using glass.”
Flexibility and futureproofing were also important considerations, and a new staircase – necessary to meet Building Regulations – was positioned to make a loft conversion practical.
The planning application included a loft conversion, together with the two other extensions, and permission was granted for all the adaptations, including introducing west-facing windows. The only amendment to the design was a request for a first-floor window to be frosted, as it overlooks the neighbouring bungalow.
“We didn’t go ahead with the loft conversion for various reasons,” says Jessica. “We borrowed against the house and our budget was already allocated, but then the bank decided to withdraw their offer and only provide around a quarter of the amount they’d promised. Fortunately, we managed to borrow from another source, but it caused a great deal of stress!”
MANAGING PROJECT CHALLENGES
Jessica has a background in finance and decided to take on the role of project manager herself, arranging childcare for two days each week to attend site meetings and spend time running the build. The family moved into a rented house a mile away from the site, placing half their belongings into storage. Following a tender process, a local building company was chosen, based on positive references, although Harry and Jessica had a far less successful experience.
“Discovering that we needed to underpin the existing brick house was a particularly low point,” says Jessica. “We had a trial pit dug a couple of weeks before the build started, which was part of the party wall negotiation with our neighbour on the west. This revealed that the house had been built directly onto soil with no foundations. It was a miracle that it was still standing!”
The couple spent almost their entire contingency budget on underpinning work to stabilise the house, which involved engaging a structural engineer. Money was saved by cleaning the existing roof tiles, however, which have been matched with new tiles on the side extension for a seamless finish.
“Only one original wall remained untouched – everywhere else new openings were made and chimney breasts removed,” says Jessica. “All the ceilings were taken down and rebuilt, too, and the builders found old bullets, newspapers, and even a wartime chewing gum wrapper as they were taking the house apart.”
Bricks from demolished internal walls were salvaged and reused for the new extensions, with twenty-three new double-glazed timber sashes replacing the original draughty single- glazed windows. For the rear kitchen extension, huge aluminium sliding doors have been installed, causing numerous issues when they were initially made too small for the openings.
“The floor-to-ceiling sliding doors really add the wow factor, so we were adamant that we would find a way to afford them,” says Jessica. Tracks and mechanisms have been concealed using the same non-slip tiles indoors and out, which means that the kitchen and dining areas merge with the garden when the doors are open.
LAYOUT & INTERIOR DESIGN
“Part way through the build I discovered I was expecting Rocco, our third child, which meant that we needed to ask Concept Eight to revise the layout,” says Jessica, who has also recently launched a new business with her sister, Wellbeing Sisters.
“Originally, Georgia and Jackson were going to share a bathroom, so we left the plumbing in place but covered it over to make this into a nursery. The guest ensuite was then converted into a family bathroom, accessed from the landing.”
Jessica undertook the interior design for the house, choosing predominantly white walls in the modern living space, adding texture with polished plaster feature walls, marble-effect bespoke joinery, and smoked glass splashbacks.
She chose traditional coving and dado rails for the hallway, lounge, and study, with cool greys above the dados contrasting with deep block colours below. Floor and wall tiles were also carefully selected, featuring unusual designs in the hallway and bathrooms.
“Originally, we were just going to install underfloor heating in the ground floor extensions, but the builders explained that it wouldn’t cost much more to run this into the lounge, study and hallway – especially taking into account what we’d save on fancy radiators – and I’m so pleased we did, as it creates far cleaner lines,” says Jessica. “Wall space is fairly limited because we have so many windows, with Crittall-style double glass doors connecting the rooms, so positioning radiators would have been difficult anyway.”
The kitchen is a key feature, with its concrete-finished cabinetry, copper accents, and a bespoke island unit which incorporates built-in seating. Initially, Jessica had chosen and paid a deposit for a more traditional kitchen, but then changed her mind and decided that a sleek, contemporary design would better suit the space.
“The local company who supplied our kitchen was excellent. However, just before it was due to be delivered the German manufacturer went into administration,” says Jessica. “Luckily an investor saved the company, and the kitchen arrived several weeks late.”
The family had given notice to vacate their rental property, based on the builders’ predictions for a completion date, but delays left them without anywhere to live for seven weeks. After staying with relatives, they were finally able to move into the house in 2019, just in time for lockdown as the Coronavirus pandemic swept the world.
“We actually felt extremely lucky to have such a wonderful home where we could open up the glass doors and relax out on the patio during the summer,” says Jessica. “It’s not been an easy project, but we love the way the new and old parts of the house work together to give us all the character, light and space we’d hoped for.”