When David and Lisa Collins’ circumstances changed, a tired 1960s bungalow in Leeds offered not only the chance to build their dream house, but also gave them the perfect opportunity to move nearer to their daughter
TEXT HEATHER DIXON IMAGES BEVAN COCKERILL
When David Collins developed an eye condition that left him unable to drive, he and his wife Lisa knew they would have to move house. They had lived for 30 years in a rural Nottinghamshire village and relied heavily on their own transport, so they needed to find somewhere closer to local amenities. It was also the perfect opportunity to move nearer to their daughter in Leeds. “We were looking for a new-build house on the outskirts of Leeds but soon discovered that it wouldn’t really work for us,” says David. “We like big rooms and open spaces but the only way we could achieve this was to buy a six-bedroom property, which we didn’t want.”
Then Lisa came up with a “wild card,” a very tired 1960s bungalow with a largely unworkable layout and some quirky features – including attic bedrooms David could barely stand up straight in, and an internal patio door dividing two living spaces on the ground floor. “It needed a lot of work, but we were not concerned about that. We renovated our last home and knew what we wanted to achieve, and what to expect. We also really liked the location of the house and the area in general,” says David. “That it was very close to a golf course was a bonus!”
Lisa and David agreed to buy it with the aim of extending and modernising it as soon as possible. They moved into the bungalow in December 2018 with the minimum of furniture – plus 200 bags of leaf mulch for the garden (Lisa is a keen gardener) and six large bags of logs for the fire – knowing they would have to move out again when the building work started.
There were plenty of things wrong with the property – the thermostat had been incorrectly wired and the central heating did not work. There was a strange extension over the garage containing two small bedrooms and a WC, all with low, sloping ceilings that severely limited the headroom. An old-fashioned hot air ducted system occupied even more space, and there was very little storage anywhere in the house. But the large garden, ideal location, and clear potential outweighed the negatives.
Initially they were going to turn the first-floor rooms into a large ensuite bedroom, until David pointed out that it didn’t fully solve the issue of headroom. Then they tried to get permission to build a two-storey extension, but their plans were turned down by Leeds City Council because the roof would have been too high in a conservation area and out of keeping with the original style of the bungalow.
So Lisa wracked her brains and came up with an ambitious idea that would solve all the problems in one go: to literally raise the roof. “It was ingenious,” says David. “A real game changer.” Working closely with their architects Richard Laycock and James Butterworth of Studio J, they began to rethink the whole design. “We can’t praise the architects enough for the ideas and expertise they brought into the mix,” says Lisa. “You think you have a good idea, but they were able to take our ideas to a whole new level while understanding and delivering what we wanted to achieve.”
By raising a large portion of the roof they were able to stay within planning regulations and maintain the same footprint, while gaining large amounts of living space. “It was a long process with lots of adjustments along the way,” says David, but adds that “it was worth it to finally achieve the spacious rooms that we wanted for our home.”
A NEW LAYOUT
As well as creating more practical sized bedrooms and ensuites upstairs, they also rearranged the layout on the ground floor. The original L-shaped kitchen – which was far too small and in the middle of the house – was turned into a boot room and cloakroom so that Lisa could use the facilities straight from the garden without having to remove muddy boots. The rest of the old kitchen, old living room and dining area were knocked into one large living space containing a spacious new kitchen and an island overlooking the outdoor areas through bi-fold doors. “The old kitchen was small and dated and didn’t even look out over the garden,” said Lisa. “We wanted the house and garden to work together and complement each other.”
A ground floor bathroom was turned into a utility/kitchenette next to an ensuite bedroom, so that Lisa’s mum, who lives with them, could maintain her independence. The remaining two bedrooms on the ground floor were turned into a snug and a larger entrance hall – complete with a feature staircase leading to the upper floor with its three new ensuite bedrooms and an open landing/office area.
With planning permission finally in place by August 2019, David and Lisa moved into his mother’s home in Huddersfield ahead of the builders moving in at the beginning of October. Within a very short time the building company had removed the roof over the main part of the bungalow (excluding the garage area), demolished internal walls, and reduced the bungalow to a shell. They also removed a line of overgrown trees to the front of the property to bring more natural light onto the site and improve the property’s kerb appeal, before covering the front lawn with hardcore. “The builders, (Feathered Edge Joinery and Builders) were brilliant,” says David. “We live in a cul de sac and wanted to keep disruption to our neighbours to a minimum, so we created space in the front garden for the skip and parked vehicles to avoid blocking the road. We hired a small shipping container which created a small onsite office for the builders and storage for us.”
Inside, the original floors – which were mainly wood over concrete – were taken up and the new steels craned into place to create the structure for the raised section of the bungalow. “We were travelling every day from Huddersfield at this point to see how things were progressing,” says Lisa. “It was very exciting to see the speed at which the original bungalow was partly demolished and the new structure started to take shape.” The exterior walls and roof were raised by one metre over the main part of the bungalow in what turned out to be a very straightforward process. “It was really pretty simple,” says David. “The builders took the roof off and then built another metre of stonework and blockwork on top of the exterior walls to raise the height.” They didn’t have to do any digging to check or strengthen the foundations as the extra height was minimal and would not cause undue stress to the existing footings.
In fact, “the hardest bit was convincing the planners that this was a good idea,” says David. “Fortunately I knew that a nearby house had done a similar thing and they had employed a planning consultant, Andrew Windrass of ID Planning to get it through. We contacted him, and he used the fact that there was a local precedent to make the case. It sailed through without a problem.”
With the roof raised, the internal walls were built to the new design. At this stage the couple considered introducing eco aspects, including solar panels and an air source heat pump – but their budget wouldn’t stretch that far. However, they haven’t ruled it out in the future. “It’s certainly something we might consider at a later date,” said David. “When you are working to a budget you have to make decisions about what to include and what not to include, and what you might be able to add further down the line.”
David and Lisa were fortunate to have builders who were flexible, reliable and consistent. “They were amazing. They worked through the winter without a break, even when it was wet and freezing cold. Things turned a corner when the roof went on and they were able to make progress in better conditions.”
Within the six-month build the property had first and second fixings, it was plaster-boarded and skimmed throughout and bifold doors and new windows installed. Everywhere was highly insulated with Kingspan, and water-based underfloor heating was laid throughout both floors. Between the two floors there is now a ‘sandwich’ construction of joists, insulation, boarding, a second layer of insulation, heating pipes and more boarding which slightly reduced the head height in the lower rooms but dramatically increased the soundproofing.
Only two things went wrong during the entire process, one being a cork floor. “I was keen to include natural materials wherever possible,” says Lisa. “I found a lovely cork floor which was laid over a screed and a waterproof membrane, but before long it started to buckle. It was soaking up water because the screed had failed so that had to be redone. One of the showers had also been plumbed in the wrong way round but it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed.”
The new kitchen has been a triumph but the new units in the utility were delivered and installed while David and Lisa were on holiday and they returned to discover that they were the wrong colour! “It’s not a big issue but it wasn’t what we asked for,” says Lisa.
One of the many bonuses of the revamp was the inclusion of extra storage space. “We thought through everything in fine detail,” says Lisa. “We have no loft because that space was incorporated into the bedrooms, so I had to think very carefully about where everything would go. No space went unused.”
A GARDEN TO LOVE
From the outset, David and Lisa wanted the quarter-acre garden to become an integral part of the overall renovation. Lisa – with her passion for gardening – had clear ideas of the way she wanted the garden to evolve, but she called on daughter Katy, an art teacher, for design ideas. The first task was to take up an oversized area of decking and turn it into a classically segmented combination of well-designed growing areas, pathways, structural features and raised vegetable beds. A path between a ‘pleached’ hedge leads to a wildflower area, greenhouse and potting shed. “One of our favourite features of the whole project is the Accoya cladding on the exterior of the house, which weathers to a beautiful grain and colour that links the house and garden in a very organic way,” says Lisa. “It was another example of the architect’s ability to think out of the box and achieve more than we ever could within our scope and budget.”
Now the house is complete and David and Lisa have had time to enjoy its benefits, they are delighted that they had the vision and conviction to buy the property in the first place. “It was an unusual project but it fulfilled everything we had hoped for, and more,” says Lisa.
“Working with the architects to discover the most efficient way of gaining that space and realising that not only was it possible, but it was also over and above anything we had hoped for!”
“Dealing with the hurdles involved during the planning process and wondering whether we had made a mistake in buying the property if we couldn’t achieve the space we wanted.”
Feathered Edge Joinery and Building Ltd
WINDOWS AND DOORS
21st Century Window
Cearview Bifolding Doors Ltd (Front Door)
Direct Wood Flooring
Various including Harvey George