Victorian value, unlocked

When Amanda and Kevin decided to renovate their Victorian home in south London to provide better space for their family, their chosen architects managed to unlock the home’s full potential and achieved a trouble-free project


When a London couple bought their Victorian era home in Wandsworth, it was in desperate need of modernisation. Needing more space for them and their children, they bought it with the intention of doing a full renovation. “It had been owned by the same family for about 20+ years so when we bought it it hadn’t been modernised for a while,” explains Amanda.

When they purchased the house it had four bedrooms, which Amanda says wasn’t really sufficient. “With three children and family staying with us quite often, we definitely needed extra bedrooms,” she says.

They’ve since transformed the house into a six bedroom family home, achieved by rejigging the internal layout along with a side return extension, loft conversion and full basement excavation. “It was quite a major renovation!” Amanda says.

One of the most important things to sort for the couple – and key to the success of the project for them – was finding the right team to work with. Amanda had for some time had a particular practice in mind – Matthew Giles Architects. “10 years ago they appeared in an article in The Sunday Times listing the ‘top 50 architects in the country’,” she explains. “We intended to one day buy a house which needed work, so I kept the article.”

Amanda and Kevin had a clear vision of the aesthetic they wanted to achieve, and finding an architect who would understand that was essential. “I did my research, I wanted an architect that had the same kind of aesthetic and philosophy that we did,” Amanda says, continuing: “We wanted a modern, clean, minimalist home with a very natural palette, and they fit into that.” This was confirmed by looking into previous projects Matthew Giles had completed, and the fact they were based not far away was an added bonus. Amanda adds:“It all played out really nicely.”


Sharing a general design aesthetic with the architects, the couple found getting the design drawn up and finalised to be a stress-free – and even enjoyable! – process. “We didn’t really have to say that much,” Amanda says. “I think that’s why finding an architect who aligns with your design philosophy is so important. We gave them quite a free hand to come up with the design because we trusted in what they would produce.” Sure enough, the design presented to them by Matt and Tom was exactly what they were after, utilising natural light and natural materials such as wood and stone.

They had a few key requirements; an open plan living space at ground floor level, a polished concrete floor, and a freestanding bath and walk-in shower in the family bathroom. “Victorian homes can be quite narrow and tight but credit to them, they managed to fit in all our space requirements!” Amanda says.

The couple had holidayed in France a lot and the designs they saw during trips there inspired their home’s design. “There’s a lot of emphasis on natural craftsmanship and living in a space that complements the natural environment, and we really liked that,” explains Amanda.

As well as the polished concrete floor, their home has exposed beams, timber cabinetry, brickwork, parquet flooring, Corten steel, and white Carrara marble. However, the couple also wanted to ensure this would blend harmoniously with the Victorian period features of the home. “The architects did a beautiful job of that,” says Amanda.

“Very modern elements that fit seamlessly with the period features – we’ve kept the original mouldings and ceiling roses in the front room.”

With a design finalised the next step was to tackle planning, but they encountered no major stresses during this process – thanks again to the architects’ help. “They took all the pain out of it!” Amanda says. “It was quite straightforward from our perspective. We didn’t really have any issues, because if there were any they just took care of it for us.”


By mid-2019, they were ready to begin work. Amanda and Kevin opted to live offsite, just down the road in a rented property. For the most part the project went relatively smoothly and ran to schedule, which Amanda credits in part to their living elsewhere. “It was a massive project, the builders were simultaneously doing the basement and the loft, and us living elsewhere helped with the timeline because the builders didn’t have to work around us,” she says.

Work was in full swing on the house when Covid hit in 2020. However, Amanda gives full credit to their contractor, Miles Builders, for continuing to work throughout. “They carried on, they were very professional,” she says. “It was seamless, in spite of the pandemic the works were done within 12 months, keeping the project in line with the schedule.” They were also lucky to have started work early enough that the majority of materials and supplies had already been ordered in before supply shortages and delays started to bite. “We were very fortunate with the timing,” Amanda says. The family moved into their new home in July 2020.

Thanks to the good work of contractor and architect, Amanda and Kevin experienced a very stress-free build. The architects project managed the build, explains Amanda: “Because it was quite a big project; we needed a project manager.” The architects also found the main contractor, after putting together a scope of work and going out to tender – they had previously worked with the chosen firm. Miles Builders then took care of the subcontractors. “They’re a big company so they employ a lot of their own and then subcontract some of the work – but we only ever interfaced with them,” says Amanda.

So professional were the builders that when the water table was accidentally run into during construction of the basement, the couple were barely even aware there was a problem. “It could have potentially delayed matters by quite a lot but they were super professional, kept us up to date and got extra men onsite to deal with it,” Amanda says. “They didn’t make it our problem, they just did what they needed to do to solve the problem.”

Their trust in the builders and architects – along with lockdown restrictions – meant the couple weren’t onsite too often. “We kept a safe distance, we would only really come down when we were choosing materials and wanted to visualise the space,” Amanda explains. “They gave us regular updates and we became friends, they would pick up the phone and let us know if there were any issues.” This included a complaint from a neighbour at one point about noise levels. “We never had issues with neighbours apart from that one complaint,” says Amanda. “I think that was just because of lockdown and people just getting annoyed – the builders always kept the workspace clean and the road clear, we never had issues on that front.”

As is often the case with large projects, Amanda estimates they went over their initial budget by 10-15%. “In the end it was a fine balance between separating the ‘must-haves’ from the ‘nice-to-haves,’” she says. One such example was deciding not to include any smart home technology: “We’re not very gadget- savvy!” she jokes. One addition that dented the budget slightly was the inclusion of a fire sprinkler system – necessary due to the removal of the wall between the living room and kitchen. “There was discussion about how to embed that into the design so it wasn’t an eyesore, and looked sleek and contemporary,” explains Amanda. “We got a misting system which cost a bit more but ensured the integrity of the design was maintained.”


The removal of the wall between the living room and kitchen means visitors to the house can see right through to the garden through the large sliding doors at the back of the kitchen. The hallway features parquet flooring, while the kitchen has polished concrete floors that continue seamlessly into the garden, allowing the two to be utilised as one large space in summer.

Downstairs is the basement area, built to the same footprint as the house and including a guest bedroom with ensuite, utility room, separate toilet, and a large family room. A large lightwell was designed in the corner, allowing Amanda and Kevin to look down into the space from the kitchen. A skylight allows natural light to reach the basement level. “We can always keep an eye on the children and it means the basement space is not pokey at all, the light and airflow works really well,” Amanda says. They debated not going ahead with the excavation, but couldn’t be more pleased they did. “It’s an expensive outlay but we’re really glad we went for it, it’s such a useful space. It’s probably the most ‘hardworking’ room in the house because it’s a family room, and the children can be down there – all the mess stays down there!”

On the first floor is the family bathroom and a bedroom, and up a small second flight of stairs is the master bedroom and another bedroom. The fifth bedroom sits on a “little mezzanine,” and another guest bedroom with ensuite is in the converted loft space.

When designing the interior spaces Amanda says architects Matt and Tom helped them select the materials and colour palette, and offered advice on what would look good in certain areas based on the size of the space. “By and large the styling and interior design was a combined effort,” she says. “I enjoyed it!”

As well as helping with decisions, the architects also assisted with sourcing products. Amanda spent time researching in magazines and on social media, and let the architects know things she liked – such as terrazzo tiles which they used in the bathroom – and they would recommend companies. “In the age of social media it’s actually really easy to do research,” she says. “It was actually quite simple in terms of what we wanted. We were quite decisive because we knew the look we were going for.”

Having been living in the house for over a year, Amanda says they’re thrilled with the final result. “It’s probably even better than we envisioned,” she says. “It’s such a light space, we’ve had friends round and you can cook and entertain at the same time.” She’s also pleased with how functional it is as a family home, while still looking nice.

The open plan ground floor is her favourite part of the house. “It doesn’t feel like a Victorian home, it’s such a wide expanse of space,” she explains. “They can feel a bit pokey but it doesn’t have that feeling, because of the design the architects put together – the light and air flows beautifully. It really is a product of clever design.”