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Southcott House

The sensitive transformation of a Victorian relic in Bedfordshire into a spacious home for a young family to grow

Our client was the new owner of a handsome Victorian terrace in which the previous owner had lived for eighty years. The house remained virtually unchanged during this period and required significant works to make it habitable for a young family. The house did not have any insulation, nor central heating and still contained the old gas pipes used to light lanterns buried within its walls. 

The existing house had three single storey outriggers built out of single skin brickwork which housed the kitchen, utility and an outdoor toilet. These were extremely small, cramped and had been constructed in the 1960’s using asbestos containing materials.

As they were not structurally sound, the outriggers were demolished and a new rear extension with a set-back side infill were proposed. We worked closely with the client to develop their preferred open-plan layout which put the kitchen at the heart of the house. 

Taking advantage of the 1.5m level change from the front to the back of the house, each space terraces down toward the rear garden, allowing visual connectivity while maintaining separation through level changes. Stepping down has allowed for a generous ceiling height in the dining room to an otherwise modest space.

Exposed steel beams highlight the key structural moves undergone to achieve the open plan space as per the client’s wishes. Douglas fir rafters honestly express the roof structure and together with the white-oiled birch plywood ceilings, add warmth to the space. As a significant portion of the budget went towards upgrading the existing building fabric, the finishes are pared back, with some walls left in a raw plastered finish providing texture and a soft tactility.

Integral to the refurbishment was the retention of the period features of the house. Where possible, the existing fixtures and fittings were renewed. In the bedrooms, beautiful cast iron fireplaces were sandblasted to remove thick layers of paint which had caused the ironwork to lose its detail. These were finished with a protective graphite paste to bring the metalwork back to its original lustre. Hidden under the carpet were a lovely set of original pine floorboards. These were all taken up throughout the house and painstakingly relaid to eliminate gaps between the boards, sanded and oiled. 

Improving the energy performance of the house was critical to the client’s brief, which involved insulating the internal face of all the external solid brick walls, insulating the loft as well as the suspended timber ground floor. 

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