When architect Marion Cole was asked by a client to give her opinion on a tired old bungalow renovation, it never crossed her mind that she might one day be living there herself.
“I got planning permission for a bungalow renovation to turn it into a family home, using the original footprint, and then he put it on the market,” she says.
“A year later it was still on the market and we were thinking: ‘Should we? Shouldn’t we?’ It wasn’t a particularly nice house and we knew we’d have to live in it while we did it up. We loved where we were living so it was a big decision."
Here she details how her turned it into a spacious home alongside her family.
1. Getting started on transforming the bungalow
It helped that planning permission was already in place to alter the bungalow, so after buying it, in December 2015, the Coles moved in.
In January 2016 new plans were approved to remove the conservatory, open up the ground floor, remove the existing hipped roof and building an extension to create a new first floor with space for four bedrooms plus a family bathroom.
“We asked for black cladding with contrasting white render and a big glazed gable,” says Marion. “We had some objections from neighbours who were concerned about overlooking. We talked things through and we assured them their privacy would not be affected. Now they have all said how much they like it.”
2. Living on site during the building work
“The bungalow had been empty for a long time and hadn’t been decorated for about 30 years so when we moved in, it didn’t go down well with the children, Phoebe, now 14, Milo, 11, and Róisín, 5,” says Marion. “To rent somewhere would have been too expensive so we just kept ourselves busy and stayed positive. The only thing we couldn’t live with was the blue sticky carpet in the kitchen, which came out on day one.”
When the walls started to come down inside, the family moved into a caravan in the garden. The family treated living on site in a caravan as an adventure, knowing that it wasn’t going to last forever. “Without friends kindly lending us the caravan, our project wouldn’t have been possible — we were working on such a tight budget.”
3. Reimagining the interior living spaces
The original footprint of the bungalow remained as it was (except for the conservatory, which they sold), and the roof taken off, before two internal walls were taken out to create the open-plan kitchen and living space.
With the property back to a shell, it was time to close the road for delivery of the new roof trusses, which would create space for the first floor and establish the design of the gable end. “With the trusses in place we could see just how much space there was and from that point the build progressed quite quickly,” says Marion.
Most of the original ground floor window openings were retained but replaced with new windows. Other than the glazing on the gable wall, the other windows on the first floor are all rooflights.
“The basic structure was straightforward and the builders worked hard to make sure we were back in the house as soon as possible,” says Marion.
4. Taking on DIY
To save money, Barry found himself fitting the kitchen and tiling the two bathrooms. The couple did their own decorating, often getting up at the crack of dawn to paint a wall or two before starting work.
“With the house finished, we landscaped the garden so that the indoors and outdoors worked together, making it suitable for parties,” says Marion. They also laid small decking ideas, with a new lawn to replace the grass that had turned into a mud bath during works, and laid a new driveway and paths.
“It wasn’t easy living on a building site but now it’s finished it has more than lived up to our expectations,” says Marion. “Luckily, Barry and I have similar tastes and the smooth build process was probably helped by the fact that he focused on the technical side while I concentrated on the creative side. Consequently, we made a very good team!”
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