When architects Lydia Robinson and Lawrence Grigg purchased an ailing 18th-century property in a Somerset village, they planned to return the building back into two cottages, and to add an extension to the rear.

Originally two miners’ cottages, the dwellings had been turned into one home in the 1950s, with a series of rear lean-tos added over the years. The result was a jumbled warren of dark rooms.

“Turning one dwelling into two required a change of use, even though the building is still residential,” begins Lydia. But creating two cottages did come with significant benefits:

  • On completing the first house, the couple had a comfortable place to live while completing their own home.
  • The sale of the first house provided funds to finish their home.
  • The two cottages provided space for storing building materials on this site with limited access.
  • In creating an additional dwelling the couple were entitled reduced rate of VAT of five per cent on the trades they employed.

Lawrence took on much of the work himself, aided by local labour, and only hiring in subcontractors for more specialist tasks, such as plastering.

‘Peeling back layers’ was key to the couple’s approach to the restored cottages. “We had to evaluate every layer and assess whether it was worth keeping,” concludes Lydia.

Project Notes

  • Project: Restoration and extension
  • Location: Somerset
  • Build time: Jun 2014 – Mar 2016
  • Size: 85m² (each cottage)
  • House cost: £220,000
  • Build cost: £150,000 (both cottages)
  • Value: £300,000 each

The Front Elevation of the Restored Cottages


The couple have repointed the front elevation with lime, and replaced the ill-proportioned 1950s PVCu windows and garage door (below) with timber frame windows.


The Living Room


The living room features a large inglenook, discovered behind a 1950s fireplace. The original flagstones were found beneath a concrete floor.


Views of the garden can now be seen from the front door.

The Original Cottage Staircase


The original 18th-century staircase was discovered behind later additions.

The New Kitchen Diner


The kitchen in Lydia and Lawrence’s home was designed around the reclaimed bench — an old chain-making table which Lydia discovered in her parents’ garage. Bi-fold doors and a rooflight, from Roof Maker, bring light into the new extension.


The original rear stone wall of the restored cottages has been exposed in both new kitchen diners. The bricks were reclaimed from the old extensions.

The Cottage Master Bedroom


The original ceiling joists are visible in the first floor master bedroom. They were exposed as a feature when the ceiling was strengthened and raised.


The Bathrooms


The first floor shower room features modern sanitaryware and metro tiles. The original elm floorboards have been exposed across this floor.


The ground floor bathroom features a reclaimed roll-top bath, sourced from ebay for £75. The butler sink was sourced on site.

The Rear Elevation of the Cottage


The new cedar-clad extension is built in blockwork and houses kitchen diners for both cottage. The new extension replaces a series of old lean-tos (below).


The new extension to the restored cottages makes the most of the south-facing views — including a glimpse of the nearby viaduct. The cottage garden now features native landscaping, including wildflower turf and fruit trees.


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