“We’d been thinking of moving house for several years, because we needed more living space and a larger garden,” explains Christine Buxton. “We’ve renovated before and weren’t afraid to take on a project, but choices were limited as we were keen to stay in the area.”
Christine and her husband, Michael, have three children – now aged 15, 20 and 24 – and the family viewed several properties, but none ticked enough boxes for them to buy. They approached a local estate agent, who agreed to contact homeowners of properties he thought might be suitable.
“One particular house seemed perfect, and fortunately for us the owners were already considering downsizing, so we agreed a price and a timescale for moving,” says Christine. The house was a much-loved family home, but needed a total update - including wiring, plumbing, windows, the roof, kitchen and bathrooms - so it offered the perfect opportunity to carry out a full renovation project.
“We loved the high ceilings and traditional features, but it was the garden, view and location which sold it to us - close to shops and restaurants, and just five minutes from the Peak District National Park,” Christine continues.
The family remained living in their previous house while they engaged an architect to produce designs to extend and remodel their new conservation area home. “He suggested cutting off the entire back of the house, which was totally impractical, and also recommended knocking it down and building from scratch, which we didn’t want to do,” says Christine. “After wasting six months, we decided to start again and find another professional who would listen to our wishes to work with the current house.”
Ben Liddle, of Edge AD, was recommended by the couple’s estate agent, and offers a bespoke architectural design service specialising in large whole home renovations and one-off new build commissions.
“Ben was really practical and switched on to what we needed,” says Christine. “We wanted to retain the traditional elements of the old house and design a home which would suit us through the years, with more open plan spaces to maximise views of the garden.”
Ben’s design adapted the existing layout and extended it with several new additions, including a single-storey rear kitchen/dining/living extension, a three-storey side extension, a loft conversion, and a front extension with a garage link.
“Two of the ground floor reception rooms have been combined into a large living room which opens into the new kitchen extension at the rear,” says Christine. “We also wanted a separate snug and a TV room as cosier alternatives to the main open plan space.”
On the first floor, a master bedroom was designed with a private en suite and a dressing area. There are two additional en suite bedrooms on this level, and a galleried landing. “Initially, Ben suggested a triple height atrium, but I’m actually scared of heights and knew that this would worry me, so the gallery landing adds drama without the additional drop,” says Christine.
The sloping nature of the site lent itself to changes in level both inside and outside the house, with steps down into the rear garden, and the existing hallway was extended forward by several metres to form a grand entrance.
Converting the loft created a further two en suite bedrooms and a shared snug on the second floor for the couple’s daughters, with a new roof adding height to what had previously been a cramped, low space.
“Ben listened to what we wanted and understood that we needed to cater for the entire family, including our cats and dogs,” explains Christine, an accountant. “Michael hates any kind of clutter or mess, so storage was another important factor, and Ben took all this into consideration and worked with us throughout the project.”
Once planning permission had been granted for the changes, the Buxtons set about tendering to find a builder. “We wanted a contractor who could take responsibility for everything, and tendered to three companies,” says Christine.
“Whitshaw Builders had built our neighbours’ house and went through everything with us to tailor the work to our budget. We were extremely impressed by the quality of their previous work, and their systems for tracking the project and costs.”
The award-winning construction company began by demolishing the existing garage and side utility room, before digging out the rear garden for concrete strip foundations and laying a block and beam floor to the new kitchen extension.
Work began in September 2019, and by the end of November the structural timber-frame had been erected. The house was then stripped out and windows removed, walls demolished, and structural steels inserted, prior to constructing the new roof. The building has been entirely rewired and replumbed, with a new heating system combining underfloor heating on the ground floor, with radiators in bedrooms.
When it came to the external cladding, Michael and Christine drove around the local area hunting for inspiration, and chose cut stone slips to complement the off white render. They realised that rendering the entire house would make it appear too stark, and preferred linear, symmetrical stonework, which has a more contemporary feel.
“February was the worst time, as the house was little more than a shell and we had to hold our nerve,” Christine recalls. “Our new windows were due to arrive the last week of March 2020, but then the country went into lockdown, and everything stopped.
“The site was closed before the house could be made watertight, and it took a further six weeks before work could resume. We just had to sit tight, and our previous home was also on the market at this point, with a goal to complete the new house and move in during August.
“It was hugely stressful, especially as we had a break-in on the site when someone smashed our side door and gained access with a crowbar. Fortunately, nothing was taken, but it just added to our concerns.”
The pandemic affected the build in other ways, with deliveries delayed and the couple unable to visit showrooms to choose fixtures and fittings, relying instead on online purchases for items such as tiles, door handles, and some furniture.
Fortunately, they had engaged the services of Louisa De Paola, a local architectural interior designer, who worked alongside their architect on many aspects of the layout and detailing, such as concealing steels, space planning, lighting design and landscaping.
The Buxtons moved into their new home in October 2020, just one week before the second lockdown began, when they could finally fully appreciate the additional space and increased natural light. In May, they hosted a housewarming in the garden, and enjoyed their guests’ reaction to the incredible transformation.
“I’d worried that the open plan extension would feel too large, but the areas are clearly defined, and the huge rooflight and glazed gable really add a wow factor,” says Christine, who chose soft grey for the aluminium window frames.
“We’d played it safe with decor in our old house, so this time we were keen to be more adventurous, with the help of our team, and chose pink wardrobes for our bedroom. The wine bar is stunning, thanks to Louisa’s design, and layered lighting really brings the house to life. Now that we’ve experienced a home built and designed to our unique family lifestyle and needs, right down to the custom furniture and storage, we’re so glad that we took the plunge.”