Two Doctors on Honeymoon Come Home to a Kitchen That’s Double in Size

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By Iain Aitch
A modest expansion is a major improvement for a Victorian “half-house” in London.

Most homeowners find their architect through friends or by browsing online. London doctors Andrew and Emma Boyd found theirs at their local pub. 

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By filling in the "side return"— a narrow outdoor area typical to London terrace houses—Andrew and Emma Boyd were able to double the size of their kitchen. 

By filling in the "side return"— a narrow outdoor area typical to London terrace houses—Andrew and Emma Boyd were able to double the size of their kitchen. 

The pair were sketching out ideas on the back of an envelope for a possible extension to their compact southeast London home when they spied a couple at the next table doing a similar thing, but better and on tracing paper. Striking up a conversation, they discovered that one of their fellow drinkers worked for A Small Studio, an architecture, planning, and landscape firm.

"We both really love to cook, but the kitchen was so small, only one of us could be in there at a time," says Emma. 

"We both really love to cook, but the kitchen was so small, only one of us could be in there at a time," says Emma. 

Within days, an appointment had been made for the company’s principal, Helena Rivera, to visit the Boyds and discuss ideas for expanding their "half-house"—a local name for one side of a Victorian terrace house that’s split vertically down the middle, with the two neighbors sharing a main front entrance and hallway. 

Architect Helena Rivera of A Small Studio worked with VA Build to complete the renovation in less than three months. 

Architect Helena Rivera of A Small Studio worked with VA Build to complete the renovation in less than three months. 

A rear addition would swallow what little garden the Boyds had. But Rivera came up with a plan to transform their 53-square-foot eat-in kitchen by filling in the "side return," a narrow outdoor space that is a feature of many Victorian terrace homes. These spaces were designed to allow in daylight and, once upon a time, provide access to an outside toilet and coal bunker.

In the dining area, built-in storage was added beneath the staircase. The table is by Ebbe Gehl for John Lewis and the pendant is by Anglepoise. 

In the dining area, built-in storage was added beneath the staircase. The table is by Ebbe Gehl for John Lewis and the pendant is by Anglepoise. 

Rivera’s design would eliminate the return and more than double the kitchen size, with a skylight in a new peaked roof and new windows to make up for lost daylight. Her plan also called for soundproofing to help compensate for the single-brick-width walls separating the Boyds’ home from their neighbors’.

A cerulean espresso machine by Gaggia anchors a kitchen counter tableau. The cabinetry doors are Lastra in Fjord blue by Crown.

A cerulean espresso machine by Gaggia anchors a kitchen counter tableau. The cabinetry doors are Lastra in Fjord blue by Crown.

The planning took place while the couple were organizing their wedding and Emma was studying for her master’s exams. Neither wanted to spend their honeymoon in a construction site. 

The floor tiles, which create a seamless transition from kitchen to patio, are from the Illustrate line by Solus.

The floor tiles, which create a seamless transition from kitchen to patio, are from the Illustrate line by Solus.

So, two days after the wedding, Emma and Andrew packed away everything breakable, handed their keys to the builders, and headed for the airport. "Our honeymoon was spent cycling from Vancouver to San Francisco on our tandem bike," says Andrew. A flight to Sri Lanka and more biking across the tropical island followed.

Above the kitchen extension, Rivera installed a peaked roof and, as part of the new design, placed a triangular window that follows the roofline. "I remember looking at that little triangle, which was quite expensive, and thinking, is it really necessary?" says Andrew. "But Helena said, ‘Just trust me, you should do this.’ And of course, it looks so much better this way than it would have without it."

Above the kitchen extension, Rivera installed a peaked roof and, as part of the new design, placed a triangular window that follows the roofline. "I remember looking at that little triangle, which was quite expensive, and thinking, is it really necessary?" says Andrew. "But Helena said, ‘Just trust me, you should do this.’ And of course, it looks so much better this way than it would have without it."

 "We’d be in the middle of nowhere and would log on to a Dropbox folder that A Small Studio had set up for us," says Emma. "We’d look at a load of photos and just see our house being torn apart." 

The appliances are by Neff and the wall lamp is by Anglepoise. In the backyard, the couple installed a shed for storing their bicycles. The window seat was an item on Emma’s wish list.

The appliances are by Neff and the wall lamp is by Anglepoise. In the backyard, the couple installed a shed for storing their bicycles. The window seat was an item on Emma’s wish list.

Happily, the builders put most of it back together in the two months the couple were away (they completed the job three weeks later), and Andrew and Emma came home to 63 extra square feet. The kitchen/dining area is now the center of the house, with the deck tiled to match the interior for a continuous indoor/outdoor space. 

Two Doctors on Honeymoon Come Home to a Kitchen That’s Double in Size - Photo 9 of 9 -