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An extensive basement renovation and extension has given the Carrington family the home they always dreamed of discovers Janelle Butterfield.

Let there be light

Since moving to their palatial house in Wandsworth Common, Jane Carrington, husband Rob and their children Oliver, six, and Ella, five, have created a family hub packed with space, light and plenty of character.
‘Before we lived here we were based in Fulham,’ says Jane. ‘We moved over to get a bit more space and a feeling of still being very close to town, while having the village feel that Wandsworth Common offers. We really do have the best of both worlds and now we’re settled we wouldn’t consider moving.’

This was no impromptu location choice, as the family had been keen on the area for some time, enjoying the diversity of the stunning local homes. But despite the perfect location, the property was yet to reach its full potential.

‘I have always loved St James’s Drive as all the properties are different,’ says Jane of the sought-after street. ‘Our house is very attractive and benefits from a superb outlook onto the common as well as a 150ft garden; but it needed significant renovation. When we first arrived it was painted in bright pinks, oranges and greens which although cheerful wasn’t easy on the eye...’

Despite being thrilled with their new home, the Carringtons were keen to get to work quickly, adapting the existing framework to give them a property that suited their needs.

‘It had nice bathrooms, bedrooms, family space and plenty of light on the lower ground floor but lacked space.’
With the upstairs area offering plenty of light and substantial room, the couple decamped to the lower floor and quickly set to work creating an extension and basement area. ‘We wanted a modern, open space area with flexible sections for entertaining. We wanted lots of glass to maximise the light and an extra bedroom suite for guests or a nanny.

'We were a little daunted by the work, given that we were going to live in the property whilst the works were going on!' says Jane. 'It would mean going through the winter without heating. I had a wobbly moment when I realised that there was no garden access for a year', she admits, 'but it didn't feel as bad with the common opposite.'

With hopes to completely alter the downstairs section of their house, the Carrington family could have balked at such and extensive job, but interiors fanatic Jane took matters into her hands, deciding on an action plan and taking inspiration from anywhere and everywhere; 'I am an avid collector of interior magazines, Elle Deco, Living Etc and Homes and Gardens and ripped out ideas that I liked for inspiration. Then I selected an appropriate architect, went out to tender and chose a builder that I really felt I could work (and live!) with.

'The work took one year in total but once we had got used to living with a makeshift kitchen it wasn't a problem. I actually liked living on site to see the daily progress,’ she says.

‘My London Extensions, who looked after the project, were brilliant. They were easy to work with, on time and on budget. Living with builders for an entire year was no mean feat but we all worked very well together as a team.

‘My main concerns were choosing the right builder and the right help to guide me through the project. There are so many different parties involved from architects, planners, party wall surveyors, building control and for such a huge project it was important to get this right. MyLondonExtensions.com were fundamental in guiding me through the whole process, making it pain free.’

And once work was finally complete, the task of decorating began in earnest.

‘We wanted a feeling of space and light first and foremost, and a flexible space for the family. Something clean, bright and modern with warm touches. ‘I normally like to do my own decor, so worked with local suppliers to workout paint colours and selected my own flooring,’ says Jane. ‘The builders designed a superb bespoke glass and dark oak staircase for me, based on a cantilevered design I had seen in Elle Decoration, but with storage, which is fundamental for a young family and at a fraction of the cost.’

Since they completed the extension, the family have quickly got used to life in the new part of the house, utilising all areas and enjoying the freedom it offers. ‘By building the extension and opening the back of the house up we have created a very light and bright basement area which doesn’t feel like a basement floor at all. The light just floods in.

‘Now we have two extra bedrooms, a huge kitchen/dining/living area, a playroom for the children which we can close off should we wish to, a utility room, an office...space!’ she says.
With life back on track, do the couple have any regrets about their grand renovation? ‘No regrets,’ they add without hesitation. ‘We always loved the Wandsworth Common location but now have a great house to live in too. We have a separate ‘grown up’ sitting room on the ground floor but tend to use the basement floor as our main living area. We can’t really remember life before it!’

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