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When Lynda and Peter Thomas bought a Victorian semi-detached house overlooking the sea in 2004, they had intended it to be an investment for the future. But when the house next door came up for sale they decided to buy it so that they could knock the two into one detached house and move much earlier than they originally imagined.
After planning consent was granted, local architect Roger Coombs and builder Graham Newton started work on the project. The job entailed a full-scale reconfiguration, and as Lynda and Peter wanted some large open spaces, not just a warren of rooms, the main spine wall dividing the semis had to be completely removed, and the floor above reinforced. Lynda explains: ‘Apart from the four exterior walls, nearly everything had to be replaced: along with updated plumbing and electrics, we had to put in new wooden and tiled flooring, cornicing, coving and picture rails.’
The design was to make the most of the houses’ symmetrical layouts and create a large porch where the two front doors once were; this would lead into a hallway, with one elegant central staircase sweeping up to the first floor. Upstairs, a gallery was planned to give access to each of the five bedrooms. One family bathroom would be retained for guests; while the other bathroom and a spare room would be merged with one of the front bedrooms to create a master suite.
Finally, downstairs, a new door opening was added between the back rooms of each house allowing all the rooms to flow into one another. However, each half of the ground floor does have its own personality. On one side Lynda has chosen a period feel. On the other side, she has created a relaxed and more summery seaside look, with an open-plan sitting room, kitchen and dining area. There is painted cladding on the walls and ceilings; and additions such as the slim shelving for an ever-rotating display of photographs, and the trio of different antique chandeliers, make this space individual yet still elegant. Tying the whole space together is light, bright paintwork and beautifully worn flooring. ‘We wanted the house to feel really lived in and reclaimed timber has exactly the right character,’ says Lynda.
Lynda shares her renovating advice
‘With a project this large it’s vital that you work closely with your architect and builder. I was on site every day so that I could make quick decisions; it also avoided any possible misunderstandings.
‘It was critical that the finished house didn’t look like two semis. The large canopy porch and central staircase both work to that end.
‘I sourced ideas from magazines like Period Living and bought numerous books on Victorian, coastal and seaside houses as well as beach huts.
‘Good quality materials can make a big difference; for instance, Locker & Riley produced all the covings and cornicing needed to replace the originals that had to be removed, and Drummonds supplied the reclaimed wooden flooring throughout the house.’