Kirsty and Dave Sanders have transformed a run-down property in Surrey by adding an extension and loft.

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Tired of living in a London flat, Kirsty and Dave Sanders were eager to climb the property ladder, and set about looking for a house with a garden. Location-wise, it needed to have good transport links to Kirsty’s job in the City, as well as be relatively near to the school where Dave teaches. ‘We always loved Richmond in Surrey, but never thought we could afford to live there,’ she explains. ‘Then we found a property that was within our budget, but in dire need of modernisation.’

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Undeterred by the months of work that lay ahead, the couple put in a successful offer, having a clear vision of what they wanted to do from the outset. ‘I grew up in Cairns in Australia,’ says Dave, ‘and I watched my father build a home there, so I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to face. I knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing, but if we didn’t snap it up, we might not get an opportunity like this again.’

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Plans included a side-return extension to provide an open-plan layout downstairs, as well as a loft conversion to create two extra bedrooms. One concern was whether the ceiling height in the guest rooms would be too low. ‘Fortunately, one of the neighbours had just had a conversion,’ says Kirsty, ‘so we took a look. They had lowered the first-floor ceiling by around a foot, which gave them more space. It made a huge difference in the attic, yet was hardly noticeable on the floor below.’

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Impressed, the Sanders asked the same company, A1 Lofts & Extensions, to take on the whole renovation of their new home. ‘With both of us working full-time, we realised that we wouldn’t be able to spend hours a day liaising with all the different trades people. We wanted a company to project-manage the entire job,’ Kirsty admits. ‘We stayed in the house while the work was being carried out– admittedly, it wasn’t easy, but it meant that we could catch up with the builders before and after work.’

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With the majority of their belongings in storage, the couple moved from one room to another as work progressed, living out of a suitcase and sleeping on a mattress, with just a small fridge and microwave for making meals. Once the new roof was p181 on and the conversion was finished, they were able to move up to the loft. As the electrics were in a dangerous condition throughout, the entire house had to be rewired. Also, all the window panes and staircase were replaced, and a new kitchen and bathroom installed. ‘Looking back, the low point was probably when the roof had been removed and, during a horrendous storm one winter’s night, the chimney stack fell straight into the main bedroom,’ Kirsty recalls.

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Quickly recovering from this setback, as the building work continued, the couple set about planning the interior, but had very little time to discuss paint charts or carpet swatches. Luckily, they have similar tastes, despite growing up in very different environments – the spacious, contemporary house in Australia that Dave was raised in is in complete contrast to Kirsty’s Scottish period-style childhood home. ‘We gave ourselves different roles to focus on, but we came together to talk through major decisions,’ explains Kirsty. ‘I became the design co-ordinator and Dave concentrated on the technical side of things, which explains why we have an abundance of TVs in the house and a Sonos sound system fitted. The flatscreen in our kitchen can even be rotated so you can watch sport from the garden.’

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For the decorating schemes, Kirsty’s main aim was to keep the rooms feeling light and spacious, while simultaneously injecting character and personality. Bamboo flooring adds depth and warmth, and while rooflights and bi-fold doors flood the kitchen and dining space with light, the couple retained a wall separating the living room and the hall to provide privacy from the front door. ‘We got to the point where we knew exactly how we wanted it to look,’ she says, ‘and if we hit a wall, we weren’t afraid to ask for help and advice. When I came to a stalemate over paint shades, I booked an appointment with Farrow & Ball colour consultants and they helped me select just the right shade for each room.’

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As most of their budget was tied into the build, they had to be clever financially. ‘I sought out designs that had a high-end appearance but without the price tag to match,’ says Kirsty. ‘For example, we were able to take some Magnet kitchen units to a whole new level by adding a bespoke concrete worktop.’

From the self-contained suite for guests in the loft conversion, to the modern open-plan layout on the ground floor, the Sanders’ run-down property has been given a new lease of life from top to bottom. The couple’s modernised Victorian home is now a great place for entertaining family and friends. ‘It is the perfect party house,’ says Kirsty, ‘as well as being a wonderful space to unwind in.’

Photography: Fraser Marr

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