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Grade II listed terraced townhouse.  Durham City

Internal remodel, Kithen extension and garden design

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Existing terraced house with tiny kitchen with no windows.

This home is a split level terraced property in the centre of Durham City.  The basement level is below the street at the front with steps down from the entrance hall to the kitchen and lower garden.  The basement level opens onto a garden to the rear.  The original garden is at a higher level than the kitchen, with the kitchen looking directly onto a retaining wall.  The kitchen was previously extended into a garden room, linking through an existing doorway, effectively making the kitchen an internal room with no natural light.

The solution.

The solution was to join the kitchen and replacement extension to create an open plan space with direct connection to the garden.  The client was keen to maximise light in the kitchen, so we opted for a fully glazed roof with exposed timber rafters.

The previous extension was cold, damp and poorly insulated. 

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Section through site

The problems are made worse as the garden drainage details were insufficient, contributing to the damp issues.  This was remedied by remodelling the garden and providing new drainage in the lower garden to guard against the risk of flooding normally associated with high level gardens backing onto houses.  To alleviate existing damp issues we also needed to provide a flow of fresh air to the basement through an existing window that had been blocked when the extension was built.  The original concrete floor was removed; the contractor continued the existing timber floor in the kitchen through to the extension, the insulated floor has been stripped and varnished throughout.

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The garden.

Excavating the garden was an important part of the design as it provided the kitchen with natural daylight.  The garden design was not straightforward as the only access is through the house, which includes a flight of steps.  All demolition and waste (including excavated soil) had to be taken through the house to a skip at the front.

The garden retaining wall was partially demolished to provide a modest outside seating area directly outside the extension. the remainder of the garden has been retained at the original level to avoid undermining the adjoining boundary party walls; resulting in a steeply terraced garden with feature planting.  By relocating the central element of the retaining wall further away from the extension we were able to increase levels of natural sunlight and provide the illusion of space.  This solution also served to minimise damp issues normally associated with external retaining walls.  This approach again resulted significant savings as tanking of the external walls was avoided.

Party wall issues.

This novel approach avoided significant party wall issues.  Any additional excavation work would have required significant underpinning works alongside the 2 boundaries.  Such work is normally associated with basement works and is costly in terms of labour and materials. 

The resulting garden space off the kitchen is modest with enough room for a small table and chairs.  A ‘secret’ stair, hidden from view from the kitchen space leads up to the upper garden terrace.  The garden steps up to the upper level in a series of planter beds.

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Excavated garden looking out from extension

Photo looking back at house from top terrace

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Design model to communicate garden design

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Section showing excavated garden levels by extension


The kitchen  links with the extension.


High level roof flights provide plenty of natural lighting.

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