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A Small Extension {Is It Worth It?}

Author: Lisa Soeno

Up until recently, the open plan kitchen/lounge area at the back of our house worked well for us. The circular table that you can see above comfortably seats three so it’s fine for Rich, Lyra and I. When we have people over for dinner we roll up the jute rug, slide it under the sofa, and pull the dining table into the middle of the room so we can squeeze a few more chairs around it.

However, Jenson starting to eat proper food has been a gamechanger in that we can’t fit his high chair at the table with us in the current configuration. So the poor soul is left hovering in his high chair in the middle of the room whilst being served his mashed potato/porridge/whichever pouch of Ella’s Kitchen I’ve been able to get my hands on. This clearly isn’t ideal so we are toying with the idea of adding on a modest extension to the back of the house to make the kitchen/lounge a little bit bigger and more family-friendly.

Where Would It Go?

When I say this would be a small extension, I mean small. As much as I wish it was, our garden simply isn’t big enough to accommodate an all singing, all dancing, epic extension.

We are thinking of getting rid of the larder unit which you can just see on the left of the header image. (Having a larder is mega useful but it’s ugly, it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the house, and even though it’s cream it somehow manages to suck all the light out of the room). The extension would start where the larder was, cut into the garden by around one metre, and stretch to the rear right hand side of the house. So it would only extend the space by around 40 square feet. However, that would be enough to accommodate the big old dining table that we’ve always dreamt of, whilst retaining the cosy scandi corner of the room that I poured my heart into.

The Inspiration

Our first idea was for the extension to be made up of one of those trendy glass boxes. Kevin McCloud eat your heart out. We had to re-think this when we remembered that we live on a new-build estate, not a rambling-country-estate. Our garden is already a little overlooked so a glass box just wouldn’t be private enough.

As a compromise I reckon we’ll go for sliding or bi-fold doors with minimal frames which run the width of the extension. I’m currently obsessed with Crittall windows and doors but I’m not sure whether this is a flash-in-the-pan thing and I’d want to be sure that the design would stand the test of time. To maximise light, we’re thinking a pitch roof and velux windows.

We’d also love to incorporate a few design features … three pendant lights above the dining table, and possibly brick slips and an ultra slick and modern woodburning stove. Although logistically I’m not sure where we’d fit the latter two in. A girl can dream, right?!

Has anyone else thought about adding just a small extension, or actually taken the plunge? Was it worth the cost and upheaval?


Header image by Adam Crohill.

For all gallery sources head to my Small Kitchen Extension moodboard.

Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
Follow Lisa on instagram @lisa.soeno

33 thoughts on “A Small Extension {Is It Worth It?}

  1. Hi Lisa, we’re just getting ourselves together to do a side return on our Victorian semi. Much as I’m dreading the actual build (dust and disorder make me cry) I know it will revolutionise how we live as a family. Having room for a big dining table we can sit round with friends, children can sit at to play/do homework/ have friends to dinner will be worth the hassle. We’re going for a gable roof with bifold doors.

    I say go for it. I don’t think you’ll regret it … And it’ll be a new space to design and furnish

    1. You had me at ‘new space to design and furnish’ Louise!

      It’s ALL ABOUT the table isn’t it?!

      Sounds fab. Good luck with it all x

    2. Do you have photos? We want to evenutally add on to ours – the previous owners added a conservatory to extend space but in the winter its freezing amd summer very hot. And it doesnt make the kitchen very big – we have an “edwardian square” layout with just a little alley kitchen and a breakfast bar that seats four max. Sigh. Ours is a semi detached victorian also so i am interested to see how yours is looking?

  2. We added a small extension to the back and side return of our house several years ago and it was definitely worth it. We took down some internal walls, added bifolds off the back and velux’s in the room for light. This allowed us to have the kitchen/diner/family room that I’ve always wanted. It has totally changed the way we live in the house and has made the house much more family friendly.

    However for a cost per square foot basis, it was expensive and the upheaval was massive. We had to seriously downgrade ours plans to fit within any budget so ended up ditching the original plans of zinc/timber cladding, lots of glass, roof lantern. We’re lucky that the market has moved a lot in the area we live, but if it hadn’t we’d be unlikely to make the money we spent back.

    Also- do not underestimate the additional work that an extension creates. Despite our builders being careful our garden was destroyed and the lawn looked like a music festival on day 3. The exterior of the house needed re-painted for the extension to tie in to the original house. And we had a saga involving a waste pipe that needed replaced and ended up costing £2.5K and a month of delays.

    I don’t regret the extension one bit, but 2 years on I still struggle to remember the mess, cost and tears!

    1. Eek eek eek! I’ve only just got the garden looking respectable! And I know projects usually go over budget but £2.5k due to a waste pipe?!

      Ok. So I need to prepare myself for tears if we go ahead. Thanks for the tips Sara 🙂

  3. Hi Lisa, our kitchen currently only has a small breakfast bar and our dining table is in a separate room albeit just a few steps across the hallway. We know this isn’t going to be ideal with a family (I’m 39 weeks today eeeeek!) so we have toyed with idea of an extension, noting our garden is quite small and we love how it is already. In the end I think we have decided to modify the layout of our downstairs rather than build an extension. We had an integrated double garage, half of which was converted to a reception room long before we moved in. It wasn’t done very well, and still feels detached from the house and cold, so this room is a bit of a never-used study come dumping ground, and feels like wasted space. Our idea is to move the tiny utility room we have off the kitchen into here and then knock through to create a bigger kitchen with room for the longed-for kitchen table! I’m keen to know if you do go for the extension option – the space already looks great and it can only enhance it x

    1. Thank you Becky!

      Your comment has really got me thinking. We have a garage which we use as a utility room/dumping ground…I’m wondering if we could knock through and convert part of it into kitchen space, instead of extending out into the garden? (There’s just the small matter of the downstairs loo to think of which sits in between the garage and the kitchen?!). Definitely food for thought, thank you.

      Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy/the birth. Get some rest if you can! x

  4. Hi Lisa, Yes, we have just finished almost this exact project about a month ago. Based on my own experience, it is so so worth it. We moved into a fixer upper when I was 35 weeks pregnant (bit foolish but I’d first child so didn’t know what I was doing!) which included an unliveable kitchen- the type with carpet that if you spill water onto it just sits on top so you can clean it up- revolutionised the 70s apparently!
    Anyway, when our son was then 4 months we started a knock through of our kitchen and dining room and extension our three metres with a vaulted ceiling, extra large veluxes and bifold doors.
    Like others have said we had to downscale our plans (we had a new kitchen as well) as it was pricey. But we transformed two tiny rooms into a 6m x 6m large kitchen / dining / living space which my son (now crawling) loves and we can entertain in.
    Originally we were told it would take 3 months- it took 5. Major hold ups were the kitchen (out of our builders control and after they had finished their work) and our bifolds being built.
    Because of the way the project was completed, a box built on the back of the house (this does steal all your light though) knock through at the last moment, I didn’t find this project too hard to deal with but as others have said the dust produced is phenomenal.
    Good luck with your plans, I hope it all goes smoothly!

    1. This kitchen carpet sounds…um…interesting!

      It’s nice to hear that such a project was manageable even with a tiny baby. And it sounds so worth it. x

  5. We toyed with the idea of having an extension on our kitchen, we live in a terraced house and all our neighbours have got extensions done at various different times. We got quotes for the work, including knocking through from our existing kitchen, and also got the structural engineer round to draw up plans as we didn’t need planning permission. In the end, with a new kitchen (on the budget side, not all singing all dancing!) it would have cost us £20k, and that’s if it didn’t go over budget. Then we knew we would also have a mess of a garden to get sorted afterwards so more money to spend. We finally decided it was too much to spend when this isn’t our forever home, and although we would have loved to do it and make the house last us an extra couple of years, at £10k a year we realised we should be using that money to spend on the next House. I think I will always wonder ‘what if’, though! Xx

    1. Wow. £20k is a LOT of money.

      Really sensible points that I am going to raise with Rich later. Until you and Sara mentioned it I hadn’t even considered the cost of sorting out the garden again x

  6. We had the same dilemma since we moved in and finally decided against it. It’s not the wisest use of our money and we would never recoup the cost. Instead, we have paid a kitchen designer to redesign our kitchen and get the most out of the space. Our kitchen is roughly 6m x 3m, so is quite narrow, with 4 doors, 2 Windows a chimney breast and a pantry eating into the space. I also use it as a music area and have a digital piano and studio speakers in here, along with tons of sheet music. I wanted more worktop space, better layout and flow, more light, a defined eating area seperate from the kitchen area which can fit quite a few people and a better way of incorporating the music stuff. The designer absolutely nailed it. Our new kitchen will have a dining area which could fit 9 at a push if I buy the right table.

    Would that be an option for you? We used ‘one plan’ on houzz. She does general space planning as well as kitchen design and came up with all sorts of ideas outside of just planning the kitchen.

  7. I’ve spoken about our extension a bit in these comments before, and my first advice is to make sure you really trust anyone doing any work for you. Like most of the others above we had to change our plans a bit, both for budget and to keep our neighbours happy, and there was a lot of back and forth with the guy doing the plans for us who needed chasing up at every single turn – delaying things massively.

    And yes, the upheaval can be huge, especially when you’re dealing with small things. Whilst the building work was finished months ago, we’re still not actually finished, due to a huge delay getting the new kitchen fitted (seriously, we kicked off the process in June, and someone is putting in the cabinets as I type) – and in that time our sweet little, just crawling 1 year old has become a small, walking toddler who wants to get into everything. Yesterday there was a lot of frustration at the fact that the door to the kitchen had to be closed, because it has become her favourite place to run around in.

    But, having had time to adjust to the space – it is SO worth it. Obviously we’re really looking forward to the practicalities of having a proper kitchen back, with a sink that doesn’t wobble and a dishwasher that’s actually plumbed in instead of being shoved in the understairs cupboard, but we are already so happy with it, and how it allows us to live how we imagined we would – things like sitting down at the table as a family.

    1. SO many considerations! We get on well with our neighbours so I would hate anything to change that. And you’re right – absolutely essential that we trusted the people doing the work.

      Fingers crossed your sparkling new kitchen is completed soon for you. x

      1. Thanks – the sneak peeks I’ve been doing so far today are looking really good. We should have a working sink again by the end of the day!

  8. We’re about to do just this. We toyed with the idea of moving as our house is a 2 bed new build terraced, however we are in amazing school catchment on a lovely close with brilliant neighbours – to buy a bigger 3 bed in the same area would be out of budget so instead we are adding a small warm roof extension with velux windows to the rear for a separate dining space and a large loft conversion at the same time. It’ll mean we have great size rooms throughout, with the only compromise being we’ll be left with a courtyard garden. As long as we’re clever with space hopefully it won’t be an issue for our kids especially as we’re surrounded by lots of playing fields.

    1. Such a similar situation Hannah. We live in good school catchments so are loathe to move. And opposite a park which feels like an extension of our garden at times, so it’s not the end of the world that our actual garden isn’t massive.

      Good luck with yours. It sounds mega x

  9. It is definitely worthwhile, but as others have said it can be unjustifiably expensive and causes an awful lot of upheaval. Living in my tiny shoebox in London, it meant that we were effectively doubling the size of our kitchen by doing our side return and extending out by 3m (the limit in our area). Our garden is the size of a postage stamp, but it was before we extended and now we have just made good use of it instead. It took us from March starting with the architect to finally getting the kitchen properly finished in mid-December (oh and I had a baby at the end of October in that year, nothing like extra stress!!!). It takes a long time, it causes untold dust and destruction to the rest of your house no matter how careful your builders are, but the end result is more than worth it. We have sliding doors as the frames are much slimmer, and enormous rooflights, but glazing causes a massive cost. And definitely definitely find somewhere to rehouse all your larder stuff. While you may not like your current arrangement, storage (probably double what you think you need) is invaluable. I can guarantee it will annoy you more if you end up with no storage for all that stuff you somehow accumulate. I like previous commenters’ ideas of creative use of existing space, utility rooms and underused garage spaces etc. Toilets are not impossible to move and may be a relatively small cost in the grand scheme of things. Look at your property searches when you bought – where are the drains, will you have to move anything or get permission to build over (can’t remember the technical terms, but I do recall that this can be an issue!!) as this can add to costs and serious time delays. Consider how much steel you will need to support the extension as well if you go ahead, would you be happy with a steel post in your room or do you want it all to be floating, in which case prepare to shell out for some serious steel. I fell into the latter camp, it is definitely worthwhile but not a cheap undertaking… Lots of things to consider, but I’m sure you will come up with a lovely idea!

    1. Thanks for such an in-depth response Annie. Your space sounds fab! Lots of things to mull over before the architect comes on Saturday. (Definitely DON’T want a steel post in the middle of the room)!

      Oh and happy birthday to your bubba x

  10. I like the garage idea. We are currently saving in order to move house in the next year or so and the majority of houses in one of the two areas we are keen on come with garages – but the useless kind you can barely swing a cat in, never mind use for a car. I am keen on looking at these houses with the view to converting the garage into the kitchen of dreams, or a playroom if little ones come along.

    I”m currently in a tiny terrace and we recently holidayed in a pretty cottage with a kitchen/diner, and we were amazed that we spent most of our time in that room. Because of this the living room felt much more relaxing in the evening. We now know that our future house must have the scope for a kitchen/diner.

    I think you should go for putting in extra space. Your will only need more space as your babies grow – and think of all the pretty birthday/christmas etc table decoation (dirty enabling!)

    1. Good idea to view prospective houses with a plan of converting the garage in mind.

      The kitchen really is the heart of the home isn’t it?!

      Pretty birthday and Christmas table decorating…I don’t need convincing 😉

  11. Biggest question to ask yourself is do *definitely* see yourself staying there long term – i.e. over 5+ years? Currently having a similar dilemma with our victorian style house (and their very dense wall divides!), and have been struggling to decide whether its best financially (and stress wise!) do the full-on side return extension when we know their may be a chance we’ll move in about 5 years’ time, or knock-through the kitchen and dinner as the size it is to make more over an open wide-ish L shape space to make the most of what we’ve already got. Think we decided on opting for the latter, and save big investments for any future final moves…. although saying that after seeing my most recent quotes for work involved in what I thought would be a straightforward knock through, seems nothing house-related right now is particularly cheap! 😀

    Good luck!


  12. Your inspo is yummy, definitely do it if it gets you your dream table. I only rent so can’t speak to such things but little things definitely make a huge difference. Can’t wait to see the result.

  13. I might be a little controversial here, but have you put some serious thought into re-designing the existing space. I don’t mean knocking down internal walls but maybe there might be a better layout for the kitchen? Also – I know the lounge space is beautiful – but could you get away with something a bit simpler/more compact that will give you space for the larger table? Things like fixing your TV onto the wall can remove the need for a cabinet to sit the TV on and free up floor space. It is very easy to expand to fill out the space you have and think you need more, but before spending the big £££, really do consider whether than is truly the answer!
    We finished ~1yr ago a huge project on our house. We bought a project and while we did add some floor space via and extension, the huge improvements came though changing layout to make the most of the space – and this was big work (i.e. moving location of staircase) – but similar principle may work for you. We had a architect come and look at the space and his insight was wonderful – he saw things that we never would have. My 3-D space visualization is terrible!
    Good luck with the mulling/decision making!

    1. Wow…shifting a staircase in this house would mean the whole of the upstairs having to be reconfigured!

      We have an architect coming on Saturday, I’m hoping she’s going to pull something out the bag.

      Thank you for the good luck wishes 🙂

  14. We built a small extension on our new build terrace house a number of years ago and it was the best thing we ever did. Although it’s a fairly small extension it still doubled the size of both our kitchen and dining room and didn’t take up too much of the garden. We saved money by not moving the plumbing and gas. Why is it that builders don’t know that everyone needs room in their kitchen for appliances even if the house is small?

  15. We added a small infill glass roofed kitchen and bathroom in part of L shaped garden years ago – it was worth it but builders went over time by six months !!!! I did it cheaply as thats all I had and I now am fixing it all thats ten years later. So advice would be make sure you sort the heating as lots of glass is cold and the lights as well and the right size fridge and freezer etc ( out fridge is too small we didnt have a child then ) So worth it but it is super stressful so take kids away for long period. An if you will need a party wall agreement that a whole other story the agreement and the wall are costly !

  16. Hi Lisa,
    I had three tiny children in London many moons ago and now spend most of my time re-designing interior space (the actually space rather than decoration). I would say hang on to as much garden as you can – it is where your children will spend most of their time. Kiss goodbye to a perfect interior – you have little ones and family life is about fun and not worrying about everything being perfect. Take it from me they leave home before you know it and much better to have memories of a messier house – making glue out of flour and water and turning egg boxes into caterpillars than you will of puffing up cushions in the attempt to hang onto a perfect home! Look at the building you actually have. If you have a garage then absolutely go down that route. Moving a kitchen from one side of the house to the other really doesn’t have to cost the earth. We knocked down a wall, dug up the whole kitchen floor, moved the staircase, replastered the ground floor of our house and built a kitchen out of old science block worktops for less than £15,000. Look carefully to see if the garage could actually become the kitchen perhaps – big roof light maybe? Loos are always more difficult to move with the soil pipe so try and leave that where it is – you could look at moving the door. What ever you do, choose every single fixture and fitting, tile and door handle and do not change your mind. That way you find the best prices because you have more time. Last minute decisions and change is what normally pushes the project price up. Good luck!

    1. This is fab advice, thanks Becca. We have kind of come to a similar conclusion…I think we are just going to remove the larder unit! This decision will probably have saved us thousands! x

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