The brief for alterations to a listed building
Chestnuts is a Grade II Listed three-storey farmhouse located in West Malling, Kent. The host dwelling dates back to the 16th century and features a sizeable extension from the 1930’s. With its quaint projecting bays and exposed timber frames, the period home is part of the West Malling Conservation Area.
The current owners were looking to expand the existing conservatory and provide open plan living in the main house.
Planning and Listed Building Consent for alterations to Grade II Listed Buildings in Kent are not easy to obtain. At James Clague Architects, we specialise in finding practical, yet aesthetically-pleasing, solutions which provide the perfect compromise between modern living and preservation of historic fabric. Our long-standing expertise allowed us to bring our clients’ ideas to life.
The owners of Chestnuts deeply care for their remarkable period country home. However, they wanted to remove a wall in the existing extension, which would allow them to move effortlessly between the kitchen and dining room. They also needed some extra space in the conservatory to create a utility area. Finally, they wanted to improve their slightly crowded kitchen layout.
Choosing James Clague Architects
The clients employed James Clague Architects to find a creative solution to their modern needs. Having deep knowledge of the local architectural history and listing protection regulations, we were the right firm for this challenging project.
To satisfy the clients’ brief, we produced multiple plans and applications. We applied for an additional porch, the removal of an internal wall, alterations to the existing kitchen, and changes to the access gate. All alterations were approved successfully.
The extension alterations
To expand the existing extension, we designed a porch to the side of the conservatory. This was built in ragstone, red bricks, wood framing, and clay tiles, so it seamlessly blends in with the rest of the property.
The porch provides a transitional space between the house and the garden for storing boots, coats, and logs. The new space is versatile for all year round use, and is separated from the rest of the conservatory by a stable door, which acts as a thermal barrier.
In the conservatory itself, we added an oak partition screen to create a discrete utility area. This enhanced the relaxing environment of the existing snug. The utility work units match those in the adjacent kitchen; while the screen complements the character of the conservatory.
The internal wall removal
To create open plan living, we designed an opening between the kitchen and dining room, allowing more natural light through. Now the owners can move effortlessly between the two rooms and spend time together while preparing a meal. The visual link between the dining room, kitchen, and garden is much improved, too. The garden is now visible from the dining room, making the family feel more connected with their surroundings.
The wall removal also allowed for improved heat flow from the wood stove located in the dining room, which in turn helps preserve the timber inside the house.
The kitchen alterations
To make the kitchen more spacious, we reconfigured some of the cupboards and the fridge recessed into the wall behind it, which previously belonged to the bathroom. Making these small alterations has enabled the family to move freely around the kitchen, which is a big improvement to their daily lives.
In addition to these modifications, we received consent for the replacement of the boiler and the re-routing of the boiler flue, as well as the substitution and relocation of the hot water tank.
The pedestrian access gate
Finally, the family wanted to add a pedestrian gate to their property, as it previously only featured a vehicle access gate, which was inconvenient to use on foot. However, the ragstone walls surrounding Chestnuts form a key feature within the West Malling Conservation Area. Removing even a small section of them would have harmed the character and appearance of the area and building.
We therefore redesigned the existing vehicle access gate to incorporate a door for pedestrian access. The compromise worked very well, as it’s both practical and aesthetically-pleasing.
The approval process and build
The clients were aware that this was a complex project, due to the significance of their Grade II Listed Building, so they expected some difficulties and delays. They trusted our well–established expertise and let us guide them through the process and are now very pleased with the results.
The planning stage lasted a few months longer than anticipated, due to staff changes in the planning department. The officer who replaced them didn’t support the removal of the internal wall between the kitchen and dining room. However, our Heritage Consultant, Anske Bax, was able to provide valid and credible evidence in a written report demonstrating the wall was not original. He submitted this evidence showing that the wall was too smooth, uniform, and thin to date back to the 16th century. This was a significant success in enabling the works to begin and start work onsite.
The works were completed in 2022. Bad weather and supply shortage caused some delays; however the builders and owners were very collaborative and quickly found solutions to overcome the issues.
The client’s feedback
The clients are very pleased with the innovative ways we found to make their ideas come to life. They also appreciated our dedication to making sure the internal wall removal was granted.
At James Clague Architects, we have the expertise and confidence required to satisfy our clients’ needs. We’re committed to finding solutions which satisfy planning policy and meet our clients brief. In many instances, a few small changes can make a big difference. This was definitely the case for Chestnuts.
The clients commented: “We are so happy with the end result and the vastly improved functionality of the house.“ They will enjoy the new features for many years to come.