The Federation of Master Builders

Bringing Light to Life

Turning a dark galley kitchen into a bright, useable living space proved no trouble for Cardiff building firm Project One Wales.

The brief was to create a bold, modern extension opening on to a decked area in the garden, allowing clients Emma and Jonathan Spiller to keep an eye on three-year-old daughter Annabelle as she played.

There was plenty of unrealised potential in the ex-council 1950s three-bed semi in Penarth, so at the beginning of 2014 the Spillers approached several local building firms for quotes.

"We decided pretty much straight away that we were going to use Dorian and Babette Bowen at Project One," said Emma.

The scheme entailed demolishing the back wall and doubling the kitchen length to 8m. Babette, an interior architect, drew up plans which included pantry and breakfast bar.

Emma and Jonathan weren't entirely sure about that pantry, but it is now the envy of visitors. They had also pictured French doors opening out into the garden… but Dorian suggested bi-folds, and the difference in natural light has been incredible.

The old dark kitchen barely had room for a high chair, but now Annabelle, nearly 3, and her friends ride their trikes round the central working island, built by Project One's joinery section.

The firm handled planning permission and building inspections, and were on-site at 8am every day.

Midway through came the unpleasant discovery of rising damp. The house was built on potash and earth which was, said Dorian, "good enough to plant potatoes in", so step one involved the laying of a new insulated slab.

The work was finished in time and on budget to enjoy 2014's excellent summer.

But the real joy is inside. "The best thing Dorian suggested was the pantry; I'd never have thought of it," said Emma. "Everyone who comes over says they wish they had one."

It removed the need for an endless run of storage cupboards, making the lines of the finished kitchen much cleaner.

Natural light floods the kitchen, and ceiling-recessed downlighters create the right ambiance. "We're big into lighting design," said Dorian, who also devised sensor-activated lights in both pantry and utility room, to avoid having to operate switches with full hands.

"The kitchen flows on to the decking, which flows on to the grass; it's great," said Emma, who says the only problem is that the new kitchen area is so nice it shows up the rest of the house!

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