Room Tour: A Bitty Ground Floor Becomes a Flexible Family Space

The previous owners of architect Angus Eitel’s house in West Sussex had lived in it for 30 years, during which time they’d had a rear extension built – “in quite a clumsy fashion, in my eyes,” says Angus, who runs 50.8 Architecture + Interiors. “The ground floor space didn’t have much logic to it. The kitchen was tiny and the connection with the garden wasn’t great.”

After living in the house for a few years, Angus came up with a solution and redesigned a new ground floor layout and extension.

The view of the east-facing garden was a big factor in the design of the new extension. “There’s a nice aspect to it and the morning light coming in is lovely,” Angus says.

In terms of the design of the kitchen, the key was functionality – not least with kids in the house. “It’s not pristine, they can feel comfortable and relaxed here,” he says. “We also wanted a fairly flexible space that would work for shepherding the three of them out of the door at 7.30 in the morning.”

“One of the problems was the great big column,” Angus explains. “It contained the waste pipes from the bathroom upstairs, as the external wall had originally been there.”

The other issue was the raised floor. “It was an awkward sort of garden room,” he says.

Angus’s new design levelled the floor and relocated the waste pipe. Still, the extension needed structural support and Angus was adamant that everything of that sort should be hidden.

Cleverly, this main support has been integrated into the bank of cupboards. It’s the white strip between the two dark grey blocks, one of which houses a breakfast area, the other the main cooking area.

The kitchen-diner includes a breakfast bar at the island, where the children sit and do their homework while Angus cooks, as well as a large kitchen table and a separate, more formal dining table (just seen through the wide opening on the right). “It works particularly well when other families come over – there’s lots of space for everyone,” Angus says.

The door on the right leads to a utility room, home office and shower room. There’s also a family room in what was the garage, which the children used as a playroom when they were younger and in which they now watch television, while Angus and his wife use the original sitting room on the other side of the house.

“The logic is that this [whole area] can one day become a one-bedroom flat, as it has its own separate entrance,” Angus explains.

“The utility is more like a rear hallway, as it’s the circulation space for accessing these other rooms.”

This zone in the kitchen contains two ovens, a microwave and a warming drawer beneath the hob. The tall blue units are for utensils and pans on the right and food storage on the left. Behind the doors are pull-out metal racks.

The units above the worktop include space for an extractor hood and frequently used cooking ingredients. “I wanted floor-to-ceiling cupboards,” Angus says. “I didn’t want to create a dust trap or have any storage on display.” The splashback is stainless-steel

“We wanted a big island, something that had some presence,” Angus says. “Our previous house had a small island – people always gravitated towards it and it wasn’t big enough.

“There’s no hob or sink on this island – it’s effectively a prep, eating and homework area,” he says. “We consciously designed clear zones for the kitchen, so all the individual functions beyond that – washing up, cooking and so on – happen in different parts of the room.

The island does, however, house two undercounter fridges and an undercounter freezer, along with a set of drawers for utensils. Behind the stools, there’s 600mm-deep storage for non-everyday items, such as a food processor and a smoothie-maker.

The block of units against the right-hand wall mirrors the two on the opposite side of the room, which, in turn, mirror each other. This bank of units contains the sink and conceals the dishwasher and bins.

On the other side of the room, closest to the garden, is the breakfast area. It has a coffee machine, a toaster, a boiling-water tap and a mini sink. The cupboards store crockery, glasses, teacups and so on.

The view of the garden is framed by sliding doors. “The middle pane is fixed and the left and right sides slide over it. It works well with the layout and position of the table,” Angus says.

At the other end of the room is a drinks cabinet to match the grey kitchen units. It also houses the children’s craft equipment, tablecloths and the like. The artwork belongs to Angus, who says he’s “a little bit obsessive” about cycling.