Houzz Tour: A 1980s Home Updated for a Family’s Modern Lifestyle

An important part of an architect’s job is to get to know the client in order to design a home that perfectly suits their needs and lifestyle. So when architect Angus Eitel took on the task of renovating a new home for his sister, he was pretty confident he could create a space that worked perfectly for her and her two boys.

The result is a light, cosy house that makes the most of its beautiful location in the East Sussex countryside.

Angus Eitel’s sister was reluctant to take on a renovation project when she began house-hunting after her divorce. “She was downsizing and wanted somewhere to move into straight away,” he says. “She’d looked at a much smaller property nearby, but as she has two active boys, it was clear she’d soon outgrow it.” When she saw this house on a 1980s development in Lewes, it needed updating. So she and Angus visited a couple of renovated properties nearby to gauge the home’s potential. “Once she’d seen the other houses and done the maths, she was convinced it was cheaper to take on the project,” Angus says.

The original property had a small hallway that led through to a living and dining room, with a separate room for the kitchen. Angus opened up the space by removing the walls around the kitchen.

At the back there was a low-roofed conservatory with a polycarbonate plastic roof. “It covered the windows in the kitchen and dining room, so you couldn’t see out,” Angus says.

The team removed the conservatory and installed a wide, sliding door across the back wall to reveal beautiful views of the valley beyond.

“I chose sliding doors to minimise the framing and maximise the view,” Angus says. “They’re the widest sliding doors you can get at a mid-range price, and the contractors were quite nervous about fitting them, as they didn’t have rear access.”

There were some faux mouldings on arched alcoves in the living room, and a gas fire in the centre. Angus removed the fussy details and squared off the tops for a more streamlined look.

He then fitted simple plywood shelves in the alcoves and a small wood-burning stove in the fireplace. Two pendant lights either side add interest to the space.

“We stripped the floor back to its original timber, but it wasn’t particularly nice and there was a concrete floor in the kitchen area,” Angus says. “So we laid bleached engineered flooring throughout the open-plan space and the hallway.”

Angus’s sister chose a flat-fronted, practical kitchen, which very much suits her style. “She’s a personal trainer and enjoys making nutritious food,” says Angus. “The uncluttered look suits her organised personality and clean, fresh lifestyle.”

Interior designer Clare Pascoe fitted the kitchen and used her know-how to solve the challenge of working in enough storage.

“The kitchen itself was the biggest challenge, because we wanted to take down walls and still have a meaningful dining area,” says Angus. “There’s an integrated dishwasher, fridge-freezer and washing machine in the space, so it was important to have some overflow storage.”

It was Clare’s idea to fit the tall kitchen units behind the living room sofa, and make a feature of them by painting the cabinets, the wall behind and the hall door an inky blue.

The simple dining area looks out onto the garden and the countryside beyond. “As there isn’t really anywhere else to put the dining table, we took the opportunity to fit a large, dramatic pendant directly above it,” says Angus.

The original front door had ornate faux mouldings around it, which Angus was keen to remove. “We took off the surround, tidied up the brickwork and put in a smart door,” he says.

The large windows were in pretty good condition already. “The quality of light is one of the nicest features in the house, especially now the conservatory isn’t blocking it at the back,” Angus says.

A new staircase was added directly above the existing one to lead up to the loft. In order to accommodate this, the builders had to move the wall of the small front room slightly.

An airing cupboard sits between two bedroom doors – behind this, in the back bedroom, were two fitted wardrobes. Angus removed these and extended the back of the airing cupboard slightly.

The front and back bedrooms belong to the two boys, who were given free rein to design their own spaces. They kitted the rooms out with practical Ikea furniture and their own decorative items.

A grey wool carpet covers the floor of the two upper storeys.

Above the front door is a study – Angus’s sister runs her own business, so it’s helpful to have a dedicated space for admin and planning. Although the wall in here was moved forward to accommodate the loft stairs, there’s still enough room to fit a single bed if needs be.
Angus replaced all the internal doors in the property with robust fire doors. Each one is covered with linear timber panelling.
The bathroom at the end of the hall is mainly used by the two boys. Angus changed the layout in here to work more efficiently.
“The room is mainly used for showering, but we wanted to keep the bath,” says Angus. So he chose an L-shaped model with a large shower area at one end and an extra lip on the shower screen to enclose it.

The bathroom isn’t overlooked at all, so Angus took the opportunity to replace the rippled glass with a clear, black-framed window to make the most of the view. The roller blind can be pulled down for privacy.

The back wall has been built out to hide the cistern and a Caesarstone worktop sits on top. “It gives a nice robust surface,” Angus says.

“My sister was very careful about budget,” he adds. “So all the fittings are simple stainless steel. The whole project focused on making the most of the space while being cost-effective and efficient.”
The loft has been converted into a bedroom and en suite for Angus’s sister. “We put a full-width dormer on the back, which gives an amazing view from the bed,” says Angus.
A couple of Velux windows either side of the bed add to the feeling of space, and also provide a view of Lewes Castle.
The en suite is positioned along the dormer wall. “We used the same sanitaryware as downstairs,” says Angus. “But I convinced my sister to go for these dusky pink tiles in the shower area, which she now loves.”
As well as eaves storage behind the bed, Angus designed plywood shelving in the angled alcoves to keep the look simple and open.

“Once the plasterboard was up, we marked out the shelving and played around to make sure it worked with my sister’s items,” he says. “The joiner helped by advising where we needed extra supports and framing.”

The windows give the space lots of ventilation in summer, and the carpet makes it cosy in winter. “We began the project to ensure my sister got an efficient, functional home for a fresh start with the kids,” Angus says. “But I’m also pleased we could give her her own private, cosy space with such a beautiful view.”