Restoration, Renovation & Extension, Surrey

Client Brief

Having worked with us on their barn conversion, which they were currently living in, the client wanted us to help them again with both the design and build of a full refurbishment and extension of another property, a grange house, which was to be their new home as well. They planned to eventually rent out their barn and move into the grange.

The Project

The grange house was originally designed as a vicarage by Thomas MacLaren (1863-1928), a Scottish architect who went on to have a career on the other side of the Atlantic, particularly in Colorado Springs and Boulder, where he became a noteworthy architect taking on commissions such as the City Hall and the University of Colorado.

The property required substantial work including structural repairs, new windows and doors, new roof coverings, a part attic conversion and an extension.  Inside, rewiring was required as well as a new plumbing and heating system, internal alterations, renewal and repair of plaster and redecorating. We also added ensuite bathrooms to many of the bedrooms, altered internal layouts and added additional windows.

The property’s previous owners had obtained planning consent for a modernist extension, which was largely glass with a solid flat roof. However, our client didn’t feel this design worked for them and was looking for alternatives. We designed and presented some options for an extension that related better to the house and their requirements.

The design of the extension required careful thought and planning. The preferred location was on the north side of the house meaning that it sat in the shade cast by the tall structure of the grange.  To maximise light, we designed tall windows and a bespoke rooflight that sat at the highest point of the extension roof to allow the greatest amount of sunlight possible to flood the space.

The extension also provided a new utility room and ground floor WC. The brief was carefully developed at the planning and design stage prior to works beginning on site. Such care prior to commencing work often prevents post-start changes, which might be made in haste and at greater expense.

The age of the property meant that a lot of specialist work was required; we used one of our approved stonemasons to repair the existing lintels, windowsills and the original projecting stone string course. The original three-part skirting boards were an important feature so care was taken in their replication and fitting, which was carried out on site. The original cornicing was also templated on site to enable exact copies to be fitted to areas where it was damaged or missing.


The extension required careful consideration to position it in the client’s preferred spot, while also ensuring it gained enough light and felt part of the home. We’re very experienced in understanding how to maximise light in buildings and rooms, building them in a way that they blend into the main property, so our client was very pleased with our suggestions.


The brief was to turn a rambling and dated late Victorian grange into a warm and welcoming family home fit for 21st century living. Key to this was the extension, which needed to incorporate a light and modern kitchen, and be a part of the home that was to be central to family life.
We were proud to have achieved all the above.

What the client said…

“The grange was a Victorian rectory built in 1892. The previous owner had not updated the property since around 1967/68 and so it included lots of original features from that time including the kitchen, an oil-fired boiler in the cellar that looked like it could power a liner, and even things like silk curtains and carpets from the 60s which must have been stunning in their time.

There were no showers in the house, no insulation and just slate tiles on the roof, and single pane windows. Our children actually used to get ice on the inside of their bedroom windows – the heating bills were unbelievable! So there was a huge amount of work to do.

Having seen the amazing job Vernacular Homes had done on our barn conversion, we knew we wanted them to work on this project too.

We extended the tiny kitchen, doubling its size and added the sympathetic extension with new apexes to match the original ones. The existing plans were for a very modern extension which we just didn’t feel would work. So we discussed it with Vernacular Homes and came up with a much better design that just blends with the house.

We also had new ground source heating installed which involved digging kilometres of piping, and had new plumbing and wiring installed.

We wanted to maintain as many features as we could so we opened up three fireplaces and rather than refurbishing the original windows, which would’ve been prohibitive in terms of cost, we instead installed bespoke timber framed replacements – 50 in total.

All of this had to go through planning which Vernacular Homes was enormously helpful with. I think the planners were happy that we were keeping the façade, and bringing the property up to modern standards without destroying the features.

Throughout the project, the nice thing about working with the team was the constant communication; they took so much of the stress away from me. Getting trades in during covid was really difficult and I imagine the site manager, Ashley, was pulling his hair out, but I would never have known because he just managed that with the staff. Having someone on site like him is invaluable. I’ve seen people attempt to project manage a build themselves and encounter constant problems with subcontractors involving huge time and cost overruns, so I never wanted to do it myself. To keep on top of all the trades and understand if they’re carrying out work exactly as they should be, you really need that experience. Having said that, all of the trade teams were fantastic. I’ve had Vernacular Homes’ painters come back afterwards and do work for me because I’ve rated their painting – in fact, I always go back to them for recommendations for trades. I’ve worked with a number of them and I know the work they can produce.

The house is now a 5000 sqm, seven bedroom, six bathroom property. We also transformed the attic room into accommodation for our au pair, with her own bathroom. The whole team has done an amazing job. I’ve worked with contractors before on renovations who have been difficult, but everyone was so easy to work with and the finish is just exceptional.”

Our views on the project…

“Having already converted a barn for this client, we were delighted to be asked to work on this period renovation.

The project required a lot of carefully considered and sympathetic renovation and design work, but the end result is a stunning family home. We were thrilled to be asked to work with the client again on their next project, the dairy.”

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