When Polly and Oli Geal started looking for a new home eight years ago, they wanted a place they could improve and extend.
‘Our son Raff was a baby and we were living in a flat in Wimbledon Village, but we knew prices for houses were high there and that we needed to look further out.’
The couple searched in Surrey and south-west London, and were attracted to Isleworth, on the River Thames.
‘We saw a three-bedroom house over two floors with a tiny galley kitchen and realised we could transform it into a substantial house in an area we love, close to a park and the river.’
Welcome to our home…
We are Polly Geal, 37, a photographer (littlekin.co.uk); Oli, 38, a creative director; and our son, Raff, eight, and daughter, Elsie, six.
Our home is a four-bedroom Edwardian terraced house, which we moved into in 2012, in Isleworth, south-west London.
Once they’d secured the house, the couple put in plans for a large extension out into the garden at the back of the property to create the open-plan kitchen-diner they craved.
The build started the following summer and it wasn’t just the kitchen-diner that changed.
‘We decided to make the whole of the downstairs one big space, with the living room at the front, a relaxing space with a sofa and a desk in the middle, and the kitchen-diner at the back with access to the garden.’
It was a big upheaval, but Polly and Oli were determined to make it happen. ‘There were people who thought we were mad to do so much work, but we could envisage the finished result.’
The following year, their daughter, Elsie, was born and they began the renovation of the main bathroom.
But the work didn’t stop there: other projects since then have included changing the garden and decorating the bedrooms.
But two years ago, with the children growing fast and fed up of sharing one bathroom, the couple began to think about a loft conversion to provide more space. ‘We felt we were outgrowing the house, which was a real shame, as we’ve renovated every inch of it, so we had to find a solution or move.’
A bit more about our home…
My top tip is To use natural materials and earthy colours to create calm. I love mixing up pieces in wicker, wood, linen and ceramics. Also, baskets work really well for storing toys, toilet rolls, make-up and blankets, and act as decorative features.
My favourite room is The kitchen-diner and our bedroom have equal first place. Both have amazing light and sense of space, and were rooms we created from scratch.
The loft was large with a good height, so the plan became more serious in the spring of 2018, and the couple started to look at their finances and get their ideas together.
A friend of Polly’s had employed a local company, Ash Island Lofts in Chiswick, to do draw up architectural drawings and plans, so Polly and Oli asked them around to mull over ideas for their project.
‘We got on really well with them and realised we’d be really happy if they did the whole build from start to finish.
‘We put it out to tender and their quote was competitive, so we booked them to start.’
As the house is in a conservation area, the couple knew there was no chance of having a dormer on the front of the house, facing the street, so it would need to be at the back.
‘We’d initially thought about putting two smaller bedrooms up in the loft and adding another bathroom on the first floor. But the architect said we’d add more value if we made the loft a master suite, with a large bedroom and en suite.’
But the couple overruled the architect on the layout.
‘He suggested the bathroom should be partly in the dormer, which would give us an L-shaped bedroom. But we wanted the large space to be the bedroom with a view over the garden and the bathroom to be in the eaves at the front of the house.’
With the shell of the structure completed in the 16-week time frame, Polly was keen to tackle storage first.
‘I wanted to add big, built-in, floor-to-ceiling cupboards to the right of the dormer and to use the dead space under the eaves so I could store towels and toiletries. I found a great local carpenter, who did exactly what I asked for, plus he put a hidden cupboard in the bathroom and did it all for £1,200.’
A spacious feel to the conversion was one of Polly and Oli’s main aims and the flooring was a big consideration. ‘I didn’t want anything dark, but I love natural materials, so wood was always going to be my choice rather than tiles or carpet.’
After searching through hundreds of different oaks online, Polly finally found the one she wanted at Quick Step. ‘It’s got a real lime-washed feel, which fits with the Scandi style and it’ll only get better with age.’
The paint colours and furnishings were as important to Polly as the flooring. ‘My idea of a nightmare conversion is a modern box stuck on top of a lovely old house, so I set out to make it feel as if it had always been there, by using natural materials and muted, subtle colours, as well as adding plenty of texture.’
With the finishing touches added at the end of last year, Polly and Oli have been taking a rest from renovations. ‘We’re so happy with our sanctuary upstairs. We’ve put the story of our house on Instagram, @thishouseourhome. Adding the loft means we don’t have to move now, or possibly ever.’