How an accident led to a U-turn

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.
Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.
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A motorcycle accident prompted this transformation from dated bungalow to contemporary home. Heather Dixon reports. Pictures by Jeremy Phillips.

Philip Russell might never have renovated a property if it hadn’t been for a motorbike accident that nearly killed him. “I was recovering in hospital and rethinking my future when a friend brought me a self-build magazine to read. I decided that when I was back on my feet I would do more with my life – and that would include renovating a property,” he says.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Ten years later he kept his resolution and, with his wife Natalie, bought a dated 1960s bungalow near Leeds with the aim of turning it from a traditional three-bedroom home into a modern, open-plan property.

“A couple of sales had fallen through and the price was reduced by £50,000 by the time we bought it,” says Philip. “The original plan was to convert just the front section of the bungalow, where the living room was, and give it a modern facelift, but a friend suggested flipping the property round, building an extension at the back and having the kitchen overlooking the garden.”

They paid an architect to draw up a simple redesign from which the final plans emerged. They included an open-plan extended kitchen, living and dining area and adjoining study, with bi-fold doors opening onto the back garden. The old living room at the front of the house would become the main bedroom. The old flat-roof kitchen extension would be demolished and the rest of the kitchen area turned into a house bathroom. The original bathroom was transformed into a spacious entrance hall. There would also be a new single garage and a walled garden with a resin aggregate patio.

Their plans were passed without a hitch and of the three builders who quoted for the job one, Dominic Moss of Castleford, stood out as someone who would be reliable and fair.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Natalie and Philip lived in the bungalow while it was renovated, camping out in a single room and creating temporary walls for privacy when the old bathroom became the builders’ main thoroughfare.

“We created a new front door which, for a while, opened straight onto the bath and toilet, so we were very imaginative and created makeshift walls with large pieces of cardboard,” says Natalie. “The bath provided our only source of running water for a few weeks so we washed up in there as well.”

The renovation began with Philip stripping out the internal fittings and putting the contents of the garage – including much of their furniture – into a storage container in the front garden. The old garage was then knocked down to create access to the back of the house.

The old kitchen extension was also demolished and 30 skip loads of rubble removed from site. Next the concrete raft footings for the extension across the back of the bungalow were dug out ready for the building of Marley Rochester brick and breeze-block walls.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

The old room layout was reversed and the new extension created an open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting room. This also meant taking out inside walls and installing lintels “everywhere” to create the new framework.

Three months into the project Natalie, who by this time was expecting their first child, gave up work and was spending more and more time among the chaos. As work progressed she and Philip moved from room to room, taking the upheaval in their stride.

“At one point the electricity was off and we were cooking with a head torch on,” says Natalie. “We just saw the whole thing as an adventure. It was really good fun.”

The new plumbing went in and the walls were insulated and plastered before oak wood and tiled floors were laid ready for the fitting of the new kitchen and bathrooms. An office/bedroom was built at the back of the integrated garage so that it, too, could benefit from bi-fold doors overlooking the garden.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

“During the building of the extension we realised there was space above the garage to create another small room,” adds Philip, who went back to planning to apply for an amendment to the original plans. “There isn’t much headroom but by using the right trusses we were able to create a useful space which can be used for storage or as a den.”

The original part of the property and the extension were then tiled with slate to create a seamless, modern finish. When it came to sourcing building materials and furniture for the new-look bungalow, Philip and Natalie spent hours on the internet looking for the best deals and finding some money-saving bargains in the process. With the remodel complete, they turned their attention to the garden where they had a new brick wall built on three sides and designed gravel paths, a resin aggregate patio and lawns to complement the clean, modern lines of the property.

“We wanted a cool, modern grey palette for the render to match the grey kitchen inside, and then added cedar cladding for warmth and contrast,” says Philip. “We wanted to show that a traditional, quite dated bungalow could be transformed into a modern home without radically altering its basic shape. By turning it round and reorganising the rooms we created a light, spacious, open-plan home which gives the bungalow a radical new image.”

The project not only transformed the property, it changed Philip and Natalie’s lives and they have just moved to America where they are planning to build a new home. “It whet our appetite,” says Philip. “The accident was a terrible thing, but it’s changed our lives for the better in ways we could never have imagined.”

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.

Philip Russell transformed this dated bungalow into a contemporary home.