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Restoring an historic home in conservation area

The gated private road, Rose Walk is probably the most sought-after on the Webb Estate in Purley, Surrey. The well-known Estate was the work of William Webb who bought the land in 1888 and set about creating a ‘Garden Village’ in the suburbs for city workers. It was meticulously designed and is now a conservation area. Mr. and Mrs. Grundman bought their beautiful house there over four years ago, but neither the interior nor exterior really suited their taste and they felt the layout did not use the space to its full potential.

Mr. Grundman had engaged GJE Construction on a previous development, Quadrant House, in Thornton Heath, and had been so pleased with the results he was happy to entrust the company with his own home, although this time it was to be Julie Grundman who was driving the project.

The house was  built in the early 1900s in a mock Tudor style and the more recent addition of low ceilings and beams did not sit well with Julie who has a more minimalist style.

“The house was very much a mixture of styles and I wanted to create a more contemporary open feel by reintroducing the high ceilings, ornate coving and high skirtings.  The false ceilings, oak beams and faux wood panelling needed to go and the design returned to the simplicity of its art deco origins. I had had some initial drawings done,but had a clear idea about how the house could work.”

GJE Construction’s Project Manager, Michael Oxlade came to look at the house and met several times with Julie to discuss the designs in detail. Additionally, because work done to the house by previous owners had compromised the structure, there was a great deal of structural work required.

“We needed to do a full refurbishment, stripping out all the fixtures and fittings and starting again,” Michael explains. “There was also an issue within the second floor: the previous refurbishment had removed two bedrooms on the first floor to create an ‘open’ gallery area which was not properly supported. This created movement in the front of the house causing the loft floor to sag, great cracks to appear in the walls and the floors to become uneven.”

The open plan look that Julie was keen to achieve would involve extensive timber and steelwork so GJE Construction engaged a structural engineer to finalise the design.

“We removed many internal structural walls and added an extension to the kitchen area. We levelled off all the floors and raised some of the ceilings, fitting all the steels within the floor voids so that there were no RSJs visible,” says Michael. “Although it was very invasive to fit the steelwork this way, and it involved many alterations to existing services, the effect was worthwhile and now the structure is sound for future generations.”

Because the Webb Estate is a conservation area GJE Construction had to work within certain restrictions when it came to the exterior of the front of the building, such as replacing the windows.  Internally, however, Julie was free to stamp her family’s individuality, with tiled floors, light airy rooms, open plan kitchen/dining/family area and floor to ceiling glass to the ground floor.

“The budget and timescale were only roughly agreed at the outset and I kept adding elements to the project such as the landscaping,” says Julie.

The house stands in a garden of approximately an acre. Originally split over several different levels, it was largely unusable but after full landscaping Julie’s family now enjoy a large patio area, a level lawn and a very smart new decking area around their refurbished swimming pool.

“Michael was really good at keeping me informed about costs and timing. He was there every day managing the project and letting me know what was happening.”

And Julie is delighted with her beautifully refurbished, historic home.

“I love the house now and I got exactly what I set out to achieve with great service from day one.  I would highly recommend GJE Construction to anyone undertaking this sort of project. They were very flexible and worked with me to achieve what I really wanted.”

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