My Annexe Plans: How I'm Creating An Art Filled Self Contained Super Space

When we came to view our house, it was empty. There was barely anything in it - the owners had already moved out, the rooms were bare and there was tumbleweed in the hallway. There really is nothing better than viewing a house in this position - not only can you see the spaces for how they really are, you can envisage what you can do with them but also, most importantly, you can say exactly what you want with no fear of being rude. We’d sold our house in Caversham after realising that the North/South house divide could work massively in our favour. We’d seen this one on line - it was within our price range but over double the size of our previous home. As we drove up, the kids announced we were buying it, a decision that was compounded for them once they’d seen that the en suite bathroom had a TV set into the tiles above the bath (sounds glam, but it’s never actually worked and because it’s behind tiles we can’t get it out so actually it’s just a pain in the neck, tbh). It had a separate garage, half of a converted barn (semi detached with the neighbour) that was a storage room on the ground floor and a gym above.

The gym converted to a hang out room. It lasted two weeks. Oh, and I left the table tennis table outside all winter and ruined it and everyone was FURIOUS with me.

The gym converted to a hang out room. It lasted two weeks. Oh, and I left the table tennis table outside all winter and ruined it and everyone was FURIOUS with me.

We bought the house, moved in and immediately flogged the gym equipment on eBay. This was mainly because, although Joe is a total gym addict, he likes the luxury of David Lloyd and the home exercise bike and rowing machine weren’t really doing it for him in terms of hardcore exercise. I, on the other hand, am not a gym addict. Years ago, I worked for StairMaster, an American exercise equipment brand that produced stepping machines. I spent many years explaining to people that I had no involvement with old people in stair lifts, a commonly assumed fact. I managed to go the full four years of employment without stepping on one once, an amazing feat considering I was completely surrounded by them in my workspace.

Anyway, we decided that we would set this newly vacated room up as a teen den - I painted in blackboard paint, bought lots of bean bags and framed cool posters for the walls. I took a photo of my efforts. This is the only memory I have of it looking good as it took less than two weeks and one party for it to be completely destroyed. When it comes to teen parties, I have always been of the opinion that ‘if they’re doing it here, they’re not doing it elsewhere and I know about it’. However, I didn’t quite anticipate how much they would be ‘doing’. Think 15 year olds arriving mid winter wearing no tights (wtf) and Barbie sized clothes, copious Kopparbergs, hardcore grime, broken bannisters, crying girls and a carpet stained with a full bottle of neon green Apple Sourz and you’d be on the right track. From this point on, I refused point blank to enter the room unless in exceptional circumstances such as fire or serious injury and as a result, it looks more like a crack den than the clean cut hang out zone that I’d intended it to be.

A few months ago, I realised that it didn’t have to be like this. Living away from our family, it’s not unusual for us to have five or six people staying at the same time and with one guest room, we are always aware that we could actually do with a bit more room. Combined with the fact that Leo is always furious at being kicked out of his bedroom (last in, first out when guests come), the garage room seemed the perfect mini conversion project. Because it’s already a functional room, it’s not a massive job to make this happen. So what am I going to do?

Yep, it needs work.

Yep, it needs work.

The ground floor, under stairs to the right.

The ground floor, under stairs to the right.

A pit of hell. The room will be divided where the flamingo lights are.

A pit of hell. The room will be divided where the flamingo lights are.

The staircase from top to bottom.

The staircase from top to bottom.


Divide The Space

Currently, the ground floor is a double garage with a large under the stairs cupboard that originally housed a toilet. This space will be divided down the middle with the left hand side being retained as a garage space. We’ll move the current shelving that’s on the right hand side on to the new wall in the left hand space. We’ll still have plenty of storage. To the right hand side, we will knock out the cupboard under the stairs to make extra room. We will install a bathroom to the rear of the space with a sink, toilet and shower. Currently there is a door as you enter the right hand space that goes up the stairs - that will remain but I’ll replace it with a fire door (I’ve had a look already and found some really nice ones). The rest of the downstairs space will be a hallway for storage.

Upstairs, the large room will be divided into two. The far side will be a bedroom and the near side will be a living space. This will include a small kitchenette with a sink and a fridge. It’s only for guests so there’s no need for any additional appliances. I’ve been scouring eBay for a small log burner to put in the living space and there will be double glass doors leading into the bedroom which will make the most of the light.

Knock Out The Ceiling

So currently, the beams have been hidden with a plasterboard ceiling. We’re (bravely as we have no idea what is in there) going to knock this ceiling out and hope to God that there are beams there. If not, we’re going to put struts in that will do the job visually. Dependent upon what we find, I will leave the end of the space which is semi attached as bare brick. It’s hard to know the situation, really, until we’ve done the work. The whole space, both upstairs and downstairs, will be fully reinsulated to make sure it’s warm. I’ll use electric wall hung radiators (that’s what is in there now) for heat, but I’ll be on the hunt for some slightly prettier ones than are installed at the moment.

Replace & Add Windows

Because we are dividing the main room into two, we need to maximise the light. Therefore, I’m going to put an opening roof window on to the right hand side of the room - the space with the living and kitchen area - that will sit above the open staircase. This will allow light to both the staircase and the living room. Currently, there are two small UPVC windows. I’ll replace these with more modern windows in anthracite which will match the doors.

Sand & Paint

Currently, there are two lots of garage doors. The left hand ones we will sand and paint in anthracite and change the door handles. The right hand will be the opening to the space so I will replace one of these doors with a more substantial main door with glass to allow light into the hallway space and bathroom. I’ll add plants to the front and a paved area in front of the door.

Keep It Fresh

Inspired by both The Artists Residence Hotel group and The Artists Pad in Saltburn, I’m going to work with a friend, Craig, who has an urban street art gallery - The Art Of Protest - in York. We’ll add and rotate art on a regular basis which will not only keep the space fresh, but will also be great for photo shoots and guests. I’m super excited about doing this. I’m also going to make sure that I reuse what I have and source as much vintage furniture as possible. Not only is this more economical, it’s also better for the environment, plus I love mixing modern with vintage so the art will really add impact to the space.

A whole load of inspo, from front of the garage to log burner in the open living space.


So that’s it! Work is starting soon, with the downstairs dividing wall being built and the cupboard under the stairs being knocked out. Because we are adjusting current living space, we will be working within building regulations to make sure that the project is compliant. I’ll be working with Mike, who is the same builder who helped me design and plan our family bathroom and he has plenty of space saving and clever ideas to incorporate into the project. Over the next month, I’ll be doing moodboards showing my plans for each element of the space so I’ll keep you updated on my blog. Not only will it be great to have extra room for guests (making Leo particularly happy), but from a work perspective, it will be brilliant for me to have a space suitable for shooting brand campaigns and for inspiring new ideas.

And the deadline? We’re hoping to finish by the time the family arrive for Christmas. No pressure, Mike. And sorry kids, it’s most DEFINITELY going to be a Kopparberg (and copping off) free zone. Let the fun begin!









Lisa Dawson13 Comments