Garden room, kitchen, utility area and private study
This substantial family home in Edinburgh's Gilmore Road was a typical semi-detached Victorian villa where all the public rooms are situated at the front of the house. There was an existing build out from the rear of the building which contained a damp and dusty collection of little service rooms and led to a rear door where an outside stair led down to the back garden.
There was a difference in the ground levels from front to back and to accommodate this the rear build out was placed up on a stone plinth to maintain its level with the rest of the ground floor. The architect proposed to part demolish this outbuilding and excavte the plinth to create a cellar room with access at ground level out to the garden. The new extension would then be built from this footprint of the former build-out.
The idea was that when the internal walls were removed (which were single brick built) and the floor slab was lifted, then the spoil comprising the infill to the plinth could be shovelled out and used to make up the level of the sloping rear garden.
This was Richard Murphy's description of how we would proceed. With experience we have since learnt to view Richard's visions with reverential scepticism. Unfortunately at this point in time we were still low down on our learning curve. The brick walls beneath the floor slab became solid stone foundation walls, 18" thick, which continued down below the garden level. Because the space had been divided into a number of small cupboards, corridor, WC and utility room, the maze of walls and the solid compacted infill between them made it nigh on impossible to excavate from above. We had to cut out the proposed garden level doorway and dig our way in from the side. This was back breaking work and all the excavated material had to be removed to skips (which we lost count of) The only ship on the horizon in all this was our recent acquisition of Graeme Montgommery - Richard Murphy's former architectural partner - who expressed a desire to learn about the building trade from the dirty end. Graeme was from good Irish stock and together with Brian McFeely another outstanding Irish workman they set about this work.
They were from different Irish backgrounds which led to them referring to the same Irish city as Londonderry and Derry respectively and this cultural juxtaposition expressed itself in their work rate. In short they tried to kill each other by working harder than the other one. Never was a difficult dig executed with such passion. The walls fell away and the fact that we hadn't priced for any of this was soon lost in the dust.
In comparison the rest of the work went well and the extension rose from the original foundations. An expressed external flying steel structure allows a lead roof to float free of the walls which consist of timber framed panels faced in Western Red Cedar 'offered up' to the stone walls. Two disappearing corners of glazed windows and doors complete the external envelope. A balcony seemingly suspended from the steel above provides the opportunity for alfresco dining and via the original external stair still gives access to the garden below. The garden itself, formerly an under used resource of the house, was later given a makeover, designed around the idea of a dry pebble river bed.
A glass rooflight allows daylight into the former kitchen which was turned into a dining space and a back stair from this room connects into the liberated basement area consisting of a private study room and a utility.