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Transform a period property with a side return extension

Voice Of EU



A bit on the side: Light and airy, ‘side return’ extensions can easily transform a period home and add value

  • Extending into the alleyways alongside Victorian homes can increase space
  • It is a great way to transform a small kitchen into a vibrant communal area
  •  Installing skylights or a glass dome will make the space brighter 

Most Victorian and Edwardian houses share a classic layout. These properties have a small pokey kitchen at the rear which doesn’t extend to the full width of the building.

There’s a pointless stretch of unusable alleyway, a few metres wide, so many have taken up the challenge, knocking out the side wall and expanding the kitchen into this netherworld to bring in air and light.

Such projects are known as ‘side returns’ and are superb for updating 19th-century homes for 21st-century living, making the kitchen the main communal area. 

Easy breezy: Skylights let light flood into a kitchen turning it into a comfortable living space

Easy breezy: Skylights let light flood into a kitchen turning it into a comfortable living space

They take an average of three months to complete and usually come under ‘permitted development’ rights, so you won’t need to apply for planning permission unless you live in a conservation area.

Since the sideways expansion will normally be single-storey, skylights can pull the sun down into the new kitchen or kitchen-diner, bringing out the colour in your units and décor — especially if your side return is combined with French or bi-fold doors between the kitchen and garden. 

Velux skylights start at about £650 for a non-opening model 60 cm x 60 cm.

Or for maximum effect, a lantern — a glass pyramid that sits on the roof, rather than flat skylights — will attract the sun’s beams from all angles. You can get a basic 1 m x 1.5 m unit from Wickes for £1,190.

But for something a bit more swish, dome-shaped lanterns lend a striking aspect. Try David Salisbury where impressive domes start at £18,000 for lanterns 2.5 m in diameter.

If you’re concerned that the extra sun could make your kitchen-diner a bit too warm in the summer, then sail blinds, designed to hang loose and billow with a breeze, will soften the glare while looking stylish. 

ShadeSail Blinds can custom make shades. Expect to pay in the region of £500.

Once you’ve brought all the extra light in, don’t squander it.

Keep the flooring and unit colour light — and if you’re daring enough in a period building, high-gloss surfaces such as Corian will see light bounce everywhere (expect to pay about £150 per metre for Corian worktops).

A wraparound extension can include a side return and extending the rear of the house into the garden.

It transforms a dingy, barely ventilated scullery into a room with a range and island on one side, and dining table and sofas on the other.

Sentinel Design and Build created just such an extension in Nunhead, south London. 

The build cost £180,000 without the architect’s fees. It turned a 31 sq m kitchen into a 51 sq m kitchen-diner.

Steve Corbyn, MD of Sentinel, says: ‘Clients often can’t see that even a small gap at the side can open up the kitchen-diner. They are amazed by the gain. Pinterest is a good resource to gather ideas.’

Some people like to make the expansion seamless, others like to differentiate this new space by exposing the new structural elements such as steel beams, or giving it a separate flooring and colour scheme. 

This can create a different zone — perhaps you want a cosy nook for reading with wooden floors and softer lighting, or somewhere colourful for the children to play while you prepare dinner.

Architect Amos Goldreich designed a side-return where the materials change between the original structure and the area that has been added.

The original kitchen works in smooth whites and greys, where the new zone uses exposed brickwork and light timber shelving, with frameless skylights bringing in lots of sun.

The project, which also involved remodelling the kitchen, cost £190,000 including the architect’s fees.

For real visual impact, you can have the whole expansion constructed from glazed panes — a contrast that maximises the light entry and sense of space gained.

It means even on a winter’s day, with the doors closed, you feel like you are outside. Check out ODC Glass.

What your home needs is an… Arch light

Habitat offers a black lamp with a cream rattan shade (pictured, £65, Argos).

Habitat offers a black lamp with a cream rattan shade (pictured, £65, Argos).

Let’s remember the late, great Achille Castiglioni, the Italian designer who, in the 1960s, created the arch light. This innovation, named after its shape, illuminates objects several feet from its base and replaces a central light.

The light comes into its own at this time of year when darkness starts to fall at about 3.30pm — which is why your home needs one, especially since The Range and others supply so many elegant and inexpensive versions of the original Castiglioni model.

If you want the real Castiglioni Arco Floor Lamp, it costs £1,990 at the Conran Shop. 

But for £49.99, you can acquire a chrome arch light with a spherical shade from The Range. La Redoute’s So’Home chrome light costs £32.45.

Should you prefer other finishes to chrome, John Lewis has the antique brass Angus lamp with a cream shade (£92), while Habitat offers a black lamp with a cream rattan shade (£65).

Pooky supplies the antique silver Astaire (£315) which the company says can change angle and direction in the same effortless way as the late great Fred Astaire, master of the light fantastic.


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‘After divorce, I’ve fallen in love. But something is holding me back’

Voice Of EU



Question: I’m a divorced man, and I think I’ve fallen in love. This woman I care about so much brought me back to life after my divorce woes and I feel happy when we’re together. My life would certainly change if the relationship progressed and I feel the need to hit the brakes. Is it fear holding me back? Some advice would be great.

Answer: I think it is great that you are able to identify fear as the block to your relationship and it is worth looking at this. You have had a divorce, so your experience of relationship breakup is real and is clearly causing you to pause before heading into a committed relationship again. Some areas worth checking are your capacity for self-awareness, your relationship patterns and habits and your history of decision making.

Looking at self-awareness first – are you conscious of what motivates your actions and speech? In terms of self-awareness, there are many aspects of our ourselves which we are aware of, but we do need help with uncovering the full picture. For example, we can often see that someone we live or work with is stressed but they themselves would not know or acknowledge this and think that they are operating from a calm and collected place. It might be worth you checking with friends what they see in your new relationship and how they see you behaving. Do you seem happier to them, or is there wariness or caution in your approach to your partner? Your friends or family will be able to evaluate your wellness (or not) without the emotion or fear that you may have operating.

Ask for some honest opinions and remember if you ask for advice, take it on board as they may have more objectivity than you do. We all have relationship patterns and habits, so it is worth looking at yours to see if this is influencing your current impasse. These patterns typically start with our family of origin. For example, if there were difficulties (silences, anger, distances, or lack trust and love) in your parents’ relationship it is likely that you have a capacity to put up with or repeat such patterns in your own relationships.

Send your query anonymously to Trish Murphy

It helps to talk it over with someone you trust, so that you can hear the emotion that is going on in your voice and then act to disperse it

It sounds as though you are mistrusting of someone who has “brought you back to life” and it is worth looking at whether this caution is coming from your own past experience or from fear of getting into a relationship pattern similar to your parents’ one. It takes courage to challenge our patterns and the nature of habit is that it operates outside of conscious thinking, so we can respond without even knowing where we are coming from, eg we push someone away just as intimacy is growing. Behaviour such as this could derive from a generational fear of rejection, or a fear of closeness, or of being discovered as not what we seem to be. It is good to explore such habits as we can struggle to see them operating and they can operate as a huge block in our lives.

It is true that the “in-love” feeling can sometimes mask some of the adored person’s characteristics and this is why we always need the “head” as well as the “heart” when making decisions. What is your decision-making like normally? Do you have enough knowledge of this person to make a decision about joining your lives together? Have you spent enough time with them and their circle of friends to make an informed choice? Sometimes the feeling of intense connection at the beginning of a relationship can make us lose sight of the fact that we don’t know the other person very well and in these situations we would do well to slow it down and let our judgement work when the time is right. If you are happy that you have enough knowledge and information to make this decision, then you are probably right that it is fear that is stopping you moving forward.

A little fear is natural and can even help us, for example we drive under the speed limit oftentimes out of fear of getting a speeding ticket. However too much fear can be debilitating, and it can completely bock our intelligence. All relationships involve risk, in that we have to trust that someone else will value us and not reject us. Fear is such a powerful emotion it can cover other more rational and sane judgements and so we need to ensure that we are not just operating from that place.

It helps to talk it over with someone you trust, so that you can hear the emotion that is going on in your voice and then act to disperse it. However, it is worth knowing that fear and panic are closely aligned so we need to tackle them slowly and incrementally or else we go into a kind of frozenness. Overcome small fears first – this might involve speaking with some honesty with your partner – and gradually build up to the bigger fears. Your confidence and self-awareness will grow along the way and this can only benefit you. 

Click here to send your question to Trish or email

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Lighthouse workers end up with front-row seats for Storm Barra

Voice Of EU



Four lighthouse workers who went to Fastnet Lighthouse in west Cork to carry out maintenance on Friday ended up having front-row seats for Storm Barra as they had to stay onsite due to the conditions.

The lighthouse recorded a wind gust of 159km/h on Tuesday morning but Irish Lights electronic engineer Paul Barron said that it was a safe place to be as the country battened down the hatches to face the storm.

Mr Barron and his colleagues Ronnie O’Driscoll, Dave Purdy and Malcolm Gillies made the journey to Fastnet on Friday to do maintenance work and were due back on Tuesday but their helicopter flight was cancelled because of the storm. They hope to arrive back on the mainland on Thursday.

Mr Barron said they are passing their time onsite by watching Netflix and having a few steaks and rashers. He admitted it was a day to remember on the lighthouse which is 54 metres above the sea.

“There is a team of four of us out here. It has been quite a rough day. We started off this morning at around 2am and by 10am or 11am we were in the eye of the storm. I was in the merchant Navy before as a radio officer so I have seen a lot of bad weather. I am with Irish Lights 32 years but I haven’t normally seen it like this. We wouldn’t normally be out in this. You are talking 9m swells with winds gusting up to 90 knots.”

He captured some footage of the storm on his phone. During the worst of the weather the men found it hard to hear each other as it was so noisy during the squalls.

The tower was “shuddering a bit” but Mr Barron managed to shoot video footage which attracted attention online and even a call from Sky News.

He says the lighthouse has kitchen facilities and they always bring additional food in case of emergency.

“It could be a fine summer’s day and there could be thick fog and the chopper wouldn’t take off so we always bring extra food. We are passing the time by watching Netflix! This is a good place to be in the eye of a storm. This lighthouse has been built a hundred years so it has seen a lot of storms.”

As for families being concerned about the men Mr Barron jokes that their loved ones are probably relieved they aren’t at home hogging the remote control.

Meanwhile, in Cork city centre the river Lee spilled on to quays and roads on Tuesday morning but no major damage to property was caused. Debris and falling trees kept local authority crews busy and power outages were reported in a number of areas across the county.

At least 23 properties were flooded in Bantry in west Cork. The council had placed sandbags along the quay wall and the fire brigade had six manned pumps around the town.

In north Cork, a lorry driver had a lucky escape in Fermoy when his vehicle overturned on the motorway during the high winds. Traffic diversions were put in place following the incident.

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Top tips on how to avoid a large energy bill this winter

Voice Of EU



Five easy tips and five things to avoid to get the most from your heating this winter – and dodge a big energy bill

  • We reveal some simple steps to lowering your heating bills this winter 
  • Tips include tucking curtains in behind your radiators to stop heat escaping

Rising energy bills mean the cost of keeping warm is an issue for many households this winter.

But there are some simple steps that can be taken to reduce your energy bill without compromising on keeping cosy.

We take a look at 10 top tips for saving money on your heating, which include things to do and things to avoid doing. 

These include tucking curtains in behind your radiators to stop heat escaping, while not putting clothes on the radiators to dry, as this will block the heat from dispersing through the room.

We provide a list of little fixes that will help to keep your energy bills low this winter

We provide a list of little fixes that will help to keep your energy bills low this winter

John Lawless, of designer radiator company BestHeating, said: ‘Winter weather always sparks the debate around leaving your heating on low all-day versus a couple of hours a day. 

‘Sure, your boiler will have to work a little harder to heat up a cold home when you first switch it on but having it on constantly will use more energy than just switching it on when you need it.

‘The best thing to do to lower bills and keep warm is to insulate your home, prevent draughts, and set up better heating controls. Don’t have the heating on full whack in a room you don’t use, just heat the room you spend the most time in.

‘Our advice is to heat smarter. You can’t control the weather but you can control your heating and how your home loses that heat.’ agrees, saying: ‘Saving energy can help you be more energy-efficient and considerate of the environment, but it’s also a great way to save money.’

Here are the top ten tips…

The things you can do

1. Use thick curtains

Having thicker curtains helps reduce the amount of colder air coming in, while also helping to reduce the amount of hot air escaping.

The thicker the material, the more heat will be contained. Also tuck your curtains behind your radiator to stop even more heat escaping.


Pipes can be insulated by covering them with a foam tube. 

This includes the pipes between a hot water cyclinder and a boiler. 

That will reduce the amount of heat lost and keep your water hot for longer. 

It is as simple as choosing the correct size from a DIY store and then slipping it around the pipes.

2. Cover up exposed pipes

Exposed pipes allow for heat to escape easily. Try covering them in an insulating material to maximise their efficiency.

3. Only heat the rooms you spend most time in

Heating rooms in your home that you don’t spend much time in will not only be a waste of energy, but also a waste of your money.

4. Cover up draughts

You can lose a lot of heat from gaps in your doors and window frames. Make sure you fill in these gaps with a draught proof material, such as draught-proof strips or even just a thick cloth for a quick solution.

5. Turn your thermostat down by one degree celsius

Experts have proven that reducing the temperature of your home by one degree celsius saves you up to £80 a year.

Drying clothes on your radiator will block the heat from dispersing through the room

Drying clothes on your radiator will block the heat from dispersing through the room

Things to avoid

1. Dry your clothes on the radiator

Drying clothes on your radiator will block the heat from dispersing through the room and will have to be left on much longer to have the same effect without a blockage.

2. Keep the heating on all day

Your home will take longer to heat up if you keep turning it on and off, but it will save you more money by putting your heating on a timer for a few hours a day. Try setting a timer on your boiler, so it only turns on for a few hours a day.

3. Allow your radiators to get dirty

If you notice any cold spots at the bottom of your radiators when the heating is on full this could mean you have a build-up of sludge in the system.

This stops the hot water circulating properly, stopping your radiators from getting hot enough when you need the heating the most. Give your radiators a good clean to make sure you aren’t wasting money on heating.

4. Turn your thermostat above 18 degrees Celsius

Research shows that the average thermostat setting in Britain is 20.8 degrees celsius. However, experts have stated that 18 degrees celsius is warm enough for a healthy and well dressed person to remain comfortable during winter. This will be controversial suggestiong for many, for whom 18 degrees might feel a bit chilly – and how you feel at 18 degree central heating will depend on how well your home is insulated.

5. Don’t place large furniture in front of your radiator

Blocking your radiator with furniture, such as sofa or a table, will stop the flow of warm air. This blockage will cause your boiler to work harder to heat your home, resulting in expensive heating bills.


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