Check it out: it's easy to expand

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

One clever couple added 60 sq ft of floor space to their studio home, turning it into a smart one-bedroom apartment, says Ruth Bloomfield

Those living in cities know that the biggest luxury is space. But in London, with the price of an average home inching towards £400,000, space is at a particular premium for the typical young buyer. However, with some clever thinking, more space can be created even in the tiniest of starter homes — though it helps if you are an architect.

When presented with the space challenge in their first property together, Pereen d'Avoine and her partner Mat Witts came up with the goods. They turned a dark studio flat into an airy, bright one-bedroom home. The couple, both 33, carried out the work on a micro-budget and, according to "before and after" estimates, they have more than doubled their investment by upgrading their flat.

The project began in 2011 when they found a studio flat in a converted bakery building in Bethnal Green, east London, for £285,000. They loved its location, plus the fact that the period building had almost 12ft-high ceilings.

The flat consisted of one large L-shaped room containing kitchen and living areas, plus a bathroom and small dressing room and, reached via a ladder, a small sleeping gallery above.

The property was dark because the entire space, about 750sq ft, was lit from only one side, albeit by a run of three windows in the front wall. With no windows at all on the rear wall, this was the bleak, shadowy side of the flat. Pereen, who runs her own architectural practice, Russian for Fish (, and Mat, saw potential. Their first task was to apply to Tower Hamlets council for planning consent to add a window to the back, which was granted so long as it was in keeping with the rest of the building. Then they drew up plans to reconfigure the rest of the property.

"The main problem was the gloom. I would wake up in the morning and turn the lights straight on," said Pereen. "And the sleeping gallery had that precarious ladder. We wanted more privacy from the main room and somewhere for guests to stay."

In February this year, armed with a budget of £40,000, work began. The entire flat was stripped out including gallery, kitchen and bathroom. Then the builders set about installing the extra window and repositioning a new kitchen beneath it.

The kitchen was made to measure, using birch ply stained white, and the cupboards were built almost up to the ceiling to maximise storage. The rickety gallery floor was rebuilt and extended with a desk-height balustrade around it, and a slim set of stairs. Beneath that, where the original large bathroom had been, went a smaller bathroom and a guest lavatory. A dressing area gives masses of room for clothes. Finally — and crucially — the couple closed off a section of the main room to create their bedroom. This transformed their home from a studio to a one-bedroom flat, with room for guests in the new mezzanine.

Pereen and Mat wanted sliding doors, but as they were £5,000, they stuck with regular hinged ones for £700. The total new look cost £33,000, with a further £3,000 going on legal and professional fees and incidentals such as hiring storage space for furniture.

One of the most cost-effective tricks involved the floor treatment. The existing floor was solid timber, with an unpleasant dark stain. The couple painted it with regular white floor paint, then marked it out with a chequerboard of hand-painted black squares. "It is just the sort of thing you could do yourself," said Mat.

A local estate agent's opinion was sought before starting work. Though an extra 60sq ft of floor space was added by enlarging the gallery, the agent felt the refurb alone could add about £80,000 to the value of the property. "I think this is because we created an extra bedroom," said Mat.

"Though it was set out as a studio, it was big enough to divide up, yet remain spacious-feeling. And the mezzanine now has proper stairs, for our guests."

Getting the look

The couple used designer pieces with relatively modest price tags:

* White trestle table in the kitchen from

* Canteen chairs with neon metal legs, from VeryGood and Proper (

* Main light above the table in glazed terracotta, with bright pink cord, from Hand and Eye Studio (

* Oversize, exposed filament bulbs in kitchen, right, and bedroom by Robin Muto at

* Extra display space from free-standing Normann Copenhagen shelves (

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Women protest at the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh
tvReview: It's a tough watch, but the details of the brutal gang rape and murder of medical student need to be shared if we want to strive for global gender equality
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
Life and Style
food + drink
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers