The Househunter: A Five Bedroom Victorian Terrace

An interesting property for you this week as, on the one hand, it’s a classic Victorian terrace house where the owners have used the space they have rather than spending on an extension – which often just means making existing rooms bigger rather than adding new ones – but one where there is also scope to add value perhaps by reducing the stated number of bedrooms from four to five and adding a bathroom.

Fancy a look? It’s decorated in a wonderfully restful palette which feels just right for this week and it’s on the market with Inigo for £1,250,000. So the first thing is to call up the floorplan in a separate tab so you can flip between the pictures and the plan.

It has a classic Victorian terrace layout but instead of building into the side return to widen a small kitchen, the owners have moved the kitchen to the back half of the sitting room where the, possibly original,  French doors lead out into the garden and the narrow space at the back is a downstairs bathroom and utility room.

Given that the current costs of building a side return extension in London at the moment seem to start at £120,000 for a plaster finish, it’s definitely worth looking at the space you have and seeing if you can make it work without having to dig foundations and starting pouring concrete.

We have discussed at length on these pages the issue of the back half of a the sitting room when you knock through and whether you can find a valid use for that space, which, if you extend at the back can become dark and isn’t quite separate enough from the front room. And while moving the kitchen to the back of the house and extending over the side return would give you a big kitchen diner it might remove the downstairs bathroom.

There are no right and wrong answers but it’s about taking the time to consider how you live, what you might need and how that’s going to work with your budget. A downstairs shower room is great for anyone who is older, or has elderly relatives, or small children. In addition there is only one upstairs bathroom in this house and with five bedrooms a second one is probably necessary.

Now what you will notice is that the current owners are using the front reception as a dining room so the  the kitchen is open plan and this area takes up the whole of the ground floor. This means you can live in this space all day and then go upstairs to the sitting room (traditionally the main bedroom) in the evening. This feels quite grand and means the house is probably functioning as a four bedroom.

On the top floor there are three bedrooms. You could use one as an office or turn it into a bathroom and you would have a spacious, elegant three bedroom, three bathroom house with a huge living space and grand sitting room. Again, this won’t be right for everyone but it’s always worth looking at a floorplan and deciding what you need from it.

This is being marketed as five bedrooms which means your instinctive reaction is to look at the sofa placed at the edge of the dining room and assume there is no sitting room and start to worry about extending. Depending on how many people are moving in (and need to sit around a dining table) you might be able to keep a smaller table in the downstairs and make that space function as your living and dining space.

Alternatively, you might put a small table in front of the bay windows at the back of the kitchen and eat there thus freeing up the front room for sofa duties. The point being that in a traditional terrace house like this there are a number of options and we often just accept the room labels we are given and don’t think about how we can tweak the space to suit our own lifestyle.

So who’s moving in this week? Or who has moved around the traditional layout to create something that works better for them?

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I really like the way the space has been used in this house. I love an upstairs sitting room and like DRS I don’t think this could be comfortable as a 5 bed if you only had the ground floor for living.
    I love the open plan downstairs. While I like open plan, I hate open plan living room cum kitchen. The living room is usually a TV place and if you have the tv on in a room joined to the kitchen whoever is cooking is subject to it and can’t choose to listen to radio or whatever; so separating the TV from an open plan area for me works. The way it is in this house, you can have family meals, homework, family chats, visitors, cooking all happening downstairs….and TV can be relegated elsewhere. Also if you have friends in for a meal then you can retire upstairs after the meal leaving the post-meal mess behind and not make your guests listen to you clattering round the kitchen clearing up.
    I’m not a bathroom freak like everyone seems to be these days, but I think just because of the 3 floors it would be a luxury to have a bathroom on the top floor and if this was my forever home I think I’d prefer a 3 bed 3 bath.
    The only thing I dislike is the lack of curtains particularly in the sitting room…I think it’s soulless and while it’s pretty in the kitchen…if not very energy efficient….I find it stark in the dining and sitting rooms.

  2. The house feels awkward to live in. I appears somewhat masochistic to have the sink and cooker so badly placed and to have a dining chair so close to the woodburning stove only adds to the discomfort.

    1. I’m a bit confused by your comment. How are the cooker and sink badly placed? The owner seems to have successfully created the triangle of sink, cooker and fridge. Lovely addition of an island made out of something vintage. Is this still for sale? Id buy it in an instant.

  3. A very interesting used of space. I have never liked the idea of filling up the side return as it often turns the middle room into a corridor and I think every room in a house should have a window (including the bathroom actually).
    Also lockdown has definitely taught us the value of separate rooms.
    An upstairs living room feels very Georgian, doesn’t it…
    The only drawback is that you lose the connection to the garden.

  4. I am very much Team No Boxy Back Extensions. They cost a fortune and just mean you use a different part of your house, not more of it. To be honest I also find most of them ugly. Look how beautiful that back bay with french doors is!

    My own Victorian terrace had a good quality side return extension done by the previous owners, but keeping most of the original wall structure in place. This means that we have a kitchen in the side return with doors leading to the garden, and a downstairs loo, office, and hallway lined with huge storage cupboards in the original house. I like this a lot, although if i had all the money in the world I would move the kitchen to the darker middle room and put the dining room in the side return under the big Velux window we have.

  5. I have a huge open ground floor, which traditionally would have the sitting are in the front and the dining space in the back near the little kitchen extension, but I’ve put the sitting room in the back and a round dining table in the middle next to the stairs, and have an art studio in the front, separated by a pony wall of cubbies. Then upstairs we moved our bed into a tiny back bedroom where it’s quieter, and what would normally be the master bedroom in the front is my husband’s office/our dressing room (with the main closet and dressers), plus a small sitting area (where we move the tv when we’re watching the Tour de France while my husband works). My office is in the other bedroom upstairs, and the laundry is in that closet. It’s really much more space than we need since my son moved out (he lived in the semi-finished basement which is now mostly empty), but the thought of moving is overwhelming.

  6. Super house, thank you Kate. It’s a four bed really. I like the upstairs sitting room and I’m definitely liking that they didn’t extend. I do look at some of the soulless concrete boxes slapped (at great expense) on the back of period homes, and think they may not age well. And we just do not need as much space to live comfortably as is currently desirable slash fashionable. This house shows what thinking outside the box can create.

  7. This isn’t really a 5 bed at all is it, there’s not enough living space for 5 bedrooms (I think a house needs at least as much living space as sleeping space or it feels unbalanced) so the current owners have made the right decision putting the sitting room on the first floor. I’d want a bathroom on the top floor as well though.

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