The classic design of most Victorian and Edwardian homes is the same. The rear of these properties has a narrow, pokey kitchen that does not extend all the way to the width.

It’s an inconvenient, unusable, narrow alleyway. Many have taken on the challenge to knock out the wall along with expanding the kitchen to this new realm.

Side returns are also called these projects and can be used to renovate 19th-century houses for 21st century living. 

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

It’s easy to live in a spacious kitchen with skylights.

These take on average three months and are usually covered by ‘permitted developments’ rights. If you don’t live in a conservation zone, you will not need planning permission.

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.

Dome-shaped lanterns offer a more striking look. Try David Salisbury where impressive domes start at £18,000 for lanterns 2.5 m in diameter.

Sail blinds can soften the sun’s glare and make the kitchen more comfortable. 

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

You don’t want to waste any extra light once you have 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).

Wraparound extensions can be used to extend the back of the house and into the garden.

The transforms a dark, poorly ventilated room into a space with range and island one side and dining tables and sofas the other.

Sentinel Design and Build has created a similar extension in Nunhead (south London). 

The build cost £180,000 without the architect’s fees. The kitchen was transformed from a 31 sq.m. kitchen to a 51 square m. kitchen-diner.

Steve Corbyn (MD of Sentinel) says that clients often don’t realize that even a tiny gap to the side can make the kitchen-diner more open. It amazes them. Pintrest is an excellent resource for ideas.

While some prefer to have the expansion go smoothly, others are more inclined to give the space a distinct look by showing the steel beams and/or giving it a unique flooring or 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.

Amos Goldreich, Architect designed a side-return in which the materials differ between the original structure as well as the added area.

The original kitchen is in the same colors as in the photo, but this zone features exposed brickwork and lighter timber shelving. Frameless skylights allow for lots of natural light to enter.

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.

This means that even in winter, the door can be closed and you still feel outside. ODC Glass.

An arch light is what your home requires

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).

The arch light was created by Achille Cassiglioni in Italy, a great designer. The arch light, which is named for its form, lights objects from several feet away and replaces the 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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