Let's talk about: The Side Return Extension

January 19, 2018


Our first post for 2018 is written by new member Sara Morrison of interiors.family, an independent interior design studio based in Bath. Sara has recently completed a huge kitchen extension project in an Edwardian terraced property. Today's post is absolutely full of expert advice and oodles of inspiration. Over to you Sara.....



What is a side return extension?

One of the most common domestic building projects which utilises the redundant pathway that runs alongside the side of the house.


O.K, so what's involved?


  • A new wall is built on the boundary of you and your neighbour’s land, or sometimes on your side of the boundary.

  • A roof is added which can be flat or pitched, depending on budget you can opt for fully glazed designs or a more cost effective option is to install skylights to light the interior.

  • A steel framed structure is installed to support the opening to the extension. The side wall to the house (usually a window) is also partially or completely knocked through.  

  • A new floor is put in, level with the existing floor.


 Foundations for a new boundary wall being built


What else?

They generally cost a minimum of £30,000 for the building work and you should allow at least 10 weeks of dusty chaos!  

Most of these extensions do not require planning permission and can be built under Permitted Development. You don’t necessarily need an architect, for your floor-plans and elevations, you can do these yourself or ask an interior designer. You will however need to employ a structural engineer to produce your structural drawings and load bearing calculations which you need for building regulations to apply for building notice.



These extensions, which are usually for a new kitchen, are often the only way of extending some terrace homes. They can give your home a dramatic new lease of life, radically improving the living space, bringing it perfectly up to date for contemporary, modern day living.


....and AFTER!


The side return extension for this project, was only 1.5 meters wide but we managed to fit everything in creating a contemporary, stylish practical family friendly kitchen and open plan living area. Note the long bank of sleek cupboards and the table in the same colour so the kitchen becomes part of the furniture, The lack of wall units and the lamps also adding to the effect.



Getting the light right

Maximising the light is critical in a side return extension, not only to light your new space but to avoid plunging one of the central rooms into darkness. There are plenty of options for glazing to maximise the light which will depend entirely on your budget.



How do I get the layout right?

Good spatial planning is essential to get the layout right. The flow, layout and light require very careful consideration to create an aesthetically pleasing space.


As these spaces are generally quite long and narrow often with two entrances, it can be quite a challenge to avoid either a double corridor affect with awkward or unusable space which ends up not quite big enough for furniture or just too cramped and impractical. There are a lot of images of side return extensions where if you look closely you can see the dining table right up against the wall, or the sofa oddly positioned in the kitchen area. For any open plan space, detailed planing of the different areas for the kitchen, dining and sitting need to be carefully zoned to ensure there is enough space for each activity.

What is the perfect family friendly layout?

This will depend on many factors, the size of your family, how you want to use the space, even the age of your children. For the layout we created below, a detailed brief was taken where the answers to these questions allowed us to plan the space to suit the families needs and lifestyle.


Cleverly positioned furniture ensures each area has plenty of space. The Scandinavian arm-less sofa allows a clear view though from the hallway to the garden, the narrow legs revealing more floor space all adding to the feeling of space.


Two sets of doors lead to the raised garden deck with new glass doors to the hallway and lounge allowing light throughout and a view all the way through the house. It's a particularly awkward space but we think we have fitted in everything.... including the kitchen sink!



If you need help to planning your extension, interiors.family and the rest of the IDC members would be very pleased to help you with your project. Check out our wonderfully talented interior design creatives based all over the UK here.


Photography - Adam Carter



Huge thanks to our Bath based IDC member, Sara Morrison of interiors.family for our first post for 2018. What a cracking start to the year. We'd love to hear your thoughts on Sara's project. The comment box below awaits!


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