Don’t move, improve: how an imaginative loft conversion transformed a Walthamstow flat into a family home

The number of home improvement planning applications is up 60 per cent since 2012, with the loft extension being one of the most popular ways of creating space.

Asia Kowalczuk and Duncan Grey took that well-trodden route but with great imaginative flair, transforming their two-bedroom maisonette into a family home in the process.

The couple, who live in Walthamstow with daughter Iona, aged six, turned their attic into a light-drenched master suite.

The project began with the fairly modest wish to create a third bedroom at the Fifties property, which the couple bought seven years ago when Asia, a stylist, was pregnant. However, in 2016 Duncan’s father fell seriously ill and they wanted enough extra space for him to stay with them if he wished.

Enlisting the help of neighbour Grant Straghan, director of deDraft architects (, they set out to create something more interesting than a run-of-the-mill attic room.

They used increasingly fashionable Cor-Ten steel, a material which until relatively recently was used mainly to clad the hulls of ships.

Cor-Ten is also known as weathering steel, thanks to its ability to rapidly form a protective — and attractive — layer of rust which, in the case of this project, echoes the colour of the local roof tiles. “Grant brought a piece of the metal and put it in his garden and after only two days we could see how much it had changed,” says Asia.

Having settled on their design, the couple thought the process of converting their loft into a useable room would be relatively quick and painless. However, the legal preparations took longer than the build itself.

Planning permission was granted in six weeks, but negotiations with neighbours in order to make the necessary Party Wall Agreements, and with the freeholder of their building, a housing association, dragged on.

Dealing with what Asia describes as the “bureaucratic giant” of the required legal paperwork also cost an eighth of their total budget.

The four-month building project finally began in June. Sadly, Duncan’s father had died at Christmas but the couple decided to press ahead. Having got so far along the route of setting up the extension it seemed foolish to give up.

Duncan, 39, a product designer, says: “We thought that whatever we did would be expensive — so why not go the extra mile and get something special?”

The family are now enjoying life with a new staircase and another level, and their new bedroom is nothing short of a triumph.

Rather than squeezing in the smallest possible staircase to save space, Straghan opted for generously wide stairs, with floorboards in a white waxed oak that extends into the bedroom.

The new room has Velux windows overlooking the street, with floor-to-ceiling sliding widows at the rear that lead on to a small terrace with a glass balustrade, offering views of gardens and the park beyond.

The project cost £60,000. However, recent research from Nationwide Building Society finds a loft conversion can increase a home’s value by 22 per cent.

Soaring Waltham Forest prices in the last 10 years mean that as well as a design statement, Asia and Duncan’s project is a rewarding investment.

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