Saddled with a dark, narrow kitchen at the back of the house? Our side return extension ideas could be the key to transforming your cooking domain, without eating into precious garden space.
One of the less extreme kitchen extension ideas, side returns can offer a great return on your investment, too.
The amount of space you’ll gain may not look that impressive on paper. But an extra metre or two widthways can turn pokey galley kitchens into more sociable, user-friendly spaces.
'With extra space, width and light, you can gain more living space for entertaining, living, playing and working from home,' says Leigh Bowen of 50 Degrees North Architects.
Side Return Extension Ideas
1. PLAN AHEAD
When planning a kitchen extension, thinking about the layout and architecture in tandem can help the new structure feel purposeful, with architectural elements working with the overall kitchen design, not against.
'One of the most common mistakes when planning or designing a side return extension is leaving the layout and choice of kitchen until late into the building project,' says Melissa Klink, head of design, Harvey Jones.
'By choosing your design and working on it alongside your architect, you can alter the room to suit the kitchen idea, and vice versa. Often just one small detail or minor adjustment can make all the difference to how much you enjoy the space.'
2. CLEAR SKY THINKING
One downside of a side return extension is you can end up reducing daylight into existing rooms. The most popular solution is to glaze the side return roof to bring more light into the heart of your home.
Here, modern glass beams let in maximum daylight and provide a virtually frameless look.
'Glass beams are made from at least four layers of 10mm toughened glass laminated together,' explains Rebecca Clayton, director, IQ Glass. 'We always recommend glass roofs are load-bearing, so that someone can walk on the roof for access, cleaning and maintenance.'
3. FIND YOUR MATCH
Colour coordinating kitchen cabinetry with new window and door frames is an effective way to achieve design cohesion in a side return extension. Here, deVOL’s own paint colour, Pantry Blue, is matched to the glazing bars in the roof lights, resulting in a beautifully balanced interior.
While most glazing companies supply frames in standard colours, for a small surcharge it’s often possible to get a paint colour matched or choose from RAL or NCS colour systems – try Express Bi-folding Doors.
4. SMOOTH CONNECTIONS
When planning the interior layout of a new side return, do consider how the new space connects with the old.
If you will be coming in directly from the front door or hallway, consider creating a short corridor of storage made from floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Perfect for stashing coats, bags and shoes before entering the new open-plan kitchen.
It will help to keep clutter at bay, and the transition from cosy hallway to light, bright kitchen is both uplifting and welcoming.
5. LOOK UP
Interior designers often refer to the ceiling as the ‘fifth wall’. This is in reference to its equal importance when decorating. Instead of attempting to hide the chaos of removing internal walls and switching ceiling levels, it can be wiser to turn it into a feature.
Here, exposing the beams on the original ceiling boosts the sense of height, while echoing the industrial design vibes in the kitchen below.
It also helps to draw attention away from the much lower sloped ceiling of the side return. This is often necessary when building next to a ‘Party Wall’, where the height can be restricted to 2m.
6. LET THERE BE LIGHT
The brief for this side return extension was to maximise the sense of light through the full length of the room. 'We created an airy scheme. New roof lights and French doors flood in natural light and give an open feel through to the garden beyond,' explains interior designer Philippa Thorp, director of Thorp.
'The combination of fluted and veneered timber door panels in the kitchen lend the room a subtle texture. Whilst the over scaled plaster hanging kitchen lighting from Porta Romana provide a focal point and add a hint of drama to the room. The muted colour palette in soft grey tones keeps the space feeling bright and modern.'
7. SKYLIGHT SOLUTIONS
While it can be tempting to put in the biggest skylights you can fit, it shouldn’t be at the expense of privacy.
Terraced homes are particularly prone to being overlooked from above, in which case a narrow skylight might prove preferable. Here, this side return skylight is long but thin, so that only a narrow strip of the kitchen is overlooked.
Going for a long, frameless skylight, compensates for lack of width. Also consider the impact of solar gain, especially when cooking up a storm.
'This is particularly important if your extension is south facing. Any roof glazing should be controlled by solar control glass if possible, or shaded from the inside,' adds Neil Tomlinson of Neil Tomlinson Architects.
8. BLEND OLD AND NEW
If you are seeking more space without unbalancing the authentic heritage of a period home, a traditionally designed side return extension could be the answer.
Here, the owners used reclaimed bricks instead of new, leaving the beautiful aged brickwork exposed to add character to their new kitchen. Classic French doors can also feel more harmonious than modern bi-fold or sliding doors in an older home.
'We wanted the extension to mirror existing architectural features and stay in keeping with the other windows around the house. The salvaged bricks mimic those on the original garden wall outside,' explains the owner Victoria Short.
9. GET IN THE ZONE
In an open-plan extension, zoning the kitchen layout to create distinct areas for cooking, dining and relaxing is the key to enjoying every inch. It's also important to carefully blend the original house and new side return addition.
In this sociably arranged L-shaped kitchen by John Lewis of Hungerford, a peninsula unit gives the kitchen a clear boundary line, without cutting it off from the rest of the living space.
Installing the main sink on the peninsula allows glorious garden views while prepping dinner. Using the same paint colours in the living area achieves continuity through the room.
10. SUPPORTING ROLE
Knocking out external walls often results in cumbersome but unavoidable supporting joists. To make matters worse, you can’t usually choose where a vertical support will go. It is positioned to carry the weight of the rooms above.
Here, painting the vertical support column in the same muted shade as the island minimises its impact. This helps it blend with the kitchen.
Day True has also cleverly designed the kitchen layout so that the column is tucked neatly into the corner and never feels in the way. Not having to physically navigate around a supporting column in a side return will go a long way towards reducing its presence.
WHAT IS A SIDE RETURN EXTENSION?
Popular on terraced and semi-detached properties, a side return extension utilises dead space to the side of a property. They are considered a good way to boost the width of the often-dark, narrow room at the rear of a house. At the same time, you won't be losing valuable garden space.
Typically, the space a side return is built onto is only used to store the bins. It can be put to much better use inside, perhaps making room for dining in the kitchen or more space to entertain. If a side return extension is also extended to the rear, it is classified as a wraparound extension.
Outside return extension ideas offer good examples of both standard and wraparound additions.
DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION FOR A SIDE RETURN EXTENSION?
In the UK, a straightforward side return usually falls under your Permitted Development rights. This means a planning application isn’t necessary.
Your rights may be restricted if your house is listed or in a conservation area. And there are also strict guidelines in terms of the maximum dimensions allowed. Particularly regarding height, and proximity to neighbouring properties.
You will still need to notify your local authority of your intension to build, comply with building regulations, formally consult neighbours and, most likely, arrange a Party Wall agreement.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD A SIDE RETURN EXTENSION?
'Timings largely depend on the type and size of the project you are working on,' says Matt Baker, kitchen designer at Harvey Jones. But on average, building a side return kitchen extension could take between three and five months.
For a thorough and precise kitchen installation, you should allow at least four weeks. Especially if it includes hand-painted cabinetry.'
Blue dining room ideas – 12 beautiful ways to decorate with this soothing color scheme
These blue dining room ideas are perfect for a cool and sophisticated look
By Nicky Morris •
5 ways to design a calm garden retreat, using neutral colors and low-maintenance planting
Restrained materials and a muted color palette are the secrets to this calm garden retreat in the Hollywood Hills
By Rhoda Parry •
Joanna Gaines' space-enhancing tip will add instant style to your small room
The interiors guru has the solution to a small space, and it's right on trend
By Megan Slack •
Teenage girl bedroom ideas – 10 tips for fun and sophisticated design schemes
Teenage girl bedroom ideas aren't just about rethinking pink – they are about inspiring her to make her mark on the world
By Ailis Brennan •
Best wooden outdoor furniture – add teak, acacia or eucalyptus to the patio for stylish durability
The best wooden outdoor furniture for elevating your patio; from acacia wood Adirondack chairs to teak outdoor dining tables and chairs
By Amy Lockwood •
Dining room ideas – 32 decor, layout and design tips for dining areas
Our inventive tips for revitalising casual or formal dining room ideas will make them sing out effortlessly
By Jennifer Ebert •
Teenage boys bedroom ideas – 10 tips for seriously cool sleep spaces
Make it personal with teenage boys bedroom ideas, and you'll create a space that encourages them to be their authentic selves
By Ailis Brennan •
Stair paint ideas – 10 ways to make it a focal point with paint
Be inspired by these stair paint ideas and ensure your staircase is a fabulous feature
By Sarah Warwick •
Marie Kondo reveals the one item she regrets letting go – and the lesson she learned from the process
Even the master of organization has regrets after decluttering – but the realization came with an important lesson
By Marc Lupo •
Under stairs ideas – 10 tips for making the most of this overlooked nook
From pantries to powder rooms, these under stairs ideas can help you give an awkward space a new lease of life
By Ailis Brennan •