Side return extension ideas – create a more spacious kitchen in terraced houses and more

Boost your living space with our inspiring guide to expanding your home sideways and letting in more light

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(Image credit: Extreme Design)

Saddled with a dark, narrow kitchen at the back of the house? Our side return extension ideascould be the key to transforming your cooking domain, without eating into precious garden. One of the less extreme types of extension, side returns can offer a great return on your investment, too.

Start your planning journey with ourKitchen extension ideas – expert tips for planning the perfect kitchen extension

The amount of space you’ll gain may not look that impressive on paper. But an extra metre or two widthways can turn a pokey galley kitchen into a more sociable, user-friendly space. '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.

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.

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.

Ourside return extension ideas offer good examples of both standard and wraparound additions.

SIDE RETURN EXTENSION IDEAS

1. PLAN AHEAD

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(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Planning the kitchen 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, and vice versa. Often just one small detail or minor adjustment can make all the difference to how much you enjoy the space.'

Enquire online: The Linear kitchen, Harvey Jones

2. CLEAR SKY THINKING

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(Image credit: Elina Posak)

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

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(Image credit: deVOL)

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 rooflights, 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.

Enquire online: The Real Shaker Kitchen painted in Pantry Blue by deVOL

4. SMOOTH CONNECTIONS

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(Image credit: Extreme Design)

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 space.

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

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(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

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

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(Image credit: Richard Powers)

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 lights 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

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(Image credit: Sola Swedish Kitchens)

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

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(Image credit: Smallbone of Devizes)

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

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(Image credit: John Lewis of Hungerford)

In an open-plan extension, zoning the 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 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. While using the same paint colours in the living area achieves continuity through the room.

10. SUPPORTING ROLE

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(Image credit: Gary Summers)

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 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.

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 conservation areas. 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.'