Adding character back to a period home

I’ve been getting lots of questions from you lovely lot about what style I am going for in the new house – not so much with the furniture and styling but more to do with the fabric of the house. The short answer is that I am trying to reinstall as many of the period features as possible and replace what we ripped out in the renovation process. I want the house to have a period feel and look whilst being totally modernised.

Therefore, these are the things that we are doing to add some period character back to the house:

1. Re-installing picture rail, dado rail and coving

Jules and I had a bit of a heated debate about whether or not it was worth the cost to reinstall the picture rails, dado rail and coving. I was adamant that it had to happen as these details are so important to bringing a period feel back to the house and without them you end up with a blank white box, which is basically a new build.

2. Sanding and finishing original floorboards

We have been very lucky that the floorboards in the house are in good condition, especially as we have run out of money for carpet upstairs, which is what I had originally planned. Jules has sanded down the boards and we will finish them once all of the building work is complete before we move in. Our contractor, James, suggested using a mixture of white paint and white spirit as a stain to tone down the orange in the wood and then to oil over the top of that for a matt effect. We will try that as it is cheaper than alternatives and resort to Osmo oil (quite pricey) if not happy with the effect of the paint stain.

The boards in their original state.

After sanding – a little too orange for us as they will be much darker than this once they are oiled. Therefore, we need a white stain to neutralise the orange tone.

2. Period style radiators

One of the things I was very insistent on was that we needed to spend the extra to install column radiators, which feel a lot more in keeping with a period home. Downstairs we were faced with the issue of losing wall space for radiators once they were knocked down so we went for a vertical column radiator that was very kindly gifted to us by PlumbNation and is made by Myson. It fits in very neatly next to the French doors as it is surprisingly slim (something Jules was worried about as he though this style radiator would take up too much space) and isn’t a complete eyesore as some radiators can be. We bought the same style radiators for the rest of the house and it really does make a real difference.

3. Doors

Luckily all the original doors in the house were in tact and we had the added bonus of finding another one in the loft. We had them dipped and they look so lovely now! Getting original internal doors back in place is worth the extra effort even if you need to source them on eBay or the like.

4. Emphasising woodwork

The banisters in this house are one of the things that I love most and along with all the other woodwork including the skirting, architraves, dado rail we have painted it in a colour in order to highlight these period features. I love this before and after shot…

6. Fireplaces

I always find that a fireplace adds instant character and charm to a room as well as giving it a focal point and structure. We have put some little fireplaces back into the two main bedrooms as well as a 1930s fire surround in the living room. As well as this we will try to fix the original hearth tiles upstairs and unfortunately the tiles downstairs are beyond repair so we will source some replacements.

7. Replace front door (I WISH!)

Very sadly I have had to concede to replacing the UPVC front door with a reclaimed original 30s door. We just don’t have the budget at the moment and other things have taken priority. However, changing the door would completely transform the hallway so if you have the option, do it!

8. Hardware

The small details that you add at the end of a renovation project make a massive difference and door handles, for example, are one way of adding lots of period charm. I have had such a hard time finding door handles that I like that are within my minimal budget as most are at least £50 for each door. However, I came across these ebonised beehive handles that were only £17 for each door so even though they are not quite of this period the colour works well.

Is there anything that you have done to add period charm back to an old house? I’d love to know about your project or see pics – so many of you have shared pics of your 30s houses with me and it has been so fun seeing the similarities. Do get in touch!

Katy x

Weeks three and four: Our house renovation

I actually can’t believe that our builders have only been working on the house for four weeks as so much has been done already and it kind of feels like they are on the home straight – I mean, the decorating has even started. Not wanting to jinx anything, obviously…

The main progress over the last couple of weeks has been installing the steel between the receptions rooms, replacing the window lintels in the bedrooms and the plaster boarding and plastering throughout the upstairs and downstairs. A lot of upstairs has been painted so it all looks very different now with the bare brick gone.

The steel is now in so we officially have an open plan living/dining/kitchen space. These images show either side of the reception rooms. Jules took these pics in the evening and as it is a south east facing house we get the evening light through the front of the house.

This past week the downstairs has also been plastered so the steel and old doorway into what was the back reception room have now been covered up so it looks like a proper room again rather than a building site…

The fireplace surround has been installed (we will add tiles – I haven’t chosen them yet) and I think it works pretty well in the space and adds the character of the period that I want. I am really trying to avoid the ‘new build’ feeling.

Upstairs the plastering has also been done and they’ve done a brilliant job of it – it shines it is so smooth! I am always tempted when I see fresh plaster to leave it as I love the warm tone of it so much.

However, last week the painting began upstairs and I can see how much bigger the space looks and feels with white walls. The skirting, architraves and picture rails are also going on as we speak and the original doors have been sent off to be dipped ready for painting.

I’m honestly quite gobsmacked at how much has been achieved in just four weeks. The next big job is the bathroom so I’ll keep you posted on that and Jules has taken the week off work to sand and finish the floorboards. He’d better do a good job of it!

Katy x

Bathroom inspiration

We decided as soon as we viewed our new house that we would completely strip out the bathroom and start again, including removing the wall that divided the bathroom from the loo ( you can see how it looked when we bought the house in this post). If there is one thing I can’t live with it is a grungy bathroom so it was always a priority for me.

I love a bright and airy bathroom that feels clean and crisp without feeling sterile and cold. My challenge was to find tiles, a suite and decor that were relatively inexpensive but would  look and feel good.

To give you an idea of my plans for the bathroom here are some of the things that I have chosen and rooms that have inspired me…

1. Image via @bloggaibagis 2. Duravit basin and console from Fountain Direct 3. Stelrad towel rail from Plumb Nation 4. Zenta wall mounted tap from ManoMano 5. Image via Doris Lee 6. Shoreditch House bathroom snapped by me 7. Image via Rock My Style 8. Hexagon floor tiles from Walls and Floors 9. Original BTC wall light from The Conran Shop 10. ProWarm underfloor heating from Plumb Nation 11. Image via Living Etc – white gloss tiles from Walls and Flooring

It is a small room so no space for luxurious free standing baths and separate showers and the like. It is all going to be very practical, squeezing in as much as possible – I will follow up this post with the design we have come up with. The floor is going to be the white hexagonal tiles (super cheap) with mid grey grouting to hide the dirt and although I generally dislike tiled floors as I find them cold and hard we have been gifted some wondrous underfloor heating from the brilliant PlumbNation, which solves those problems. I can not wait for a toasty tiled floor on cold winter mornings! PlumbNation also gave us a lovely white heated towel rail that will keep this room warm too. The other tiles we have chosen are very cheap plain white square tiles (do you know how difficult it is to find true white matt tiles? Well, I’ll tell you it is impossible so we have had to go gloss) which will go round the bath that will have a shower over it. They will be laid in a running bond pattern with white grout (I think I’m the only person in the world that hates dark grout).

The only thing we have spent a chunk of money on in the bathroom is the basin. I would have loved an old cupboard with a counter top basin but there just isn’t space in the room for that so I chose a basin with a metal console instead and I like the slightly industrial feel of it. I really like the way wall mounted taps look and function with the added bonus that there is more space on the basin for stuff like toothbrushes. We were lucky enough to be gifted the Zenta tap from ManoMano and I hope that is going to look sleek and simple.

To soften the space we are going to tongue and groove all the way round the bottom half of the room (except the shower/bath that will be tiled) and paint it Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue with All White on the top half of the walls. I will also find a 1930s mirror to go above the basin to add some character and I have bought an Original BTC wall light to go above that.

The room has already been stripped, plastered and the mist coat was on yesterday when I went over so the installation will be all go next week. SO exciting!

Katy x

Why choose a 1930s house and where to find inspiration to maximise its potential

I grew up in a large Victorian house and then we moved to a Georgian townhouse when I was a teenager so I feel very comfortable in period homes. In the past when I thought about what type of house I would like to buy I always had in my mind a Victorian terraced house. However, I am now a 1930s convert. Admittedly, I don’t think I would have ever looked at a 1930s house if budget had not been one of the main driving forces behind our house search so it feels like a happy accident that what we could afford is actually, in my opinion, going to be a better family home for us than a Victorian house would have been. Even in its full pebble dash glory 😉

So, what is it about a 1930s home that has converted me? And how did I figure out that I could make it work for us?

1. Purpose built

Compared to Victorian terraces, 1930s houses are purpose built for one family so the layout works really well. No downstairs bathrooms, no skinny hallways, no long narrow kitchen extensions that don’t make the most of the garden, no dark rooms with a lack of windows. The rooms are square and well proportioned and everything is where it should be.

2. Easy to extend

The shape and layout of a 1930s house make them ideal for extensions at the back of the house and into the loft. Coupled with the fact that during this era houses had bigger gardens than earlier houses, largely because they were built further away from the centre of towns and cities, creating the suburbs, means that extending won’t mean you end up with no garden.

3. Back of house opens up onto garden

My pet hate about certain houses is the fact that you can’t see or access the garden conveniently. I really dislike sitting in a room at the back of a house and having no sense that there is a garden. I think that if you can’t access your garden freely you won’t use your garden, especially if you have kids and can’t see what they are doing from the house. I am SO excited about the fact that our new house is completely open to the garden right across the back of the house. The idea of that makes me really happy and until we can afford to extend Jules is going to build a deck that goes straight out from the house, which effectively will give us more living space.

4. Knock down walls

It is very easy to remove walls in a 30s house to create open plan living, if that is your thing, as the layout is so square. This makes even the tiniest house suitable for a family as you can create space.

5. Period features

I really love that there are still period features in 30s house that make it feel like a Victorian terrace. Picture rails, architraves, doors, banisters, bay windows, fireplaces and tiled hearths all make it feel cosy and homely to me.

6. Garden size

As I have already mentioned the garden size of a 30s house compared to earlier houses is generally a lot bigger as they were built on the outskirts of towns and cities. This is always a welcome surprise in London. A lot of these houses are semi detached or detached with side access, which is also a benefit (especially for us with a very muddy dog so we can take him straight round to the garden instead of traipsing mud through the house and I’m thinking that when Mimi has a bike and stuff like that this will be useful too).

7. Good condition

Generally speaking because 1930s houses are younger they are in better condition than older houses and fewer unpleasant surprises are lurking under wallpaper and floorboards.

Realising the potential and finding inspiration

Now, obviously all of the points I have made here are generalisations as some older properties are completely wondrous and tick every box going and some 1930s houses are horrid but if you are house hunting it’s worth just having a think about these things. I was recently asked how I figured out that I could make a 1930s house into a home that would suit us and where I found inspiration for our plans for the house. Therefore, I have made a list of what I did to help convince myself that my pebble dash house could be a dream come true…

8. Play the Rightmove game

If you find a house of a period that you are not used to and want to explore what you can do to it to make it suit you and your family get on Rightmove and have a look at neighbouring houses. Select the ‘Nearby Sold Prices’ option and nose around the street to see whether you can extend, what the house looks like all done up, whether you can change the layout and so on. This is invaluable info. I also looked at the satellite images to get an idea of how many houses in the street had extended outwards and upwards.

9. Knock on doors

It takes a bit of guts but knock on neighbours’ doors if you want to see the potential of a house you are looking at. Alternatively, have a good nose through neighbours’ windows (I totally did this and got a good idea of how the space would look open plan).

10. Visit friends

If you have friends that live in a house of the period you are considering go and visit them and get a good feeling for the house and space. My bezza moved into a 1930s house just up the road from us about two months before we bought our house so it was a brilliant opportunity to figure out how the house would work.

11. Pinterest and Houzz

Do use the internet for inspiration and find houses that are similar to the one you are looking at as this can be an invaluable source of inspiration for decor. I found articles like this one helpful when I was looking.

Be open to different styles and types of houses if you are searching as you never know what may work for you.

Katy x

P.S. Let’s all be clear that our new house is about a tenth of the size of the houses above and won’t even have a proper kitchen to begin with 😉

 

Week two: Our house renovations

Before I start my update for the week I want to let you know who our contractor is as I have had lots of questions and queries. We were recommended James who runs JA Whitney Building Contractors by the lovely Becki who lives nearby and whose husband is a structural engineer and has worked with James. We were looking for a contractor who would coordinate all of the different trades and plan the schedule of works so that we only had one point of contact and no extra hassle or stress in dealing with several different tradespeople. Maybe a bit further down the line I can write a whole post about how it all works out but so far it has been so easy and simple. James visited the site several times before he began, produced a detailed quote breaking down each job and its cost, a detailed weekly schedule of works so that we know what is happening and when, a weekly invoice for the works completed the week before and all we have had to do is choose and buy the radiators, paint, bathroom suite and tiles – he buys all the necessary materials and they are included in the quote. Jules meets James every Monday morning before work to go through how the previous week went and any details that need to be discussed for the upcoming week. James’s partner, Sian, is on hand via email to do all the admin behind the project – invoices, building controls and that sort of thing – and answer any questions. The team have been great so far so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that continues!

We’re well into week three of the renovations now but week two saw the biggest difference that will be really noticeable for some time as the main walls were removed downstairs. We now have a completely open plan downstairs layout with a separate hallway leading upstairs. It’s very small but removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and the wall between the dining room and the from reception is the only layout that I felt would work for us. The steels have not gone in yet where the supporting wall has been removed and we have quite a bit of furniture and stuff waiting to be fitted in the bathroom piled up in the front reception so it’s not super easy to get an idea of the space but hopefully these snaps will give you an idea…

This photo shows the whole width of the house, which is now open at the back of the house and opens up into the garden (or jungle as it is at the moment). In a couple of years when we have saved up enough we will eventually remove this whole back wall and extend into the garden but until then I’m pleased with house much difference the walls being removed has made.

When we can afford to extend into the garden we will make more changes to the layout of the downstairs, like add a loo under the stairs and push the kitchen into the extension, but here is the floor plan as the property was when we bought it just to remind you…

We have kept the hallway wall and removed the wall between the two receptions and the kitchen so that whole space is now open plan. We will also block up the doorway to the back reception but keep the two other doors so there are two points of access to the space.

This is how the room looks from the hallway now with the two doorways that will remain – so much better being able to see out into the garden and having all the extra light…

This is where the remaining kitchen is located and as I have said before we are making a big compromise by not fitting a new kitchen and making do with a teeny one until we can extend as there’s just no way we were going to prioritise funds there when we know we will rip it out in a couple of years to extend…

The remaining kitchen is behind the big sheets of plastic – really not much to see!

Here’s a closer look at what is left…

Our kitchen – ha! We have plans to do a DIY job on making this liveable.

We have ordered a new inexpensive white laminate worktop from ManoMano because the black has got to go! The space is 2.7m so we will take the worktop to the end of the wall. My mum has an old ceramic sink in her garden and if we can clean it up well enough we will put that in too. I say ‘we’ but I actually mean Jules. We’ll figure out an inexpensive way of replacing the cabinet doors, the tiles have already been removed and I think we may put my String Shelving up either side of the cooker hood for now. There is a separate larder in the hallway just next to the kitchen door and James, our contractor, suggested we place an under counter fridge and freezer parallel with this wall with a wooden worktop – probably one of those cheap Ikea ones. I think that’s a really good idea as it will give us much needed worktop space as well as giving us somewhere to discreetly hide away fridge/freezer as the space is too small for a big one. I’ll keep you updated on this separate project for us!

So here is how the rest of the room looks…

This is looking from the kitchen area into the dining room and you can see where the wall between the two receptions has been removed.

This is looking in to the front reception from the french doors in the dining area. Hopefully once all that stuff has been moved it will be easier to visualise the space.

Looking from the front reception down towards the garden.

The plasterboard has started to go up upstairs too…

The front bedroom which will be our room.

Mimi’s room. I bought this fireplace insert and just seeing that fitted makes it look like a proper room again.

And finally the bathroom.

I’ve got loads more to show you about the bathroom as this is where we are spending a fair bit as we know it will always stay as it is. That will be my next post!

Katy x