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

Creating the perfect canvas in our new house

We will use three colours from Farrow and Ball throughout the house and sand and oil the original floorboards to add warmth to the downstairs living space. We will carpet the upstairs using a natural jute carpet and use jute rugs downstairs for continuity. Painted woodwork will highlight the original 1930s doors, banisters and architraves throughout the house. Images from Blomma London.

Taking on this house is a long term project to create a lovely home over time – we definitely can’t afford to make it perfect from the start. In this first round of works our main focus is to make it liveable for a start and then to create a blank canvas on which we can build and add to in the future – fresh walls, floors and a layout that will work for us is the aim. Any ‘luxuries’, as I like to call them, such as the wood burning stove that I was talking about in my last post, a new front door to replace the UPVC one and cabinetry work for example has got to wait. Therefore, all I am really thinking about this point is creating a canvas that will last and that we won’t get bored of.

The big thing for me about the house is creating a sense of space as it is very small. I have never, ever been into big, bold colours and I am definitely not into the current trend for dark interiors even though I can appreciate it in other peoples homes. For me, it is really important to have as much light and space as possible as this is what makes me feel calm and centred. A white uncluttered space is my priority dotted with interesting furniture and textiles.

However, to make the space feel as big as possible, whilst also adding a cosy feel, I want to add some colour to create a sense of cohesion so each room flows to another, almost as if each room is an extension of the one before it. For some, this is the absolute opposite of their design philosophy; they want each room to be completely different in colour, tone and style. But for this house I don’t think that would work. Therefore, I plan for the woodwork throughout the house (skirting, architraves, doors) to be painted in Farrow and Ball’s Light Blue, which is a colour I absolutely love and have used before here. The walls will be All White to give me the all important light I want and the woodwork and below the dado rail in the hallway will be the gorgeous Inchyra Blue. Although this is a dark colour the fact that above the dado rail and the ceilings will be All White will keep it bright. Also, I really love the idea of going from a dark colour in the hallway and opening up onto lighter colours in the living space. This is similar to the effect I would like to achieve in our hallway:

I also really love the paint effect in this house that uses the same colour throughout on all the woodwork (wishful thinking that our house was this size!):

Image from Living Etc by Paul Massey – do click through and take a look at the whole house.

I don’t plan to recreate the room below but I really like the soft, relaxed vibe of this room and that’s the feeling I would like to recreate throughout the new house. I want it to be bright, light, comfy, cosy and welcoming with a mixture of textiles and interesting furniture and objects.

Another project that I have found really inspiring is a 1930s house designed by Doris Lee. I particularly like the bathrooms and hallway.

I haven’t really planned the furniture around the house too much yet as I would quite like to move in and let that happen a bit more organically but I hope I will have achieved a lovely canvas by that point.

Katy x

Week one: our house renovations

We excitedly rushed down to the new house yesterday morning to see the progress that has been made this week as our contractor started on Monday (you can see how it looked before we bought it here and since we stripped out the plaster here). We plan to visit every Saturday to see how the project is coming along, check that we are keeping up to date with the building schedule (ten weeks and counting) and that we are happy with the work that has been done before we pay the weekly invoice. We then meet our contractor every Monday morning on site to run through how the last week has gone and what decisions need to be made.

You can always see the most drastic change at the start of a project like this as it takes no time to knock down walls and the like. During week one the remaining plaster, coving, skirting and architraves have been removed, the wall between the loo and bathroom has been knocked out, the fireplaces removed, half of the kitchen has been stripped out ready for the wall to be knocked down next week and the loft completely stripped out as there were three redundant water tanks up there. The other major job that has been done is the re-wiring. This is one of those jobs that we had to plan really carefully as it will influence the design and decor a huge amount. For example, deciding where pendant lights go dictates where the dining table will be placed and wall lights in the alcoves downstairs dictate whether or not shelves go in them etc. Also, I would like pendants hanging either side of our bed over bedside tables ( I have chosen these new Anglepoise ceramic pendants) so I have had to decide where the bed will go before being able to see it in the room.

Here are a few pics that I took yesterday…

The small kitchen will have the right hand wall knocked down next week so the cupboards and work top have been removed as has the tiled floor as I would like to extend the floor boards into this space. I have some DIY plans to make the left hand side of the kitchen more ‘me’ and then we will have a temporary kitchen island where the wall was until we have saved enough to do an extension out into the garden, which will house a new kitchen.

The two doorways into the separate loo and bathroom have gone and a new one is being built, which automatically gives the bathroom far more space.

Knocking the wall out between the loo and bathroom has really helped us visualise what this room will be like (I will blog about the details of this room soon).

The loft has been stripped of the redundant water tanks that were up there and we will have a loft ladder fitted and Jules will lay some OSP across the floor joists so that we can use the valuable space for storage. After living in flats with zero storage for the last twelve years I am SO excited about this prospect!

We had to do a clear plan of the power sockets and lighting for the first week of the build in order to rewire the house. This is actually quite tricky as it’s so hard to know what type of lighting and how much you will need until you have lived somewhere so fingers crossed we have got it right! Also, it directly impacts the layout of your furniture and design decisions. This image shows our bedroom and the bed will go in the middle of this wall with two pendants hanging either side over bedside tables.

The fireplaces have been knocked out – sorry to anyone who liked the originals!! We will plaster over the one in the dining area as we need all the space we can get there and then I have bought two small original cast iron fireplaces to be fitted into the bedrooms (I’ll explain more about this in another post).

Love it or hate it?! This is an original fireplace surround that I bought from eBay this week to go in the living area where we plan to have a wood burning stove. We can’t afford to buy the stove or have it fitted yet but I didn’t want to have it plastered over as I knew if that happened we would never get round to doing it.

I will post again in a couple of days with an idea of how I visualise the decor for the house – hopefully you won’t get bored of all this renovation chat anytime soon!

Katy x

iRobot Roomba 966 vacuum review: does it really work?

You may have cottoned on to the fact that I’m a bit obsessed with vacuuming (or rather being aware that our home needs to be vacuumed and constantly moaning about the fact that I am the only one who sees that fact). I have had a cleaner since I bought my first flat and have always seen it as a good investment  – a proper weekly clean really does help to keep a property in a good state. My lovely cleaner has been with me for the last six years or so and she saw the gradual decline of the cleanliness levels of the flat we have just moved out of with the arrival of Otto five years ago and now Mimi. She likes to remind me on an almost weekly basis how nice my flat was before we welcomed a particularly hairy dog who gets covered in mud most days and a baby who is an expert mess maker. Fair enough, to be honest, as the difference was pretty huge.

So, our main issue is keeping the floor clean and hair/dust/mud free. It’s basically an hourly battle with a golden retriever and a hard floor and that really isn’t an exaggeration. I’m sorry if I’m sounding slightly insane but I’m not talking about a few specks of dirt, I’m talking about tumbleweeds of dog hair rolling across the floor and the effect of someone brushing off ten walking boots’ worth of dry mud. We currently run on a two vacuum cleaner system – a big corded vacuum that my cleaner uses once a week and a lightweight cordless vacuum that I use a couple of times a day as and when needed to ‘spot clean’. I also have to do a full house vacuum with my cordless and then mop once or twice a week. For me, this is way too much and it’s driving me potty. I’m pretty sure other people aren’t vacuuming every day and mopping every other day…are you?!

Imagine my delight, therefore, when I was asked to review the iRobot Roomba 966 vacuum. IT WILL VACUUM MY HOUSE FOR ME. The answer to my problems, no? Well, I’ve been trying it out and I’m now ready to tell you whether this is what I have been praying for…

We are staying with family at the moment whilst our new house is renovated so I decided to try the Roomba there.

What does the iRobot do?

Let me begin by giving you a brief rundown of what the Roomba actually is and what it can do. A vacuum robot that uses Smart technology to navigate its way around an entire level of your home cleaning as it goes, the Roomba can vacuum anytime, anywhere. The Roomba 966 model (one down from the top of the range model) can run for up to 75 minutes and can clean any floor surface. It will automatically return to its charging dock to recharge and then resume the job until it is done. It cleverly maps out your home using sensors and knows exactly where it has been and where it needs to go, as well as detecting dirt when it comes across it, and you can use an app on your phone to start the Roomba as well schedule regular cleaning jobs. Well, this all sounds amazing in theory but what about the reality?

The Roomba automatically returns ‘home’ to its small charging dock when it has run out of charge and then resumes its cleaning job. You could keep the charging dock under a piece of furniture like a cabinet, which would make storing the Roomba very discrete.

What does the iRobot do well?

1. It cleans really well. If you are able to give your Roomba enough time and space (in my opinion it really isn’t meant for homes with loads of clutter and stuff all over the floor) it will slowly but surely do as good a clean as a conventional vacuum. It definitely takes longer than a ten minute blast of the vacuum and doesn’t give instant results so it needs a full run to show what it can do. I would say that you need to be organised about the way you use it; schedule regular cleans using the app that it connects to and if you have a house make sure it gets moved between the levels regularly. I think of it as a maintenance tool not a quick fix; if you schedule it to clean every day it does the amount of vacuuming I wish I had the time and energy for so that my home never gets to the point where it looks and feels like it needs a really good vacuum – does that make sense? Basically it maintains a good level of cleanliness and collects the dirt that you don’t even know is there and this is where its real value lies.

2. It navigates its way around furniture very effectively. Sometimes I like to just sit and watch my Roomba and how clever it is, to be honest! The Smart technology maps the Roomba’s route and over time it learns the layout of your home as well as the obstacles so it becomes more and more efficient. It can make its way around the legs of furniture, as well as going under furniture if it can fit (it is very slim). It cleans edges and around corners and it will ‘spot clean’ if it detects a problem area so it goes over and over the same spot until it is clean. However, there are always spots that it can’t get to for example, behind doors, the dust that collects around cables, around piles of clutter etc.

The Roomba learns its route around your home and navigates furniture so effectively. It can clean around the feet and legs of furniture and fit underneath pieces but make sure there is no way it will get stuck.

3. The app that connects to the vacuum is brilliant – it gives a really clear record of where the Roomba has cleaned and how long it has cleaned for. You can set the Roomba to clean at specific times on specific days or set up a regular cleaning schedule so you don’t even have to think about. However, it can get a little disconcerting when you get an alert on your phone whilst you’re out that the Roomba has got “stuck near a cliff” or “help, I’m stuck!” – ha! As I said, you do need to make sure that there aren’t little bits everywhere (toys, for example) if you want the Roomba to do an effective clean. We had a tipi tent set up for Mimi that was full of her toys and the Roomba kept on going in there and getting wound up in all her pull along toys so we learnt that we needed to make that a no go zone.

4. You can set up an invisible boundary line with a ‘virtual wall barrier’, which was the perfect solution to the tipi tent issue. This is an accessory (you get one with the Roomba but you can order more if you need them) that has two modes: Virtual Wall Mode keeps your robot in the rooms you want cleaned and out of the ones you don’t and Halo Mode keeps your robot away from items you want to protect. All you have to do is position the virtual wall barrier in front of the object you are protecting or at a doorway if you want to keep the Roomba in one particular room. One thing to note is that the Roomba will not fall down stairs; it detects the stairs as it approaches them and will turn around when it needs to. Therefore, you do not need to worry about that if you leave the Roomba to clean by itself.

The virtual wall barrier can either mark a straight line that you don’t want the Roomba to cross or create a halo around an object you don’t want it to go near.

5. I was particularly impressed at how well the Roomba travels from one surface to another. There are lots of rugs on hard floor where we are staying and that will be the same case in our new house so I was worried that the Roomba would get stuck every time it came across a rug. However, it travels seamlessly between carpet, rug and hard floor, which is really important if you want to leave it to clean whilst you are out. Also, you don’t have to mess around with different settings for different types of flooring; it will clean any floor type as well as the next.

6. One thing that frustrates me about my cordless vacuum is how short the battery life is but this is definitely not an issue with the Roomba. It will clean for up to 75 minutes and it will charge itself when the battery does run out. 75 minutes of non-stop cleaning is a very thorough clean but depending how dirty your floors are you will probably have to empty the cartridge where the dust collects during that time. The Roomba will also dock itself by going ‘home’ when it has run out of battery and carry on its clean once it has charged.

What does the iRobot not do well?

1. It is noisier than I expected it to be. I don’t know why, but I had the idea that it would be super quiet and I could have it on whilst I was doing other stuff and not be disturbed by the noise. However, it is pretty noisy – quieter than conventional vacuums – but definitely not something you could have running in the background whilst you watch TV in the evening.

2. If it gets trapped whilst you’re out you won’t be able to rescue it so the clean stops, which can be frustrating. It is really important to learn the obstacles in your home and make sure those are clear so that you can avoid it getting trapped at all.

3. The cartridge where the dust collects is pretty small so in our home it always needs emptying after about 40 minutes so we can’t just set it off to clean all day when we’re out.

4. The Roomba can’t do stairs, skirting boards or tricky spots around clutter so I think I would always want to do one clean a week with my conventional vacuum for those spots. Plus, there are times when there are spillages or you need to get rid of dirt really quickly so my cordless cleaner is best for that.

Otto hiding from the Roomba as he knows it turns around as soon as it reaches the stairs – ha!

In summary, I am really impressed by how thorough the Roomba is if you take the time to set up a regular schedule for it to clean and ensure that it is not going to get stuck around loads of clutter. I am also delighted that the regular maintenance of keeping our floors clean no longer falls on my shoulders and that the floors never get to that stage anymore where they look horrifically dirty. It is completely ideal for a pet owner like me as the Roomba is so effective at picking up pet hair every day so it never builds up into a horrid mess. Could I keep the floors clean with the Roomba alone? In short, no. I do think we need a cordless vacuum as well as the Roomba for spillages that we need to quickly get rid of, the stairs and to get into corners where there is clutter. Can I get rid of our massive conventional vacuum? Yes! To be able to hand over the main bulk of vacuuming to the Roomba is just wonderful and makes it 100% worth the money in my opinion (if cleanliness is important to you). I can’t wait to set it up in our new house once we move in as the downstairs is going to be all open plan and we will have carpet upstairs so I’m thinking it’s going to have a lot of cleaning on its hands!

Do ask me any questions I haven’t answered for you in the post. Just pop them in the comments below.

Katy x

*This post was written in collaboration with iRobot.