Bring your Victorian home up to date while still celebrating and enjoying its original details with some stylish and sensitive ideas
Many of us live in Victorian built homes. From handsome townhouses to the humble terrace, properties from this period were typically solidly built and simply configured. But the inside’s was full of interesting features, including sash windows, ceiling roses, cast-iron fireplaces, cast iron radiators, panel doors, cornice and tall skirting boards.
These days, we consider these original features as integral a part of the interior as the kitchen sink, but this was not always the case. The cheap modernisation that swept through Britain after the Second World War and only really calming down in the 1980s. During that time, many fireplaces, panelled doors and cornices were ripped out and replaced with plywood, melamine and tawdry wallcoverings in a bid to bring these beautiful Victorian homes into the 20th century – or so was thought!
Thankfully, today, there is a more considered approach. We want to preserve or reinstate original features to bring the character back to our homes without compromising on contemporary style and functionality. Often this means aligning hallways, living rooms and bedrooms bursting with authentic character with a highly efficient kitchen and bathroom. But you can still celebrate your Victorian home without living in a museum.
Windows are the eyes
Victorian homes were typically fitted with large and simple sash windows. If you have original ones, it is possible to repair and waterproof them to provide an even longer and more beautiful life. It is also very easy (albeit at a cost) to upgrade your sashes with double glazing – with a large number of companies throughout the UK, that can fit slimline double glazed panes into existing frames. Alternatively, there are companies that can manufacture authentic replacements.
The joy of a beautiful wooden floor is as much today, as when we first started to uncover them in the 1980s. Ripping up that carpet or lino and discovering the beauty of the timber that lies beneath. Even battered and worn boards can be repaired and patched, Don’t give up on the original boards. Seek out a professional and discuss the alternatives.
Stand out cornice
The Victorians loved their ornate plasterwork cornice, but you can reinvent it today, while also making it stand out, by painting it a bold shade you can celebrate and modernise that beautiful original feature.
Pick a rose
If your home has features such as ceiling roses, you can bring them gloriously up to date, by juxtaposing a contemporary light fitting with a traditional plasterwork rose, they will sit beautifully together!
Strike with colour
Today’s moody dark hues work brilliantly with Victorian features and are in keeping with that period’s love of dark shades. Here, a cloudy grey looks striking alongside an original fireplace. Avoid cluttering the mantelpiece with objects, which will tax the eye, especially if there are decorative tiles on the fire surround. A striking, contemporary artwork hung above, on the other hand, strikes just the right note of edgy modernity.
Adding the new footage
No house, however beautiful, should stay static, don’t be afraid to bring your home into the 21st century and let it live! Thousands of properties from the Victorian period have been extended, with a super-sleek kitchen-diners, galleried games rooms and elegant bathrooms Much of your family life can take place in the large, contemporary extension, while smaller rooms in the original Victorian side of the house offer more intimate space.
The natural beauty of beautiful clay bricks exposed will give an industrial reference to buildings and lofts of the period, and in any Victorian home by exposing the brickwork. You can start with just one feature wall, or even a section of it, visible bricks, will bring a raw, rustic quality to any space.
Avoid the contemporary commons
Certain changes crop up time and again in contemporary conversions and extensions. Forget the Bi-Fold door, If you wish to bring your Victorian home up to date in a more subtle way, and source more timeless options to bridge the gap between the decade in which your home was built and today. An example would be fitting a door and windows rather than the typical wall of folding doors and thus preventing the space from looking too ‘now’! And celebrating its original style while providing for today’s convenience.
Today, modernising a Victorian home is more about making it function well, while still preserving its character. We are less interested in creating a stark, modern look in a period property and are more happy to go with the eclectic look. So look out for fittings that reference the period, but offer contemporary efficiency. It can be expensive and time-consuming to source original, reconditioned pieces from the Victorian period, but newly made versions of traditional designs are widely available. You can find everything from cast iron radiators to airbricks and tiles that are excellent reproductions while offering the benefits of being newly manufactured.
Up the period
You can source some relatively inexpensive Victorian furniture – chests of drawers, cabinets and blanket boxes are easy to find in markets and online auctions – and you can bring them up to date by cleaning stripping and painting them in a bright shade, or a funky combination. To further enhance new knobs or handles, will give a fresh look. Because of your efforts and creativity, these pieces will look at home in your Victorian property without looking stuffy.
It’s outside we project
While it’s the inside of the Victorian home we live with, it’s the outside we project to the world, and Victorian properties give so much to enhance their locality, it goes without saying that you should not forget the outside features and fabric of your home. With beautiful cast iron ogee guttering and the decorative rainwater hopper heads found on even the smallest homes, to the grand columned cast-iron verandas found on the larger and more elegant properties, restoration and replication with bespoke castings will show your home off to the world.