The Victorian house

By Rosanna Holmes,
13th October 2009 - 08:49
Restoration can be rewarding, but you need the right suppliers on handto make it a real success, so we show you where to start and who to call
 
There's a lot to love about Victorian properties. With their ornate architecture, elegant proportions and intricate detailing, they were built to be admired, and they've stood the test of time, too. One third of the houses in Britain were built before the First World War, and most of these are Victorian. Under Queen Victoria's rule, Britain saw a boom in new builds - in a period of less than 75 years, over 6m houses were built, and the majority still stand today.
 
Maintaining a home that's around 150 years old requires considerable work, and tracking down the best suppliers and products is half the battle. Similarly, if you've fallen in love with a Victorian property that needs a lot of TLC, nothing could be more satisfying, or time consuming, than a complete restoration project. But restoring your property according to its period can be complicated. We look at the major areas of Victorian houses that need attention, and the best people to call on. From sinks to skirting boards, fitted kitchens to front doors, we select the best period looks for your home.
 
 
ID panel
What type of Victorian house do you have?

Gothic Revival The epitome of high Victorian taste, especially popular after Pugin designed the Houses of Parliament in Gothic style in the late 1830s. Look for pointed roofs and arches, stained glass windows, embellishments such as gargoyles and ecclesiastical touches such as turrets.

 
Jacobethan In contrast to the architectural excesses of the mid-Victorian period, this style, also known as 'Tudorbeathan', revived the style of Tudor or Stuart England. Look for castle-like fortifications, steep roof gables, intricate brickwork, high chimneys and half timbering.
 
Arts & Crafts The late 1860s movement that was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, Arts & Crafts valued craftsmanship above all. Look for small cottage-style wooden casement windows, sloping roofs, and bare stone and brick work. 
 
Art Noveau The most distinctive design style of the turn of the century, some late Victorian homes would feature Art Noveau details such as curving, plant forms, usually in detailing such as stained glass, tiles and fire surrounds.
 
Terraces The majority of Victorian builds were built as terraces, where the individual design of a house would be repeated over and over using identical features.
 
 
Plasterwork
These instantly recognisable details are well worth restoring to their former glory
 
Cornicing and plaster ceiling roses were the norm for Victorian houses, and the level of detail depended on the status of the room, so a reception room would feature much more intricate plasterwork than a bedroom for example. After the introduction of mass-produced reinforced fibrous-plaster mouldings, plasterwork became ever more ornate, as prefabricated mouldings could be made and installed by general tradesmen.
 
* Surface stains, such as mould, can be removed by using a mixture of one part bleach to 16 parts water dabbed onto the ceiling. If the fine detail of the plasterwork has been obscured by many layers of paint, it's best to strip it back to the original distemper - try PeelAway 1 paint stripper, £20.98 from decoratingdirect.co.uk.
 
* To replace damaged plasterwork, try Butcher Plaster Works - 020 7313 6509 - who can match almost all mouldings and make you a replacement, or create a new mould for you if they can't match it. Prices start from £200 to make a new moulding, and then £25 per m for the bespoke cornicing.
 
* You can usually tell if a rose has been removed, from unevenness on the ceiling. When adding a new rose, align it with the centre of the chimney breast rather than the centre of the ceiling. If the cornicing in your home has been stripped, you can order pieces from LeeWay (0121 449 8525) made from polymer, they are lighter than plaster. Keaneys also recreate ceiling roses from an originals found in grand Victorian homes. 020 8256 0004; keaneys.co.uk.
 
 
Windows and doors
Recreate period detail from the word go
 
Windows
* Poorly insulated sash windows are a common occurrence. Storm Windows (01384 636365), are specialists in fitting bespoke secondary glazing without hiding original period features. Price by quotation.
 
* If you need to replace windows entirely, go to a specialist, such as Bygone Collection (0800 591854). Their windows could cut heat loss by 75 per cent and they have a huge range of authentic styles to choose from. Price on application.
 
* Try The Original Box Sash Window Company (01735 858196) for single- and double-glazed sash windows, fully draft-proofed and madein timber that has been treated to last.
 
Doors
* London Door Company - 020 7801 0877 - offers period and contemporary doors madein solid hardwood.
* If your doors are beyond repair, try a reclaimed door from The Original Choice in Birmingham (0121 778 3821).
* For finishing touches, The Victorian Ironmonger (01588 660157) has original letterboxes, door knobs, eschutcheons and latches.
 
Skirting/picture rail
Stylish ways to enhance and display wall hangings
 
Skirting boards Victorians used deep and shapely skirting boards throughout their homes. Most original designs can still be bought from stores, such as B&Q.
 
Dado rails These were used to protect wallcoverings from chair backs. You can usually see where a dado rail would have been. Try HouseMartin 0845 838 1296 - to choose from a selection of rails, as well as adhesives and tools needed for the job. From £4.01 per 200cm rail.
 
Picture rails These should be placed 1ft to 1ft 8in below the ceiling cornice to form a frieze. Wickes do a pine picture rail, £11.89, which best resembles the Victorian style, or try ukhomeinteriors.co.uk for more elaborate styles.
 
Fireplaces
The focal point of every Victorian room, a period fireplace is a must for your home
 
Every room in a Victorian house would have had a fireplace when built, but these have often been covered or removed by later occupants. If you wish to reinstate a fireplace for decorative purposes only, the absence of a chimney is no problem. If you wish to reinstate a working fireplace, its best to call in a builder to carry out any structural work. Some specialist firms, such as Acquisitions (0845 094 1644), can design you a repro fireplace and fit it for you.
 
* Browse through stock of several hundred original pieces, as well as reproduction items at Chesney's Antique Fireplace Warehouse (020 7627 1410). Their experts can advise on the correct choice of fireplace for your homes period. The Victorian collection starts from ú495.
* Try Stovax - 01392 474011 - for hand-cast reproduction cast-iron fireplaces for solidfuel and gas effect fires, from £379.
* Emsworth Fireplaces Ltd (01243 373300) are specialists in solid timber and marble mantels, from £250.
* Bisque radiators has a range of traditional radiators with showrooms in Bath and London - the 'Classic' design is especially popular for Victorian homes.
*Beautiful fireplaces and surrounds can be found in salvage yards, so it's worth investigating further. Visit salvo.co.uk.
 
 
Flooring
Carpet-free is the only way to be
 
Victorian houses generally combinepine floorboards throughout the house with tiles in hallways. Both carpets and linoleum were introduced around the 1850s, but floorboards are key for an authentic feel. Stripping back to the originals is an inexpensive way of recreating your home's Victorian looks, although they would have been stained to resemble mahogany rather than today's trend for lighter woods.
 
Hardflooring experts Quickstep has a 'Linesse' range of laminate tiles in dark wood tones, which would work well in a living room.
 
Manufacturers of all types of hardwood flooring, Heritage Woodcraft (01455 890800) has a large stock of reclaimed flooring, strip flooring and planking, ideal if you are repairing sections of a wooden floor.
 
Criterion Tiles (020 7736 9610) is an invaluable resource for wall and floor tiles from the Victorian period, including discontinued tiles.
 
 
Kitchens
Mix mod cons with vintage chic
Kitchens have come a long way from the hot, overcrowded powerhouses of the mid Victorian household, so a faithful recreation of a period kitchen would hardly suit the demands of modern living. It's still possible to have a design that has all the mod cons, though, while complementing the rest of your Victorian home.
 
* Smallbone of Devizes' (020 7589 5998) Mandarin collection, with its lightly recessed panels, takes inspiration from the Arts & Crafts tradition and would suit a 1860's Victorian house.
* Magnet's 'Shaker' kitchen combines freestanding pieces and a Belfast sink for a traditional look, from £6,395.
* Crabtree Kitchens (020 8392 6955) make bespoke designs using traditional joinery techniques, and are happy to match a kitchen to your home's architectural features.
 
The bathroom
The combination of an improved water supply and advances in ceramics and iron led to a revolution in sanitary ware during the Victorian period, making the bathroom an increasingly important part of the house. Today, period touches such as roll-top baths and copper 'slipper' baths are a must.
 
* Fired Earth's (01295 810832) 'Shaker' range incorporates freestanding washstands for an authentic Victorian look, from £1,041.
* The 'Savoy' bathroom suite from The Bath Store (0800 023 2323) is influenced by Victorian design and starts from £32 for a towel rail.
* Heritage Bathroom's (0844 701 8501) 'Victoria' suite combines a freestanding bath with claw feet and a pedestal wash basin, from £2,792.
* The Water Monopoly (020 7624 2636) has an extensive range of freestanding baths and showers, including rare antique pieces in copper and ceramics.
* CP Hart's (0845 600 1950) freestanding baths are a modern take onthe traditional roll top bath, ideal for a subtly contemporary feel.
* Opt for a cast-iron bath - the 'Spey' bath, from £3,450 from Drummonds. 01428 609444.
 
 
Taps
Pick pretty and period designs
* Samuel Heath's 'Fairfield' taps and mixers are available in a variety of delightful finishes. 0121 772 2303
Twyford bathrooms was established in 1849. Try their 'Persuasion' range for a traditional look.
 
 
Decorating
Embrace Victoriana with textiles
 
Wallpapers Hamilton Weston Wallpapers and Design (020 8940 4850) reproduce wallpapers from their extensive period archive. If you have an existing wallpaper you want to match, Alexander Beauchamp (01254 691133) reproduces period papers. If you want textured or embossed papers, Crown Berger (01254 704951) specialises in Anaglypta and Lincrusta papers. Cole & Son also (020 7376 4628) specialise in archive papers.
 
Paints Dulux Heritage (01753 550555) is a collection of shades specific to the Victorian period. Farrow & Ball (01202 876141) also stock a wide range of traditional shades.
 
Fabrics Zoffany (0870 830 0350) are experts in 19th-century fabric designs. Colefax and Fowler 020 7244 7427 - offer traditional English fabrics such as chintzes and velvets as well as coordinating trimmings.
 
Find Out More
See the look
* Arts & Crafts - Standen House, West Sussex (01342 323029) is an Arts & Crafts family home with beautiful William Morris wallpapers and textiles on display.
* High Victorian - Osborne House, Isle of Wight (01983 200022) boasts Victorian opulence and extravagant interiors.
* Gothic Revival - Tyntesfield, North Somerset (0844 800 4966). A Gothic Revival masterpiece, currently being restored to its multi-turreted glory.
* Late Victorian - Linley Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace, London. The only surviving example of a middle-class, late-Victorian townhouse.
 
Join the society
The Victorian Society (020 8994 1019) campaigns for the preservation of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and organises events and lectures around the country.
 
Read on
* The Victorian House by Judith Flanders (Harper Perennial)
* Victorian and Edwardian Furnitureand Interiors by Jeremy Cooper(Thames & Hudson)
 
Complete the look
Victorian furniture is currently widely available and reasonably priced, so visit auction houses and antiques shops to find authentic pieces that will last.

  

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