A traditional Christmas in a Victorian home
After years of renovating projects, Vicki Savage has settled in an elegant Victorian semi filled with painted furniture and thoughtful artworks that she has gathered over time
'I’ve promised my family that I won’t visit certain shops any more,’ laughs Vicki Savage, who transformed what was once a tired Victorian house into a tranquil family home filled with elegant antiques. ‘But most of the time I can’t help myself. Antiques and junk shops just draw me in – I think it’s the hope of finding a bit of magic.’ Something of a magpie for certain shapes and colours, Vicki has gathered an eclectic array of furniture and artworks over the years, moving them from house to house. ‘It’s all a bit random, really,’ she says, ‘but they’re an expression of me.’
After years spent refurbishing a c1750s period property in Somerset – and then building a traditional stone house on the plot next door – Vicki and her husband Andy were well-versed in the art of renovation when they bought this Victorian semi in Bristol eight years ago. ‘It was very dated when we moved in,’ she says. ‘It had plastic windows and a conservatory that filled the entire back garden, plus every other room was lined with shelving.’ It was a major project that required stripping the house back to its bare bones and starting again, with a new heating system, bathrooms and kitchen to boot. But, through this arduous process, Vicki has managed to create a family home that she adores.
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Her signature colour palette, a mix of warm neutrals enlivened with Azurite by Edward Bulmer – ‘the most painful thing to choose,’ she laughs – flows elegantly from room to room, giving the period property a sense of contemporary calm. On the ground floor, a lofty entrance hall sits between a large living room and a smaller sitting room that leads through to the kitchen, diner and utility room: ‘We knocked a big hole in the wall so that you would drop down into the kitchen,’ explains Vicki Upstairs, there’s a master bedroom with an en suite, a family bathroom and two additional bedrooms belonging to daughters Lottie and Polly, both now home from university.
Vicki says her love for classic antique pieces came from her parents, who both had an eye for beautiful design and renovated several houses over the years. ‘I suppose my mother had quite a conservative style, but it was always tasteful,’ she muses, explaining that her favourite antique, the Chesterfield sofa in the living room, came from her parents’ home. ‘Although it’s rather uncomfortable, I do love it,’ she says. ‘It was great for practising roly-polys.’
However, unlike her mother, Vicki has an eye for the unusual when it comes to using antiques in her home, and she’s no stranger to upcycling a piece into something more practical. For example, in the bathrooms, antique drawers and an industrial unit have been converted into quirky sink stands. And, in the small living room, a vintage megaphone has been repurposed as a statement lampshade, while salvaged architectural fragments (a gift from a friend who was throwing them away) are used as shelving to display photos and curios.
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Vicki’s finest work, however, is to be found in the master bedroom, where she has installed a bijou en suite, hidden behind a panelled stud wall, into which she set a large Victorian pine cupboard. ‘The inspiration came from a friend of mine who had seen a bathroom hidden behind a sort of secret door. So I sourced these big pine cupboards at Bristol Reclamation as a good way of disguising it,’ she says. ‘At only £400 they were a real bargain, and I like that you wouldn’t really know the bathroom was there.’ Although the space is small, Vicki has cleverly transformed it into a secret sanctuary, with a contemporary bath, set at an angle, and patterned tiles in warm, neutral shades.
When it comes to Christmas decorations, Vicki likes to keep things low-key and natural, gathering ivy and other seasonal greenery, which she uses to adorn the mantelpieces and banisters, and there is always a real tree in the living room. ‘I like things to look quite rustic and wild,’ she explains, ‘and I tend not to decorate until Christmas Eve, as that’s what we did when I was young.’
In fact, her family are usually the last to buy a Christmas tree from their local supplier. ‘One year, the guy had already closed for Christmas by the time we arrived, so he told us to just climb over the fence and take one!’ she laughs. Christmas Day itself is spent at home – using it as the family space it was designed to be. ‘We usually start the day with a dog walk and then have lunch together in the afternoon,’ Vicki explains. ‘Oh, and there’s always a game of bingo during the Queen’s speech!’
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