ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson
Victorian homes boast patterned brick, slate roofs with decorative wooden barge boards and carved ornaments. They were built between 1837 and 1901, when Queen Victoria was in power, and satisfied the urgent need for housing during this period. Consequently, a large number of houses were built in this era and they are still a dominant feature in British suburbs around the country today. Edwardian homes, built between 1901 and 1910, are similar in terms of their features in many ways.
Victorian homes tend to be narrow and long, with slim, steep staircases leading to an upstairs level. The kitchen is usually located at the back, with gardens to the front and rear. Key renovation opportunities include converting the typical galley style kitchen and separate dining area into one large open plan living space. With bi-folding or sliding doors, your new and improved open plan kitchen diner will receive plenty of natural light and open out into the garden for good indoor-outdoor flow. Frequently, homeowners decide to also remove the downstairs bathroom to create a bigger living space, opting then to convert one of typically three bedrooms upstairs into a bathroom where a bathroom hasn’t previously been added to the upstairs level.
With a bit more budget to spare, extending your Victorian out into the ‘side return’ to the side of the kitchen is a great way of using an outdoor area that might otherwise be unused or underused. Leading from the rear kitchen door up the side of a house, the side return is typically rather a dark and dank area and the best way to transform this space is to build a glass box style extension – an extension with glazed sides and either a glazed roof or large Velux windows. It’s a great way of injecting light and height to a usually dark Victorian interior. You could also consider taking the extension into the side return up to the upstairs level, in other words building a double storey extension.
Interior mouldings were fashionable, but they were sometimes removed in previous renovations. These mouldings, including the cornices on ceilings and ceiling roses, were often made of plaster or timber. If you are keen to reinstate them in your home, you can find ample of inspiration in neighbouring houses or houses of the same period as well as in books about Victorian interiors.
Victorian houses originally came with encaustic and geometric floor tiles throughout the ground floor. Colours were generally red and brown, with dark blue, black and off-white also featuring. Kitchens usually had plain, unglazed red clay tiles. Tiles continued out onto the porch area and dados appeared there, with landscape scenes or floral panels. If your original floor tiles are in good shape you could consider maintaining them to add to the character feel of your home. However, timber flooring or modern ceramic tiles offer a sleek and modern look that is often used for the kitchen diner and living areas. Carpets are popular for the bedrooms.
When it comes to windows, the Victorian period saw the arrival of larger six and four-paned sash windows with a single glazing bar down the middle. Three-sided bay windows were also a popular feature at the time. The windows project out of the living space with a flat front and slant sides, and they either have their own roof or continued into a first floor bay window with a roof. Some windows and doors incorporate ornamental stained glass portions at the top. Double-glazing is a consideration and would add greatly to the insulation levels and heat retaining performance of your home. In most cases, double-glazing can easily be retrofitted or included with new joinery.
To keep the house warm, it was common practice to add a fireplace to every room of the house. Often the fireplaces included a grate, and surrounds made from stone, marble or wood. These are lovely period features and could be retained or restored to maintain the Victorian character of your home. Depending in your interior design style and renovation plans, you could also adapt an old fireplace by inserting a gas fire box or remove the fireplace altogether for a clean, sleek interior. If your Victorian terrace has blocked fireplaces already, you could keep them closed or consider reopening them. However, you may require a special consent if your building is listed or located in a conservation area. It's best to check with your local authority first.
Victorian terraces have decent attic space that lends itself perfectly well to a loft conversion. You might have sufficient space for a master bedroom with en-suite, for example. Rooflights or skylights are a good way of letting light flood in, and they could replicate the look and feel of the original Victorian iron rooflights to keep in with the style of the era. Dormer windows add to the useable living space, but should be mindfully designed to fit in with the architectural style.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
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