Our guide to keeping period properties in tip top condition.
The UK is absolutely full of period homes; from Victorian terraces to grand villas and modest worker’s cottages to teetering townhouses. The country has lots of Victorian housing stock (that built between 1837 and 1901) due to a house-building boom at the time, but now as homeowners move to the suburbs and out of town locations, we’re seeing the property market sway more toward new builds and conversions. These underrated homes are fast becoming less in demand than their newer counterparts, despite being set in more convenient locations and often offering better value for money.
Long lauded as draughty in winter and expensive to maintain, period properties have never been out of favour with those in the home renovations and improvements industries; and here at Refresh Renovations we cover off some brilliant features to maintain and enhance the tradition of your period home without breaking the bank.
Stained glass is often thought of just for church windows, but back in the 1800s, it was a popular front door feature! Decorative panels in doors provide light and privacy (and a bit of colour) and were long considered a real indication of opulence and taste. Nowadays, stained glass designs can be custom created to complement your desired aesthetics and provide the rainbow hues you need to really set off your interior design. A more budget option is to shop around salvage yards and old bazaars – undamaged old doors can often be found, or period reproductions purchased.
If stained glass isn’t really your thing, a front door can be painted in a heritage colour and dressed up with traditional features to really make it stand out. Polished brass fittings (think door knob, letter box, number or name) alongside a bold paint hue can really make a front door eye-catching without it seeming over the top or out of place.
OK, you probably won’t literally bathe in your sink, but Victorian pantry chic is being found increasingly in newly fitted kitchens – yet of course complements a genuine old home just perfectly. A classic butler sink is a square, raw white porcelain feature that’s wide and deep enough to be practical but unusual enough to lend an air of class to an interior aesthetic. Contrasted with non-white units, furniture and walls, a butler sink is usually placed by a window so you can look out as you wash up.
Cast iron fireplaces immediately draw the eye in any room but, particularly in terraced period homes, are often covered up or left to falter in favour of more modern decoration. Lots of salvage and ‘junk’ yards have genuine old fireplaces available, but many more can found through resale websites and social media sales listings. If fireplaces are already present but need revamping, inspiration can be found online to cover, replace and perk up their features. Be careful if stripping paint from a period fireplace, though – if genuinely Victorian, it could contain lead.
Literally! Modern homes tend to favour tiles all in one colour, but the Victorians adored geometric patterns including checked colour (or black) and white. Genuine traditional tiles can still be picked up from reclamation yards and antique shops, but plenty of high street homeware and flooring retailers now do great reproductions. Tiles can be contrasted on floors, behind cookers and along borders. Why not mix and match?
Cornicing; that is lining the corner between the wall and ceiling with decorative plaster; adds a grandeur to a room and can transform its feel through shape. Plastering of this type can be done (or restored) by a specialist and is created through moulded reproductions of Victorian designs. For more decorative options, off-the-shelf moulds can be purchased from DIY shops for plastering yourself, as well as moulds to fit around lights and fixtures and fittings in ceilings too.
Sliding sash windows are a classic Victoria property feature and make a huge difference to both the inside and outside of a home. Having fallen out of favour with many due to their perceived draughtiness, modern options are built much stronger than the originals and so need not let in any unnecessary cold. Many window fitters offer specialist reproduction windows for Victorian properties that comply with modern energy saving standards and these represent great value for money alongside restoring a perfect period piece.
Standalone and shaped bath tubs have long been considered a luxury, and they fit nowhere better than in a bathroom with traditional period features. It’s almost always easier to buy and install a modern reproduction of a traditional tub rather than a genuine antique, but the real deal can still be found for a pretty penny if you’re willing to invest. Mix and match with other period bathing features and if there isn’t the room for it in the middle of the room, opt for a shaped option that can be tucked in to a corner. It’ll still look (and feel) great!
Thinking of old radiators conjures up for many the image of chunky cast iron off-white heaters in schools that burnt your thighs, but these shapely radiators create a real period aesthetic when situated properly in a well-decorated themed room. Most heating companies offer differing shapes and reproductions of olde-style heaters and these are usually favourable over older options so that you can be sure they work efficiently. Radiators can often be painted with specialist paint, too – so go bold and make it really stand out with a new hue!
Victorian and period homes have definitely fallen out of trend in the last few years but they’re a vibrant part of our history and can make for brilliant places to live. You’ll need to spend more than a few shillings to make the place shine, sure; but why not? It’s an investment in your living space, and a charming one at that. Mix old and new for a striking style and really make the place your own.
Thinking of some period property improvements? Get in touch to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our renovation specialists.
All Refresh Renovations franchises are independently owned and operated.
If you would like to find out how Refresh Renovations can support you with a high quality, efficient home renovation, get in touch today. Your local Refresh consultant will be happy to meet with you for a free, no obligations consultation.