A lot of period properties are now completely different from what they were when they were newly built (as we all know from watching “Homes Under the Hammer.”) An old property may have now been renovated many times. In the 50s and 60s, when contemporary minimalism was fashionable, beautiful original features were often removed.
These days, any DIY store stocks classic finishes like covings, dado rails, rosettes, terracotta tiles or floral wallpaper. Any interior designer will tell you that we have now shifted towards “maximalism” and it seems everyone is either on the hunt for a period property or is incorporating period features in their homes.
So, what should be kept, what should be replaced and what should be got rid of when buying a period property? And how can the style of your property be identified?
The Georgian House (1714-1837)
Georgian houses with original features are hard to come by. Georgian architecture is very elegant, following the Classical design principles fashionable at the time. The number of windows was a sign of wealth, but many windows were bricked over when the government of the day introduced a “Window Tax” to raise money for wars.
Georgian houses are usually strongly symmetrical in shape with pillars in front of the house and a panelled front door in the centre. The tiled hipped roof is often hidden behind a parapet. There are often paired chimneys, fan lights above the door and sash windows. The windows nearer the roof are smaller than those on lower floors.
The most fashionable houses had the interior walls panelled from floor to ceiling and divided horizontally into three parts using classical proportions. Most of the interior features in Georgian houses are now long gone, but more and more Georgian property owners are trying to recreate the style. Lighter shades such as sky blues, lavenders, blossom pinks and pea greens help maintain airy and elegant interiors.
Darker deeper shades are often employed to emphasise skirting and covings. It was in the Georgian period that ceiling plasterwork reached the height of intricacy and elegance and this remains one of the hallmarks of a genuine Georgian residence. If you’re viewing a Georgian house with all the original features intact – congratulations, you have discovered a gem, grab it and keep it! When you move in, keep those beautiful features, just make sure there aren’t any nasties under the panelling.
The Victorian House (1837-1901)
Victorian houses won’t have a garage. They will have chimneys, as there will be fireplaces in most rooms. There may be a three-sided bay window and Flemish brick bonding, and sometimes patterns with different coloured bricks. Other typical features include stained glass in doorways and windows and slate roofs. Some properties still have decorative wooden panels along the overhang of the roof (bargeboards). Whilst it is advisable to keep all the exterior features of a Victorian house, it is wise to maintain the exterior of the house and regularly check for damp, cracks and mould. Any errors would be highlighted in your home buyers report, so it is strongly advisable to commission a full survey of a Victorian house.
Originally, Victorian homes would have a fireplace in every room as the source of heat. Keeping the fireplace in larger rooms, working or not, will add charm and character. They can always be painted and restored and would definitely keep the value of your home higher than if you remove them. As for bathroom facilities, if the listing states the bath is original, well, this is something that will definitely has to be changed, as Victorian baths were tin. If the bath is not tin, the statement is untrue.
The decision to keep interior features is very personal, but restoring (or adding a replica) covings, skirting boards, dado rails, rosettes, terracotta tiles, staircase railings and bannisters and any light panelling is worthwhile. Remember to check the electrical wiring of the house and that the plumbing is in order before restoring and planning for any decorative work.