‘ We em­braced our home’s his­tory’

Stylist at Home So­phie, 33, kept the au­then­tic char­ac­ter of her 1940s house by both pre­serv­ing and up­dat­ing in a sym­pa­thetic man­ner

Style at Home (UK) - - Do It #sahstylists -

ak­ing on a pe­riod house that hadn’t been touched for many years was a chal­lenge that ap­pealed to my hus­band tom and me,’ says so­phie, ‘as we ab­so­lutely knew that we could make a huge dif­fer­ence and cre­ate a home we could be truly proud of. We’d done ev­ery­thing we could to our pre­vi­ous two-bed­room 1980s house nearby, where we’d lived for nearly five years.

We were both brought up in this area of Hert­ford­shire, so we wanted to stay close to our friends and fam­ily, but knew if we were go­ing for a big­ger home, it would have to be some­where that needed work do­ing. Luck­ily, Tom’s pretty handy and he has loads of friends in the build­ing trade, so that didn’t phase us at all. We both love mak­ing changes to prop­er­ties, and I think even if we found some­where for the same price that was all fin­ished, we’d still go for the project.

TPast perfect

When I first looked around this 1940s house in 2011, not only were we the only ones who even wanted to view it, but also I think the builders we’d brought along for a sec­ond opin­ion thought we were mad. I don’t think any­one else wanted to touch the place. Once we’d con­vinced the es­tate agents we were se­ri­ous about buy­ing it, had an of­fer ac­cepted, and the place was ours, we had two weeks’ grace be­fore we had to move house in the Septem­ber.

We were thrilled when we dis­cov­ered we were only the third own­ers of our prop­erty. The first one lived here only briefly and af­ter that, a lady had lived here for more than 60 years. Even­tu­ally she moved into a care home, but she left plenty of items in the house, some of which we’ve kept to pre­serve their his­tory, and in­cor­po­rated them into our scheme. We’ve dis­played her old Singer sewing ma­chine in the liv­ing room. There was a chaise longue sit­ting un­der the

bed­room win­dow that we liked so much, we just left it there, and a wooden coat and hat stand/bench in the hall. Tom needed some con­vinc­ing about the hat stand – at first he thought it looked like an elec­tric chair! But he’s got used to it now, and it’s great to have a handy spot to sit and put on our shoes. There were, how­ever, some odd pieces that we didn’t want to keep, like an un­sightly row of chairs in the liv­ing room, but I had the bright idea of sell­ing them all on ebay at £150, which gave a very wel­come boost to our bud­get.

Al­though be­ing un­touched for many years had left the house with some great orig­i­nal features, it also meant that noth­ing had been up­dated ei­ther. There was no cen­tral heat­ing, and the kitchen had only a sink and a cup­board. There

‘Look at the shapes and colours that al­ready ex­ist in your house and re­fer to them through­out to give a cohesive feel’

were no units, work­top space, or a cooker, and we knew we had our work cut out.

Work be­gins

We made a bed­room hab­it­able and painted all the walls cream tem­po­rar­ily, be­cause we’d be liv­ing in the house the whole time we were do­ing it up. There was no proper bath­room, so we very quickly put a cheap one in, which is still go­ing strong, al­though we do plan to re­place it at some point. In­stalling cen­tral heat­ing was a ne­ces­sity, and we set our­selves a £10,000 limit for do­ing all the build­ing work, in­clud­ing putting in a new kitchen and buy­ing all the fur­ni­ture.

Like many 1940s houses, the kitchen was a small gal­ley-style space with a sep­a­rate din­ing room that didn’t fit in with mod­ern liv­ing. We wanted the two rooms to be turned into one large area. So we em­ployed a lo­cal com­pany that we knew and trusted, Cau­dle De­vel­op­ments, to pull down the wall, put in the sup­port­ing steel and to­tally re­plas­ter the new room, which took a cou­ple of weeks and cost £1,800.

We com­mis­sioned some shal­low wall cup­boards, but we hadn’t re­alised they’d take six weeks to be made, so we didn’t have a kitchen for a cou­ple of months – luck­ily we’d booked a long hol­i­day in Thai­land over that Christ­mas and the rest of the time we ate meals at the nearby pub or with fam­ily and friends.

Pe­riod touches

With the kitchen all in place, we then made a de­ci­sion to re­place the win­dows, which in­creased the bud­get by £5,000, tak­ing it up to £15,000, but we

‘Mod­ern Mir­rors can of­ten seem out of place in a vin­tage set­ting so Make sure yours fit in with the age of the house’

were so pleased that we did. We were both de­ter­mined to re­place the old metal win­dows with some­thing au­then­tic to the age of our home, rather than the Upvc win­dows that you see ev­ery­where. i know they’re prac­ti­cal and much cheaper, but for us it’s just not the same. We tracked down a lo­cal sup­plier, CW Win­dows, to carry out the work, and at £8,500, it was our big­gest ex­pen­di­ture. But it was money well spent and plenty of our neigh­bours have told us how much they like them. the win­dow frames are black on the out­side and white on the in­side, and we teamed them with white paint­work.

Bar­gain buys

We’ve worked our way slowly through the rest of the house, ren­o­vat­ing the rooms in the evenings and week­ends. We’ve gone with the orig­i­nal features where pos­si­ble – in the kitchen, the or­ange and brown of the tiled fire­place aren’t colours i would nec­es­sar­ily have cho­sen, but i de­cided to em­brace them by seek­ing out a wall­pa­per with the ex­act same shades in it, so it all works to­gether.

i’m an ebay fa­natic, which was handy when it came to find­ing fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories. i am a bit ob­ses­sive once i get an idea in my head, and i’ll search for some­thing for weeks un­til i find ex­actly what i’m look­ing for. i’ll of­ten see an item in a de­signer shop or a magazine and then keep on look­ing on ebay un­til i find it. the dra­matic lac­quered Ori­en­tal cock­tail cabi­net that’s now in our liv­ing room was an ebay piece i fell in love with. al­though it was a good price, the seller lived in new­cas­tle, and as tom was adamant he

wasn’t driv­ing there to get it, we paid to have it de­liv­ered. an­other bar­gain was some barely-used mink vel­vet so­fas. this time they were only around the cor­ner, so tom picked them up in his van. they were a great find, as our bud­get was groan­ing!

tom and i are a good team, as he deals with the tech­ni­cal side of things while i’m more in­te­ri­ors-fo­cused. But we both agree on ma­jor points and we like the retro look we’ve achieved. i love that ev­ery­thing has been care­fully sought out and is in­di­vid­ual – i never wanted an off-the-shelf home!’ See in­spir­ing house tour videos and ideas at house­to­home.co.uk/ styleath­ome

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