Per­fectly His­toric

HIS­TORIC ENGLISH HOMES EM­BRACE CEN­TURIES’ OLD STYLE, WITH ROOTS DAT­ING BACK HUN­DREDS OF YEARS.

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Stephanie Agnes-crock­ett

His­toric English homes em­brace cen­turies’ old style, with roots dat­ing back hun­dreds of years.

Al­though nu­mer­ous ar­chi­tec­tural and stylis­tic trends owe their be­gin­nings to the Vic­to­rian era, these in­no­va­tions rest on the shoul­ders of cen­turies of progress.

Just as to­day’s homes of­ten in­cor­po­rate an­tique trea­sures, Vic­to­rian homes may have in­cluded old-fash­ioned furniture pieces from be­fore their time. While re­search­ing for her book, au­thor Ros Byam Shaw ex­am­ined var­i­ous his­toric farm­houses in Eng­land, in­ter­view­ing their in­hab­i­tants to learn about the restora­tion and interior de­sign process. The re­sult is Per­fect English Farm­houses, an as­sort­ment of his­tor­i­cal homes in the United King­dom. Shaw’s book is a mix­ture of his­tory, style and struc­ture. The col­lec­tion en­com­passes a wide chronol­ogy, from 15th cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture to mod­ern ar­ti­facts.

The home has been in the same fam­ily for over 100 years and per­me­ates with clas­sic English style.

HOMES WITH HER­ITAGE

English farm­houses tend to have a much richer his­tor­i­cal her­itage than Amer­i­can farm­houses, with ori­gins dat­ing back mul­ti­ple cen­turies. One homeowner dubs her house “a bit of a Franken­stein,” be­cause as Shaw ex­plains, “[the house] has been added to over the cen­turies to be­come an ar­chi­tec­tural hy­brid.”

Like many Vic­to­rian homes, it of­ten takes a keen eye to see past the present de­fi­cien­cys to the home’s po­ten­tial. One such home, though full of his­tor­i­cal value, ap­peared al­most hope­less at first. “Much of its his­tory was hid­den,” Shaw writes. “Soft pulp­board had been used to line and straighten up walls and ceil­ings, and clumsy con­crete­block par­ti­tions had been in­serted to create ex­tra rooms.” The process was chal­leng­ing, and the homeowner re­calls, “our stan­dards of what was hab­it­able dropped to noth­ing.” But the work was also re­ward­ing, and re­vealed amaz­ing ev­i­dence of past in­hab­i­tants. One of the win­dows dates to me­dieval times, and an­other por­tion of the home is from the 16th cen­tury, with ad­di­tions, ren­o­va­tions and di­vi­sions oc­cur­ring through­out the years.

WAKE­HURST PLACE

Wake­hurst Place is a good ex­am­ple of an older home with Vic­to­rian up­dates. A late 16th cen­tury home, it’s the re­sult of a sub­trac­tion. It be­came a “pic­turesque home for a ten­ant farmer” dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era af­ter its trans­plant­ing. “The build­ing was orig­i­nally sited some distance away and started life as the wing of a much larger house,” Shaw writes. “Wake­hurst Place is none the worse for its am­pu­ta­tion, while its for­mer wing has set­tled very com­fort­ably into its new land­scape.”

To­day, a se­ries of out­build­ings sur­round the Wake­hurst farm frag­ment. These were a late Vic­to­ri­an­era addition to the prop­erty, and at­test to the in­vestor’s pros­per­ity. Shaw dubs them “proof that money was no ob­ject” to Wake­hurst’s af­flu­ent owner, and ex­plains, “the out­build­ings must have been state-of-the-art when they were built to ac­com­mo­date a sub­stan­tial dairy herd, and to store and process in­dus­trial quan­ti­ties of food.” The barn was used as a milk­ing par­lor as re­cently as 20 years ago. Now, the older struc­tures in­clude mod­ern ameni­ties such as a gym, a games room and a home theater.

While the out­build­ings re­tain their his­tor­i­cal fla­vor in the ar­chi­tec­ture, the farm­house it­self con­tin­ues as a tes­ta­ment to Vic­to­rian tra­di­tion. The home has been in the same fam­ily for over 100 years, and is per­me­ated with clas­sic English style. The home fea­tures tra­di­tional antiques, from “framed oil paint­ings” to “plumply up­hol­stered chairs and so­fas at ev­ery turn.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the present home­own­ers in­cor­po­rate a vi­va­cious color scheme, “lift­ing the style from pre­dictable to de­light­ful.” The draw­ing room fea­tures “fresh ap­ple green walls and Cole­fax curtains scat­tered with big, pink roses,” while the main bed­room boasts the “soft­est shades of blue and bursts of mus­tard yel­low.”

SUB­TLY 19TH CEN­TURY

Like their ar­chi­tec­ture, his­toric fur­nish­ings can also be eclec­tic, with fla­vor­ings from nu­mer­ous fash­ions. This is es­pe­cially ap­par­ent in these his­tor­i­cal homes, which fre­quently hail to times even be­fore the Vic­to­rian era. Many of Shaw’s se­lec­tions fea­ture a smat­ter­ing of antiques, with pieces that some­times date back to be­fore the home’s con­struc­tion, as well as fur­nish­ings that have been in (and out of) vogue since then.

Vic­to­rian fur­nish­ings sub­tly sea­son mul­ti­ple farm­houses, act­ing as state­ment pieces and ac­cents, along­side dé­cor from the sur­round­ing cen­turies. Fin­stock Farm, for in­stance, was built some­time be­fore 1630. The farm­house fea­tures par­tic­u­larly old fur­nish­ings, such as a win­dow from the 1400s, as well as a me­dieval tim­ber wall in the kitchen.

Nes­tled into a room from the early 17th cen­tury, “a pretty Vic­to­rian tray hides the blank face of the wood-burn­ing stove in the liv­ing room.” The dec­o­ra­tion brings Vic­to­rian per­son­al­ity to the hodge­podge of his­tor­i­cal trea­sures.

An­other home, which took “two years to make hab­it­able,” ac­cord­ing to the owner, gath­ers to­gether an eclec­tic mix of old-fash­ioned ma­te­ri­als and fur­nish­ings, such as floor­ing from a soon-to-be-de­mol­ished neigh­bor­ing home. Shaw num­bers “the Brank­some china in its orig­i­nal 1950s pas­tel glazes” among some of “the only new things in the house.” 19th cen­tury style em­anates from the Vic­to­rian iron bed­stead in the bed­room, as well as glazed chintz tex­tiles.

Per­fect English Farm­house em­braces a wide ar­ray of styles and fur­nish­ings, al­ways ex­am­in­ing the homes through the lens of his­tory. And his­tory re­veals that it is per­fectly ac­cept­able to mix and match ar­ti­facts from dif­fer­ent eras.

Laptop aside, this quaint of­fice makes the per­fect study for the 19th cen­tury botanist. From the simple, hum­ming­bird-pat­terned wall­pa­per to the metal desk, the room has come a long way from its true ori­gins as a sheep pen.

Shaw de­scribes the style of this charm­ing draw­ing room in Wake­hurst Place as “clas­sic English coun­try.” It thrives on sim­plic­ity, em­brac­ing an es­sen­tially trichro­matic pal­ette, with a rosy pink table, rug and sofa, green walls and oc­ca­sional brown...

Per­fect English Farm­house by Ros Byam Shaw, published by Ry­land Peters & Small, © 2012; ry­land­peters.com.

This charm­ing bed­room is fit for a young Vic­to­rian ten­ant, with an old-fash­ioned stuffed bunny rest­ing peace­fully upon a pine sleigh bed. A simple striped rug adorns the floor, ac­com­pa­nied by “an old-fash­ioned toy farm…peo­pled with mod­els of the...

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