25 Beautiful Homes
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
This historic home, featuring the soaring arches of a Victorian viaduct, was restored to its former glory thanks to the vision – and bravery – of its owners Wendy and Ian Leat
My son Alex was horrified,’ says Wendy Leat as she recalls taking him to see the terraced Victorian house that she was proposing to buy. Riddled with rot and creeping damp, it had been on the market for 18 months and was what Wendy describes as a neglected hovel. However, she was undeterred and wasted no time persuading her husband Ian that rescuing the house from total dereliction was a good idea. ‘Despite everyone else’s misgivings, I could see how wonderful it could be,’ she says.
The Grade Ii-listed house – originally one half of its next-door neighbour – was built in 1875 for a sea captain, and tucked against a Victorian viaduct. It meant the back of the house featured massive domed arches, although these had long been concealed behind false walls and ceilings.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
‘The first thing we did was to strip everything back to the bones to see exactly what we had,’ says Wendy. ‘It was a “wow” moment when we saw just how imposing the arches were. The downside, however, was realising just how bad the extent of the damp was – the walls were covered in dark green mould, and we had to fit an industrial-strength membrane the length and breadth of the viaduct’s surface to create an effective barrier and allow moisture to be dispelled in the new drainage system installed below.’
The couple worked tirelessly for nine months, along with help from their three grown-up children and a small team of builders. Slowly, the house began returning to its former glory. A new space for the kitchen was established at the back of the house, together with an adjacent utility room, and bifold doors leading to a tiny central courtyard were installed. Windows were repaired, internal plywood doors were replaced with original Victorian ones, missing picture rails were reinstated and decades of paint removed to reveal wooden skirtings, picture rails and architraves.
AN EYE FOR A BARGAIN
Throughout this transformation, Wendy put another of her skills – tracking down a good deal – to excellent use, and one of her most impressive triumphs is the stunning kitchen. ‘The units are actually from three separate kitchens I found on ebay,’ she says. ‘I calculated what we needed where, and then tracked down all the different elements.’ Once the various pieces – from cupboards and drawers to the magnificent oak island – arrived, they were numbered and stored in the sitting room until the kitchen was ready to be installed. Once they were in place, they were then united with several coats of dark blue-grey paint.
A muted paint palette and striking wallpapers were combined to bring all the newly renovated rooms to life, while a mix of antique, vintage and contemporary furniture, soft furnishings and finishing touches were introduced to the scheme. The result is a calm, elegant home that feels comfortable and established.
‘My mantra has always been to make the worst rooms the best ones, and allow the others to speak for themselves,’ explains Wendy. In this case, however, every room has risen from the ashes – rather like those soaring arches, which are so much a part of this beautiful home’s success.