MOD­ERN HIS­TORY Orig­i­nal fea­tures and a new eclec­tic look har­monise in this once-di­lap­i­dated Vic­to­rian villa

A change of heart was be­hind the trans­for­ma­tion of a ne­glected Vic­to­rian house into a serene and artis­tic fam­ily home


It was the first house built on the street – a Vic­to­rian show home that still has the orig­i­nal Wil­liam Mor­ris wall­pa­per, mar­ble fire­places and sash win­dows – but now it’s been mod­ernised and ex­tended to suit the needs of Claire and Sam Wil­liams and their fam­ily. The cou­ple had be­come frus­trated by the lack of down­stairs space in their pre­vi­ous three-storey listed cot­tage, and the long nar­row gar­den just wasn’t child­friendly, so they se­cured plan­ning per­mis­sion for an ex­ten­sion. How­ever, it soon be­came clear that mov­ing home might be more cost ef­fec­tive than spend­ing money to gain one ad­di­tional room.

Af­ter they’d viewed three or four prop­er­ties, an es­tate agent sug­gested a three-bed­room Vic­to­rian villa in Faver­sham in Kent, that had scope for a loft ex­ten­sion. ‘It was at the top of our bud­get, but we loved the mas­sive gar­den and pe­riod fea­tures, and man­aged to ig­nore the filthy red car­pets and damp patches on the walls,’ says Claire. ‘It went to sealed bids and we paid way over the ask­ing price, but we didn’t care be­cause we loved it.’

The bulk of the re­fur­bish­ment was un­der­taken in the first three months while the fam­ily lived with Claire’s mother 15 min­utes away. This in­volved tack­ling the damp walls and rot­ting floor­boards, a full re-wire, new heat­ing sys­tem, and re­mov­ing the sec­ondary glaz­ing be­fore re-paint­ing the sash win­dows.

A few tweaks to the lay­out made it more fam­ily friendly too, such as in­stalling a down­stairs WC in

‘I’m glad we took on such a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion as the house now feels 100 per cent ours’

a for­mer pantry and ex­tend­ing the fam­ily bath­room into a space pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by linen cup­boards, to al­low room for a walk-in shower and large bath.

How­ever, it was the rear of the house, which had a tiny kitchen with a cor­ri­dor lead­ing to an out­side toi­let and gar­den cup­board, that needed most at­ten­tion.

‘The kitchen had a ta­ble that sat two peo­ple, maybe four if you didn’t mind your knees touch­ing,’ re­mem­bers Claire. ‘There was just a top-load­ing wash­ing ma­chine, a free­stand­ing oven and a sink, but lit­tle stor­age.’

While other po­ten­tial buy­ers had talked about knock­ing through to the break­fast room next door to cre­ate a big­ger kitchen, Claire didn’t want to lose the fire­place. In­stead they stuck to per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment lim­its and ex­tended four me­tres out to cre­ate a kitchen/ diner and util­ity room. ‘We’d just come from a house where the ceil­ings were about six inches from the top of our heads, so a vaulted ceil­ing with roof lights was re­ally im­por­tant for us,’ she says.

As they’re in a con­ser­va­tion area, there were cer­tain con­straints as the ex­ten­sion had to blend in with the ex­ist­ing house. For in­stance, they had to in­stall white bi-fold doors rather than the grey ones they pre­ferred, and the roof tiles had to be con­crete rather than slate.

Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter re­turn­ing from a month-long hol­i­day while on ma­ter­nity leave, Claire wasn’t happy with the builders’ progress, so she hired in­di­vid­ual trades­peo­ple to fin­ish the job. As the new room had

ended up be­ing slightly smaller than the ar­chi­tec­tural draughts­man’s draw­ings, they had to flip the is­land unit 90 de­grees to make it fit. But, says Claire, this has been a bless­ing in dis­guise. ‘We can have more stor­age that way and have ex­tra stools too. At Christ­mas the whole is­land is cov­ered with food, so it works well as a serv­ing sta­tion.’

Ini­tially, Claire con­sid­ered a navy kitchen to con­trast with the par­quet floor­ing, but set­tled in­stead on grey. ‘I’m glad I did as I think navy is too faddy now,’ she says. ‘The units are solid wood so I can re-paint them in the fu­ture.’

Opt­ing for a din­ing ta­ble rather than a sofa by the bi-fold doors was also a wise move. ‘We con­sid­ered putting the ta­ble in the neigh­bour­ing break­fast room but we made it a play­room in­stead,’ she ex­plains. ‘This ar­range­ment means we spend more time to­gether as a fam­ily. The chil­dren al­ways sit at the is­land when they come back from school while I pre­pare food, be­fore mov­ing over to the ta­ble for meals.’

Al­though the other rooms were stripped of their wood­chip and 1980s wall­pa­per bor­ders, the Wil­liam Mor­ris pa­per has been pre­served in the front liv­ing room. ‘I got the elec­tri­cian to re-wire around it, and when we moved a ra­di­a­tor I man­aged to find the same wall­pa­per to patch it up,’ says Claire. ‘At first we thought it was a bit much, but now we ab­so­lutely love it. If you chintzed it up, it could look frumpy and old-fash­ioned, but it works bril­liantly with the sim­ple lines of mid­cen­tury-mod­ern fur­ni­ture and neu­tral so­fas. And adding in crazy fab­rics that clash with the de­sign makes it feel more mod­ern. It’s a dra­matic but fun room that works re­ally well in the evenings.’

The his­tory of the prop­erty is ev­i­dent in other ways too. ‘The sons of the pre­vi­ous owner said we could put Post-It Notes on any fur­ni­ture we wanted to keep, which was lovely of them,’ says Claire. Luck­ily some of their vin­tage pieces, such as the G Plan cof­fee ta­ble and kitchen dresser, fit in per­fectly with Claire’s max­i­mal­ist, eclec­tic style. ‘I’ve had a love of vin­tage ever since I bought a Guzzini lamp on Ebay when

I was at univer­sity,’ she says. ‘And my style hasn’t changed much since then, al­though I’ve got bolder with colour and wall­pa­per.’ They’ve also man­aged to re­pur­pose the orig­i­nal al­cove cup­boards on the land­ing and in the boys’ bed­room, by mov­ing them into the mas­ter bed­room al­coves.

Claire ad­mits the house is al­ways evolv­ing. She’s al­ready plan­ning to re­place the liv­ing room cur­tains with shut­ters and wants to build a gar­den out­build­ing to house a mini gym. Look­ing even fur­ther ahead, she hopes to get plan­ning per­mis­sion for a drive­way and wants to turn the damp base­ment into a cinema room.

‘I’m glad we took on such a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion as the house now feels 100 per cent ours,’ says Claire. ‘We love liv­ing here – it’s a short walk to the train sta­tion, we have re­ally nice neigh­bours and I’ve got enough rooms to mess around with, so we’ll never have to move again.’

LIV­ING ROOM House owner Claire sits in her favourite Er­col chair, which has been up­hol­stered in a graphic monochrome fab­ric from Ikea to give it a mod­ern look. Be­hind her is a Guzzini Mush­room floor lamp she bought on Ebay when she was a stu­dent FIRE­PLACE Claire loves how the red mar­ble picks out the colours in the orig­i­nal Wil­liam Mor­ris wall­pa­per. The mir­ror is a 1970s vin­tage find

EX­TE­RIOR The im­pos­ing Vic­to­rian villa has been brought back to life and the orig­i­nal sash win­dows re­stored KITCHEN Claire’s home is al­ways evolv­ing and she’s al­ready plan­ning a ter­razzo ef­fect for the stepped back sec­tion of the wall that leads into the kitchen. For sim­i­lar art­work, try The Ap­ple and Pear poster from Ju­nique DRESSER Paint­ing the pre­vi­ous owner’s pine dresser in An­nie Sloan’s Graphite chalk paint was a labour of love as it needed eight coats – it now houses ev­ery­thing from bar­be­cue tools to cake stands

OF­FICE The cou­ple de­cided to go dark in Sam’s of­fice – the last room to be dec­o­rated – as it has a large win­dow. They chose Stu­dio Green by Far­row & Ball, and also painted the Art Deco-style fire­place, which worked well with their colour­ful vin­tage Pol­ish film posters With its retro look and muted green and yel­low colour scheme, this is a lovely space for guests to stay. An en­suite shower room is clev­erly hid­den be­hind the book­shelf

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