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