HISTORIC ENGLISH HOMES EMBRACE CENTURIES’ OLD STYLE, WITH ROOTS DATING BACK HUNDREDS OF YEARS.
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 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.
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 accents.
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.
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 animals that provided a living for the farmers who worked here.”