Our house was built around 1910 which I believe strictly speaking makes it Edwardian rather than Victorian – which rather blows the basis of this post. Victorian houses were built between 1837 and 1901 but having read about the common design features and construction methods ours seems more Victorian in style than Edwardian. Certainly the houses in the surrounding area are Victorian rather than Edwardian, so forgive me a little historical inaccuracy if I refer to it as Victorian.
We were later told by our neighbours that both halves of the semi-detached houses had been built by a wealthy lady to rent out to people around 1910. It was lived in by one family before it was sold to the couple we bought it from. This made us only the third family ever to live there. For such an old house this gave us a very privileged feeling. We also knew that our renovations took care of it’s legacy and did it justice.
The layout of the house is (or perhaps should I say was) just as you would expect for a semi-detached house of this period. A long hall runs back through the house to the kitchen, with the staircase in front of you. The doors to the lounge and separate dining room are to the right off the hallway. The plan of the downstairs is a ‘dog leg’ shape so that the kitchen is long and thin, half the width of the house running back into the garden. This means that light can enter the dining room through a large window. In our case it was the biggest original sash window I have ever seen, spanning ceiling to floor (containing, as the surveyor pointed out ‘non-safety glass’ which is hazardous with a boisterous toddler and clumsy husband roaming about).
The dining room had an unusual arch feature in front of the chimney breast, with two small sash windows in the side walls. We had seen this in a few other properties in neighbouring streets so I would assume that the builder used this distinctive feature in a few of the properties he built. It also served to bring light into the room from the front and rear aspects of the house.
At the back of the kitchen was a small ‘utility room’ (estate agent speak, I would call it more of a dank dark cupboard or larder). To the side of the house, built in the side return was a rickety old conservatory. The roof was corrugated plastic sheeting and the wood was so rotten I was surprised it hadn’t blown down in a storm. It was also stealing light that would otherwise have entered the kitchen and dining room.
Upstairs, the main bedroom was at the front spanning the width of the house with two beautiful sashwindows. The second bedroom was also quite big and as it was above the dining room downstairs it mirrored the unusual arch in front of the chimney breast feature. However, the compromise came with the third tiny bedroom and poky bathroom which were at the top of the stairs.
The slope of the roof from the apex at the party wall to the outside edge of the house meant that the bathroom ceiling on the outside wall was just about head height. Not exactly sufficient for a functional family bathroom. The third bedroom wrapped behind it and was a small single room, albeit with a beautiful view across the enormous quarter of an acre garden.
It was already clear to us, having watched a few TV programmes about renovating a house and home improvements, that moving a few walls downstairs could maximise potential. (I visualised George Clarke spray painting everything white and Sarah Beeny politely smiling as she told me I didn’t know what I was doing). The sheer size of the garden meant that the obvious action was to open up the downstairs rooms to enjoy the view.
Upstairs was a little more tricky, the bathroom and third bedroom were the compromise. Without improving the design and layout here we would detract from anything we did downstairs. After all, why luxuriate in an amazing open plan family room having just squeezed into the shower whilst crouching so as not to hit your head.
Our ideas developed and the creative juices started to flow. But quietly and as yet unnoticed, so did our potential for spend-spend-spending.