Debbie Blott is the founder of The Decorcafe.
t: 07796 952116
Victorian Home Restoration.
When Laura and her family moved into their mid-Victorian property she knew she had a lot of work on her hands. There was no doubt that the previous owners had loved their home but the original character of the house had been lost and it had become a mish-mash of dark rooms.
Laura undertook just eight hours of training on the DecorCafe Create Your Home Course to learn interior design principles before she began. “After that Katie Hanna came to my home for a couple of short sessions to help with the initial interior design scheme. She really encouraged me and gave me the confidence that, despite no formal interior training, I could manage the project myself.”
Laura’s objective was to create an elegant yet warm and comfortable home for her family, underpinned by the guiding principle to renovate and restore.
The first step was to tackle the exquisite drawing room ceiling that was in poor condition and had been water damaged. Unfortunately it soon became clear that the floor above would have to be removed for structural reasons, making the ceiling project significantly larger and harder than could have been anticipated. Determined to stick to her restorative philosophy Laura continued the painfully slow process, tenderly repairing every inch.
In retrospect it would have been so much easier to have stripped the whole thing out and started again but “I wouldn’t change a thing” says Laura “we are so pleased that we kept as much of the original ceiling as we could. It was a labour of love but absolutely worth it.”
Keen to highlight the stunning architectural features, Laura called on lighting expert, Virginie Dunne of Splash of Light to help. “I didn’t want to have down-lighters detracting from the beautiful ceiling design and realised that I would need professional help. We are thrilled with the results – everyone comments on the ceiling and window feature as soon as they walk into the room.
Virginie cleverly positioned uplighters in the floor to highlight the window surround and sockets in the middle of the room so that table lamps could be placed on tables next to the sofas, creating a lovely atmosphere. It meant that we had to work out our interior design scheme before we had finished building works, but again it was worth it.”
The entrance hall makes a fabulous statement when you walk in but Laura was concerned that it could also be intimidating. She took great care to choose warm and welcoming wall colour (Farrow and Ball Cord) and laid an engineered oak wooden floor that made the room not only look warmer but, quite literally removed any chill. The result is an elegant, understated sense of calm, complemented by the antique French mirror left by the previous owners.
The red detailing in the delightful restored stained glass windows on the first floor landing inspired Laura to paint a red feature wall in her office (aka the atrium) and to take the colour into the runner linking the ground and first floors.
The pair of stunning chandeliers that hang at the top of the stairs and in the main entrance hall provide an additional link. Purchased from Belle Epoque, they are made from original chandelier glass reconstructed into their current design.
Laura re-instated a wall to create a separate dining room and study for her husband, both with wide windows onto the rear and front gardens respectively. She chose a strong, warm colour for this masculine room. The bespoke book shelves and cupboards are made from solid and veneer oak stained match and provide a link to the colour of the adjoining entrance hall floor.
Three of the four fireplaces were reclaimed from a variety of salvage sources and added back into the house. Only the drawing room fireplace is original to the house. The study fireplace mantel and insert were both sourced from ebay!
The kitchen is the area of the house that underwent the greatest transformation, changing from a small, dark room dominated by a large chimney-breast to a large, light and airy space with views of the garden. Re-configuring the layout and adding the French doors made all the difference. It has become the hub of the house with plenty of room for everybody and multi-functions, as you can see from this picture of the DecorClub Home Tour.
Laura achieved a contemporary classic look and feel with a fabulous hand-painted Martin Moore kitchen in Farrow & Ball Mouses Back and Slipper Satin with Old White on the walls. She chose a Farrow and Wall wallpaper to decorate the recess behind the Aga and a beautiful pendant light to add a touch of light in the evenings.
The children were delighted by Laura’s decision to change the old garage into a playroom with practical built in units – one near the table tennis to hide a fridge (for cold drinks and ice-creams #PerfectMummy) and one in the media area for CD’s.
The lighting was tricky as you need low level lighting for watching films but brighter light for playing table tennis. Laura chose flexible lighting with four options to suit their needs, and shutters at the front of the house to allow daylight into the room, whilst securing the family’s privacy.
Laura grasped the opportunity to be brave with colour and pattern and create some drama in the smallest room in the house. She painted the skirting boards the same colour as the edge of the floor to widen out the walls and make the most of the newly restored tiles. The walls are papered in a Farrow and Ball wallpaper that uses Old White as it’s base to link through to the colours in the nearby kitchen and the lights are carefully positioned at eye level each side of the mirror to create the best effect.
Laura made an exciting discovery when the builders began the refurbishment work; scrunched up newspapers were found behind the skirting board on the first floor. The Windsor and Eton Express, dated 25th February 1843 confirmed that the house was one of the first homes built in the area.
Other finds included this Evening Standard from 1909, old wallpaper, ice-cream and sweet wrappers in fantastic condition.
The DecorCafe is a collaborative community all about making it easier for people to make more of their homes and, as home becomes a centre of entrepreneurial activity, home businesses.
Laura’s project is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with a little help at your side. Laura’s vision, decision-making and a huge amount of hard-work created a home that really suits her and her family and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to support her on the way.
Here are some of the DecorCafe experts who shared their expertise:
Amy Hannigan of Amy Hannigan Garden Design – planting plans
Georgie Elliott of The Elliott Chair Company – upholstered headboards
Katie Hanna – Interior Design Consultancy at the beginning of the project
Laura and Polly of Eco-Renovate – advice on energy efficiency
Victoria Hill of Victoria Hill Soft Furnishings – curtains and blinds
Virginie Dunne of Splash of Light – lighting consultancy
Click here to find these and other members of our network