The Victorian House:
I currently live in a Victorian house in the South West of England. My own style for my current house is quite eclectic; I have always collected Taxidermy and unusual items that I use as decoration, although taxidermy is in vogue now I remember vegetarians especially being horrified at my furry friends. I make a point of only collecting antique taxidermy.
I love intense colours for my own home, and am quite over the ‘neutrals’ that have dominated interiors over the last few years so I am updating the house to blast it with colour. I also have over the years inherited various antiques and paintings from family which I cannot get rid of (my mother would kill me!), so I have to try and work them into my design schemes.
The bathroom has recently received an overhaul. We inherited an original Victorian cast iron roll-top bath, but it constantly leaked, the original taps could not be replaced with non-leaking ones and it was also really cold on one’s back. Lots of plumbers ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ over it, but no one could fix it. Finally, we decided to remove it and replace it with a more practical solution. It was so big it could not be removed in one piece, (I think the walls have been built after it was installed), so it had to be broken up onsite. Some might say it is bad to dispose of such an old piece, but when that sledgehammer started work I was ecstatic!
Here is a photo of the bathroom before we started work – pretty bland:
I decided to go a bit bold on its’ reincarnation. I wanted really strong tones and picked a charcoal for the walls with magenta and red pops of colour in the room, and I also love the metro tiles when used with dark grouting so I had those done around the bath. The new bath is practical and has a shower attachment and screen, but one made of pure glass so it becomes invisible. I created new storage using items like galvanised wire wall storage and battered aluminium airplane food cannisters, (I knew they would come in handy one day!). Since the refit I cannot get my family out of the room, which is the opposite of before.
The main bedroom when we arrived had no real storage except a Victorian built-in cupboard in an alcove that is so narrow that you cannot get clothes hangers into it. I commissioned some fabulous floor to ceiling wardrobes which were worth every penny. To save money I had them delivered ‘raw’ and I primed, painted and papered them myself with a roll of wallpaper I found on sale for £3! This paper had large alliums printed on it in tones of aubergine, gold and cream.
The colours in the room are ‘Drab’ by Farrow & Ball which is a really dark sort of green/brown tone and changes in different lights, this is mixed with crisp white woodwork/dado rail and deep aubergine accents. The furniture is a mixture of antiques and modern items which are painted with Annie Sloan’s ‘Country Grey’ and waxed, (it is not really a grey, more of a very light stone colour). The floor is exposed waxed floorboards with a simple jute rug.
I wanted wall lights to go either side of the bed, but did not have any wiring points in the walls and was not going to start chasing electrics into brick walls, and so I did a bit of a hack on standard ikea wall lights. See my blog about how to do them here.
January 2016 Update: I have just done a bit of a refresh on the main bedroom and painted the walls, skirting and picture rails a fantastic colour called Brinjal by Farrow & Ball. It is a dark aubergine and makes the room very cosy and moody.
The sitting room has very high ceilings, original wood cornicing and dado rail, doors and windows and a working fireplace. There is a bay window, the windows are 3m in height so curtains have to be made bespoke, as so far apart from Ikea I cannot find any ready made ones that length. These are by Ashley Wilde in silk with contrasting fluffy chenille spots. There is a Georgian cupboard that I have recently redecorated with chalk paint and wallpaper, see the DIY section for more details.
It is time to change the sofas and some of the furniture, as my kids think the room is too old fashioned and moan! However, on a cold night with the fire and candles lit this is the cosiest room ever, so I could just ignore them and wait until they leave home instead! Plus I love looking around at all the collectibles.
I inherited this tiny kitchen, and it is due for either a replacement or a huge extension to make it into the hub of the house (fingers crossed for the latter, watch this space). The kitchen is handmade by Devizes Fine Kitchens, but is a true galley and we all get stuck by the fridge if there are more than 2 people in it. I have decorated it to personalize it, but I do not like some of the wall tiles, (there are 3D pigs and chickens, just not my thing!). It is also generally tired; and the oak worktops are not practical like other woods such as Iroko, the floor is battered and the sink needs a repacement as it has got scratched over time. I recently refreshed it in Farrow and Ball Lime White for the cupboards and Mouse’s Back intelligent emulsion by Farrow & Ball, (great for scrubbing off marks by the way). I also added the shelves by Habitat as I like having everything to hand.
The breakfast room leads off the kitchen and extra cupboards either side of the fireplace are used to store things like bread-makers, big equipment and dry goods. This room has just had an overhaul, using a fantastic colour called ‘Basalt’ by the Little Greene Paint Company, which is a dark inky blue. The room has a gallery wall with botanical prints, flowers and china. The chairs and table are antique. The original doors and floorboards have been left exposed as they were too lovely to cover with paint.
Hallway and Stairs:
The hallway is quite wide for a Victorian House, and the stairs split off left and right as you proceed up through the house. On the ground floor I have my huge curio cabinet full of fossils, hidden storage and magazines. The floorboards are polished on the ground floor, and the dark red stair carpet is by Wilton with original brass rods. The cats think this is a huge cat climbing frame, plus the carpet shows every speck of dust and is the bane of my life as it needs very regular hoovering, definitely seagrass next time…. On the first floor which has large high walls are many pictures, mainly modern art and hung together in groups. I have recently added an upcycled large sideboard to stash my sewing supplies in, which has a great sized top for displaying things on.
Carrying on up the stairs is a strange blocked up doorway. It is mid stair, and we have no idea where it went but it still has the architraves so I used faux bookcase wallpaper to make it into a bit more of a feature.
The walls throughout are in a hard wearing Dulux paint called Almond Biscuit, actually made for Kitchen and Bathroom but it is really durable and scuffs can be cleaned off easily, (usually made by my kids as they drag things up the stairs). All painted woodwork is in oil Satinwood, brilliant white. I tried the modern water based eggshells in muted whites but they chipped really easily, so recently I repainted everything with tough oil based paint. It took 7 days to do it, (note 2 x spindles per step, lots of open tread areas and we have 3 floors and lots of landings, plus 16 hours between coats – hideous!). I was all over the place from the fumes, although I learnt a new trick of putting a peeled onion into a bowl of water and it soaks up a lot of the paint fumes.
The Dining room also serves as my creative den, and so tends to only be used for special events as an eating room. It has large 3m high french windows, which were very hard to find curtains ready made for as they are so tall, these are currently dressed in curtains I found via a curtain maker on ebay. They are in textured hessian with embroidered circles and goblet headings.
The chairs are Georgian and came from my grandparents house. The large breakfront dresser is from Belgium and holds stashes of china, glass and storage. The roll top cabinet in the picture, is an Edwardian office piece and I kept all my art paints in it. This has now been replaced by a glazed painted cabinet.
The floor has original Victorian polished boards, and the fireplace is painted to look like slate. To the left of the fireplace is the original built in Victorian cupboard.
The walls are painted (yet again) in Almond Biscuit, woodwork is Off White by Farrow and Ball.
Around the walls are lots of my favourite paintings and items from taxidermy to curios. I find it keeps the creative juices flowing to have nice things to look at when I am working.
October 2016 Update:
I had some spare time from work and a new junk shop find of chairs to refurbish, and could not resist a complete overhaul, for more details read the full post here. The dining room is now a mixture of charcoal grey, stone and white/orange accents. The ceiling is even charcoal, I have moved to the dark side officially!
Eldest Daughter’s Room:
This room is very girly, and painted in brilliant white everywhere- floors, walls, ceiling, except for one accent wall. This is in Summer Palace by Laura Ashley. Accents can be picked up in the room using the many colours in this wallpaper. Generally this room looks like a bomb has gone off in it; festering mugs, all clothes on the floor instead of on hangers and so on. I try to avoid it if possible….
Guest Room 1:
This room is in the eaves of the house and painted in a very calming blue called First Dawn by Dulux, with Wimborne White by Farrow & White on the woodwork and a Paisley wallpaper called ‘Charlotte’.
Guest Room 2:
This room is used by my mother a lot when she stays, so is quite sedate compared to the rest of the house, well for the moment anyhow! The walls are in Hay by Farrow & Ball, with the chimney breast painted in Aubergine by Valspar. I love these two colours together. The bed has a half tester made out of curtains on a rail, which I change around seasonally – flower fabric by Sanderson in the summer and mustard silk in the winter.