Being from Australia it’s very difficult to know what the correct name for this room is in the UK. We would call it the lounge but here I have heard it referred to as a sitting room and sometimes a living room. My grandad would have called it the front room but I think that’s a working-class London thing. Parlour? Drawing room? Too affected? I kept referring to it as the ‘front living room’ with our architect just to be sure. The first plans he drew up referred to it as…the lounge.
This is the picture of the lounge that appeared in the brochure for the house sale.
This was the web photo taken after all the furniture had been cleared out. It already looks sadder and colder, doesn’t it? It’s partly because the first picture was taken in the afternoon when the light streams in (the front of the house faces west). The second picture looks like morning (the sun is reflecting off the neighbours’ windows across the road). I think it will be important to use warm colours in this room.
I took this photo on my first viewing. The fireplace surround is original as it matches the neighbour’s but I suspect the tiles are later. Certainly the tin hearth in front is modern as I removed that on the day we moved in when I lifted the carpets. I want to try to clean the tiles as that will tell me if they are original – on close inspection they look like they have been painted and that they might be green underneath, which would make more sense.
A cabinet maker told me that the mantel is boxwood. The carvings have a very Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts style, in keeping with the rest of the house, which our architect has referred to in our planning documents as “Arts and Crafts English Domestic Revival”.
The centre carving is of fruit trees, perhaps apple? Pomegranate? I will have to take a closer look. Note the servant’s bell to the left. Originally this would have been a coal fire but it has been used for wood more recently. I love fires but I don’t enjoy cleaning fireplaces so I want to install a very tasteful gas log fire here, keeping the original surround. We are also in a Smoke Control Zone, so we are technically not allowed to burn wood but this doesn’t seem to stop people – the wood-burning stove is extremely popular in the UK right now.
This is the rug that was nailed to the floor in front of the fireplace. I am tempted to get it cleaned and repaired as it is quite a lovely hand-woven woollen tapestry from India featuring birds and acanthus leaves.
This is our neighbour’s lounge. Once again I have flipped the image in Photoshop for a direct comparison.
This is how the lounge looks with all our furniture stored in it.
The window with the droopy curtains that Ruby loves. In many ways this is Ruby’s room as it is the one she comes to in order to snooze and get away from her brother and sister.
Neighbours have also reported that she spends a lot of time on the window sill staring outside at her domain.
Today I have just finished knocking out these old built-in bookcases. They were made of a mixture of cheap timber and plywood, so my guess is that they are a post-war addition.
As I removed the bookcase on the right it became clear that we have some penetrating damp. The plaster felt cold and little damp and crumbled in places, the wallpaper just came away. There was also a telltale musty smell like wet earth. There are two types of damp: rising damp and penetrating damp. Rising damp is the worse one to have as it means the ground beneath your house is wet and the damp gets sucked up your walls via a capillary action. To fix it you would probably need damp-proofing, which is either a physical or chemical barrier to stop the damp rising. Penetrating damp is water getting into the walls because of leaks from gutters, rain against walls, worn pointing (the mortar between bricks) and things like that. The culprit in this case is a rusted cast iron down-pipe on the wall outside. When it rains the water trickles out against the brickwork. As soon as we have the down-pipe fixed, the source of the water will be removed. Then it’s just a case of letting the wall dry naturally, repairing the plaster and redecorating.
Behind the bookcase, under all the layers of paint and more modern wallpaper I found a sample of what I think is the original Edwardian textured wallpaper. It seems to have a trellis pattern. While it appears brown now it was probably white or cream. Sometimes textured wallpaper is designed to be painted, so perhaps it was hung and then painted over.
Here are my assistants Ruby and Rose.
The view towards the door.
Like the dining room, there is a copper doorknob on the outside of the door.
Inside is a brass knob that I will replace with the doorknobs I bought the other day. There is also an escutcheon missing and I have managed to source reproductions of the oval teardrop design.
When I ripped out the bookcases, underneath I found a razor blade.
A South African stamp.
And two Edwardian playing cards.
I still live in hope of discovering some secret treasure but nothing of value has turned up yet.As I have a very skewed sense of priorities, today I took delivery of the light fittings I have selected for the lounge. This is the five light bronze pendant with crystal sconces and drops.
And I have two pairs of these wall lights. The floors will be sanded and polished and the walls will have a warm neutral tone.
This is a Farrow and Ball colour I have my eye on called, appropriately enough, Cat’s Paw.
If that tests too dark I will go with String.
The windows will probably have my old standby, used in two of our houses already so far, deep maroon Roman blinds to match the shades of the light fittings.