House Tour: Storm Porch

IMG_2705I must be running out of rooms to show you. This is the storm porch. Technically it’s not a porch as it is not external to the main walls of the building. It’s a little too small to be called a vestibule though. A handy spot to close up your umbrella and put your keys away as you enter the house.

IMG_2706The inner doorway has the house’s characteristic double brick arch header.

IMG_2701There are also some messages written in chalk on the walls: “Darling Georgie Welcome Home”. Georgie was the youngest child and only son of Paddy and George Fraser, so I guess he had been on a journey at some point.

IMG_2702“Happy Birthday Paddy for 20 Aug”.

IMG_2704And in pencil, a height chart.

House Tour: The Servant’s Bedroom

IMG_1604It may be their bedroom but the servants weren’t allowed to rest – just outside the door is a bell to summon them at any time of day or night.

IMG_4640At least they could lock their door – if they were given a key…

IMG_1562The servant’s bedroom is located at the back of the house on the first floor right above the old scullery. We are currently using it as a utility/laundry room. It’s quite a small room but it does have a fireplace – the first one I revealed last year. The window overlooks the side of the house rather than the garden – there was to be no gazing upon the family for the servant. Unusually for this house the room has a sash window – only the family’s part of the house has the more fashionable Edwardian casement windows.

IMG_1588Miss Rose having a sniff about. We tend to keep the cats out of this part of the house at the moment.

IMG_1567You may remember from earlier posts that the servant’s room has a small landing outside for access to the servant’s stairs. Below lay the kitchen, scullery, pantry, coal store and the outside servant’s toilet. There was to be no using of the family’s staircase for the servants in Edwardian times and the strict division between the family areas and service areas of the house was maintained at all times. Note that the glazing on the window on the stairs is obscured to prevent the servant seeing the family in the garden below.

While I know a lot about the people who owned this house over the years, I know far less about the servants who lived and worked here. There is only one Census I can consult – that of 1911. From that I know two servants lived in this house at the time. Ethel May Deverell was the housekeeper. She was 25 years old and was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, 20, from Burton-on-Trent, was the cook and general domestic servant. Luckily for them, even though this is a big house, it was lived in by only one gentleman, who was renting the house at the time: John William Pendleton, 59, the owner of a boot manufactory. But Mr Pendleton’s is another story.

House Tour: First floor hallway

IMG_1557This is the first floor hallway. Looking in this direction you can see that the toilet and bathroom are through the doors on the left. On the right hand side down near Oliver is a little alcove with a narrow window. At the end of the hall you can see there is a door that closes off the back landing and access to the servant’s staircase. Through the door right at the end is the servant’s bedroom above the kitchen and scullery. You can see that many of the floorboards are loose or broken. This is because major service pipes like heating and water run along here under the floor so they have lifted and replaced several times. While it was still carpeted, the cats enjoyed racing up and down the hallway chasing the red laser dot. It was the first time we had seen Oliver run at full speed for any distance and unfortunately he has a rather ungainly, albeit joyful, way of galloping.

IMG_1561Here is the view from the back landing. Oliver is emerging from the bathroom on the right. At that far end of the hall is a door to the left that leads into Mark’s future study, another door that you can’t see that leads into the master bedroom. Straight ahead is a door into the bedroom that will be converted into an en suite bathroom.

IMG_1566Stepping even further back into the servant’s bedroom, you can see that the washing machine is currently set up on the back landing. Next week it will be moved temporarily into our already cramped top floor quarters as all services (water, electricity and heating) on lower floors will be cut off. Oliver is now on top of the washing machine, as you can see. In the far distance you can see Ruby.

IMG_1589On the main landing stands the central part of the wardrobe I bought the other week. Not quite sure where to put it at the moment as we will need to ensure it is out of the way of the builders. It is extremely heavy and we don’t want to move it too many times.

House Tour: Master Bedroom

2013-06-10 at 1.09.45 PMThis was the enticing image of the master bedroom in the house sale brochure. Through the window you can see the branches of the silver birch that we had cut down just after we moved in. In 1960s Britain it was the height of sophistication to have hot and cold running water in the bedroom, hence the sink in the corner that blocks the door from opening into the adjacent room, which I assume would have originally been a nursery or a dressing room. On the plus side it is a very big room with lots of afternoon light. Loads of original features too.

IMG_1522Look how bright it is now that the tree has been cut down. Today Mark and I ripped up the carpet and discovered that the floorboards have been painted around the edges of the room. Eventually we will re-lay carpet so we are not too worried about the condition of the boards. You can also see that we are living out of cardboard wardrobes.

IMG_1517The black suitcase is my ‘chest of drawers’. It kind of feels like we are staying long term in a run-down boarding house.

IMG_1518Our plan is to remove the basin and reinstate the door, turning the room next door into an en suite bathroom.

IMG_1515Behind my other ‘wardrobe’ is the collection of very expensive light fittings that I bought (luckily) before we realised how costly everything else was going to be…at least the house will have fabulous lighting. You can also see the blocked up Art Nouveau fireplace that I will restore at some point.

IMG_1521Removing the carpet revealed the original green Edwardian hearth tiles. Many of them are cracked and in quite poor condition, so I am tempted to just carpet over them. I will have a closer look and see what I can do.

IMG_1516Now for my conundrum. I can’t bring myself to have the original built-in Edwardian wardrobe destroyed but it really affects the balance of the room. If it were gone I could place the second bedside table to the right of the bed and then have two wall lights in the alcoves on either side of the fireplace. I have measured and there is no other wall where I can put the bed. Also the other alcove is wider than the one with the wardrobe so I can’t even have the wardrobe moved to the other side. The other day I was watching an interior design makeover show and the judges went into a bedroom in an Edwardian house and exclaimed “Oh, I’ve never seen a built in Edwardian wardrobe before!” There’s no way I can get rid of it, is there? I think I will just have to live with it. What do you think?

IMG_1520Once Mark had finished helping me with the removal of the carpet and went back upstairs, I thought I would see what was behind the bulging plaster in the other alcove. I turns out that the paint and lining paper were holding the plaster in place. I knocked the whole lot out and got back to bare brick. It made quite a mess. Mark doesn’t like it when I start destroying the house but I tell him that it has to get worse before it gets better! I started to pull off the lining paper on the ceiling, as you can see, but then had visions of the entire ceiling coming down so I stopped. Even I have my limits.

dar-zaragoza-6-light-pendant-90cm-cream-zar0633-11306-pThis is the light I have bought for the bedroom. My concept is hotel chic with striped Laura Ashley wallpaper.

img-thingThe wallpaper.

dar-zaragoza-18w-wall-light-cream-comes-with-shade-zar0133-18le-11291-pThese are the matching wall lights, also bought. If I can’t do the wall lights in the alcoves I will have to rethink. There is a smaller version of the same light going in either the kitchen or meals room, so I can always use the wall lights there instead.



House Tour: Mark’s Future Study

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 14.47.09This is how Mark’s future study was shown in the original house sale brochure. Mark wants this room as his study because it is large and has a nice view of the back garden. It also gets morning sun.

Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 1.09.35 PMHere is the room empty. This room was also George Fraser’s study, so Mark will continue the academic tradition. The walls were lined with bookshelves with all sorts of labels.

IMG_1099Of the labels still remaining and readable: Tudor Poetry, Middle English, Old English, Shakespeare, Metaphysicals, Milton, 18th Century, 19th Century, Romantics, Scottish Poetry, Anthologies, Durrell, Pope, Japanese, English Language, Foreign Languages, Burns, Italian/German/Russ., Spanish/Latin American. I’m sure I remember a Yeats and a Wordsworth as well some time when looking through the house.

IMG_2718 - 2013-06-11 at 17-17-09The first thing we did was rip up the old carpet, which I posted about here. The shelves weren’t of the best quality so we had to remove most of them as well.IMG_0880Carpet gone and red hearth tiles revealed.

IMG_0899Shelves gone.

IMG_1109And gone. At some point the whole room was painted a mustard yellow.

IMG_0801Mark’s future study also has the worst leaks in the house. The first time it rained heavily we roamed the house searching for leaks. We were fully expecting them is this room as the ceiling was stained and sagging, verging on collapse.

IMG_0802The water drips out of the crack just a few centimetres from the electric wire. The issue is the dormer window in the room above. The lead work around the dormer needs to be repaired. This will stop the leaks and allow us to repair the ceiling.

IMG_2719 - 2013-06-11 at 17-17-12The shelves on the other wall aren’t in bad condition, so we may keep them for now. The main issue is that if they stay I can’t strip the wallpaper on that wall. I could still paint it, plus when it’s full of books you won’t notice. The radiator is moving though, so there will be a big gap in the shelving.

House Tour: The Lounge

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.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 14.46.34 copy

This is the picture of the lounge that appeared in the brochure for the house sale.

Screen shot 2013-06-10 at 1.08.30 PM copy 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.

IMG_2709 - 2013-06-11 at 17-14-08I 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.

IMG_1357A 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”.

IMG_2707 - 2013-06-11 at 17-13-47

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.

IMG_0854This 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.

038ff4f96c00f0a424c6a7be7bd0a9680edc7465 copyThis is our neighbour’s lounge. Once again I have flipped the image in Photoshop for a direct comparison.

IMG_0824This is how the lounge looks with all our furniture stored in it.

IMG_1333The 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.

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Neighbours have also reported that she spends a lot of time on the window sill staring outside at her domain.

IMG_1331Today 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.

IMG_1328As 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.

IMG_1329Behind 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.

IMG_1335The view towards the door.

IMG_4507Like the dining room, there is a copper doorknob on the outside of the door.

IMG_4513Inside 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.

IMG_1358When I ripped out the bookcases, underneath I found a razor blade.

IMG_1360A button.

IMG_1359A South African stamp.

IMG_1362And two Edwardian playing cards.

IMG_1363I still live in hope of discovering some secret treasure but nothing of value has turned up yet.1555481_209361452600327_763093140_nAs 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.

1606916_209361585933647_1847592559_nAnd I have two pairs of these wall lights. The floors will be sanded and polished and the walls will have a warm neutral tone.

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This is a Farrow and Ball colour I have my eye on called, appropriately enough, Cat’s Paw.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 20.34.32If 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.

House Tour: Dining Room

IMG_2702 - 2013-06-11 at 17-12-56This is a picture I took of the dining room on the day of my first viewing of the house. One of the things I loved about the house was that it had a separate formal dining room. People ask whether we will knock through into the lounge room to open up the space but my answer is no – this is the first house where we have had a completely separate room for formal entertaining. I can also imagine Mark seated by the french windows reading the newspaper. Also, if we knocked through I would lose the wall where I need to put the piano!

IMG_4544The garden needs work but the dining room has a lovely aspect and it gets morning sun.

IMG_1222The french windows themselves need to restored but everything original is there.

IMG_4543The original lever handle on the door.

IMG_1218The dining room is currently a store room – most of our possessions are still in boxes. A lot of furniture is in rented storage space in Liverpool but these are particularly precious items. There are breakables that we didn’t want to entrust with strangers, also sentimental items, for instance Doris and Orlando’s ashes are in one of these boxes – we weren’t going to let them out of our sight! All the things stored here are light enough for Mark and I to move about the house when builders need access to this room. It may well be that the builder will want everything out for a couple of weeks, in which case most things are still packed and ready to go.

2013-09-24 10.13.21Ruby is self-proclaimed queen of the boxes.

IMG_0828Rose gives her a run for her money though.

IMG_1221Many of the rooms in the house have ceilings that will need to be repaired.

IMG_1220We also need to have the copper heating pipes re-routed.

IMG_2703 - 2013-06-11 at 17-13-08Paddy had the heating and boiler upgraded about four years ago and I think she just wanted the plumbers to take the path of least resistance with the piping – straight up the dining room wall! They simply cannot stay.

IMG_0937Mark and I have been slowly removing carpets in all the rooms. Ideally we would have lifted the carpet in the dining room before all the boxes went in but there wasn’t time on moving day. We spent and hour or so a couple of weeks back shifting all the boxes about and taking up the carpet as we went.

IMG_0940The fireplace in this room is long gone but I was  curious to see whether there were hearth tiles under the carpet.

IMG_0944They need a good clean but they are still there! One of the things I want to do is reinstate the fireplace here. Note the original servant’s bell push on the right. The floorboards are in pretty good condition too. I want them repaired and polished.

IMG_8497I have my eye on this fireplace surround but I don’t want to commit to buying until we are sure we can afford it! It may have to wait until later.

IMG_4516There is a beautiful copper door handle on the hallway side of the dining room door.

IMG_4517On the inside though is this rather ugly handle.

IMG_1223Searching online I managed to find a matching pair of door handles. The site I bought them off said they were 1920s but I suspect they are Edwardian as we have the same doorknobs on the lounge door as well. The spare handle will go in the lounge as the inside of that door has an odd handle as well.

IMG_0951Rosie looking beautiful on the chair. They love it when I go down into the unused rooms in the house. It makes them bold and they love exploring.

The room will be beautiful when it’s finished.

31721505c5a3f46c5c959586cb68ee8cec114afbHere’s one I prepared earlier! Only kidding. Our neighbour’s “twin” house was up for sale last year and this is a picture of their dining room – I flipped it in Photoshop so it looks like ours. I really like their mantelpiece and I wonder if it’s the original.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 11.29.33House of Fraser were having a sale so I bought this chandelier to hang above the dining table. We will have picture wall lights installed as well. At some point I will also need to think about colours for this room.

House Tour: The Coal Store and Service Courtyard

courtyardAt the rear of the house to one side is the small service courtyard. I took this photo before that white gate outside on the left started to collapse from rot. The window you are looking out is in the breakfast room, which would have originally been the kitchen. There is a door from the scullery into the courtyard that then leads to the coal store, the servants’ toilet and to the side access of the house. In an earlier post I described how we were planning to change this area.

existingThe existing floorplan.

futureWhat we intend to do.  Sorry it’s a bit blurry. As I mentioned before, we decided to do away completely with the small sunroom we planned at the back of the house (not pictured but would have been to the left on the plan above), instead opting to build a larger extension later, perhaps in the form of an orangery where those double doors lead out from the kitchen. To be true to the original structure of the house, and to save money, we are using the much of the current footprint of the house as well as some of the walls. Hopefully this will save on foundation and construction costs. Of course, they may dig and find that the current foundations are inadequate but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

IMG_2666 - 2013-06-11 at 17-05-02This is what the back of the house looks like at the moment. Note the lack of windows and doors – this back half of the house was the servants’ area, so there was no peering out into the garden for them. The family’s entry to the garden is via the french doors in the dining room. The coal store is in the right hand side of the single story part of the building. The tall chimney you can see served the scullery’s ‘copper’ and the fireplace in the servants’ bedroom above.

IMG_1216This is the future rear elevation.

IMG_1217Future side elevation with service courtyard rebuilt as utility room, pantry and WC.

IMG_2684 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-59The coal store door. If you look carefully you will see that the wall to the right hand side of the door has quite a bow to it. This current external structure will be demolished and then rebuilt utilising as many of the original bricks and roof tiles as possible.

IMG_4580A close up of the handle.

IMG_2680 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-20Inside the coal store it is still black with coal dust and smells strongly of coal. You can also see the colour of the inside of the door – I suspect this was the original external colour before the Tardis-like royal blue.

IMG_2681 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-25All of these walls will be rebuilt. My cooker and oven will be about here.

IMG_2682 - 2013-06-11 at 17-08-28The roof structure and lath and plaster ceiling.

IMG_4593A decorative air vent on the wall in the service courtyard. We are hoping we can keep the brickwork on this wall exposed (it will form the inside wall of the future utility room) with a sloping ceiling.

IMG_4588The breakfast room window and the collapsing gate. This will be the pantry with the window and brickwork still exposed but the glass replaced with patterned obscure glazing.

IMG_4595The handle of the collapsing gate.

The specification and plans have now gone out to tender with six builders. They will have 30 days to visit the house and quote for the job if they are interested. Mark and I fear ours will be the only building job never to have anyone visit or quote. At the end of that time we will have a much better idea of what the renovation will cost and whether we need to divide the build and refurbishment into stages – or, preferably, whether I will have some extra money to spend on fittings and decor!

Upstairs Downstairs

IMG_0834Our architect tells us that the house’s main staircase is quite unusual and that he has never seen such a layout. The stairs are situated on the outer wall of the house and are lit by six large leadlight windows, three on each flight. Usually the stairs would be situated on the inner wall adjoining the neighbouring (semi-detached) house. The Edwardians designed houses to let in as much  light and air as possible.

IMG_0807The three windows on the upper flight of stairs. A cabinet maker who was preparing a kitchen quote for us told me that the banisters and newel caps are made of Cuban Mahogany (unfortunately harvested to the point of complete depletion a century ago). The newel posts may also be made of this wood but we will need to strip the paint to find out. The cabinet maker said that these would have been supplied by a specialist and that they would have been French polished … we will probably have to get an expert in to restore them properly.

IMG_0787Ruby on the Cuban Mahogany. She has a habit of trying to scare us with her balancing act.

IMG_0788Her view from the top floor. We’re glad she is nimble and has a level head. Oliver tried it once, slipped and landed one floor down. He’s never been tempted to try it again.

IMG_0835The house also has a concealed servant’s staircase, which leads from the breakfast room (originally the kitchen) to the rear landing and servants’ bedroom. The inside of the door still has the original wood-grain paint effect designed to mimic a more expensive wood. I think the carpet may be original too.

IMG_0808From the rear landing there is a door to the main first floor hallway so that the servants didn’t use the main stairs when tending to the family’s needs. Ruby was the first to make the link between the two staircases. I once shut the door into the breakfast room with her on the servant’s side. She knew to go up the servant staircase, along the first floor hall and then down the main staircase to get back to me. She’s a clever girl.