Taking on a period house that hadn’t been touched for many years was a challenge that appealed to the owner and her husband: ‘We absolutely knew that we could make a huge difference and create a home we could be truly proud of.’ They’d done everything they could to their previous two-bedroom 1980s house nearby, where they’d lived for nearly five years. ‘We were both brought up in this area of Hertfordshire, so we wanted to stay close to our family, but knew if we were going for a bigger home, it would have to be somewhere that needed work doing.’
When they first looked around this 1940s house in 2011, not only were they the only ones who even wanted to view it, but also the builders they'd brought along for a second opinion thought they were mad. 'I don't think anyone else wanted to touch this place.' Once they had convinced the estate agent that they were serious about buying it, had an offer accepted, and the place was theirs, they had two weeks' grace before they had to move house in September. 'We were thrilled when we discovered we were only the third owners of the property. The first one lived here only briefly and after that, a lady had lived here for more than 60 years.'
The owner's husband needed convincing about the unusual hat stand in the hallway, which the previous owner had left behind. 'At first he thought it looked like an electric chair! But he's got used to it now, and it's great to have a handy spot to sit and put on our shoes, and the original glass at the top of the front door gives a lovely yellow glow.'
Similar hat stand
Patterned wallpaper is an easy way to add impact to your room on a budget. The bold print on this feature wall in the living room adds interest without going too kitsch, or the look being too overwhelming. To give the room an authentic 1940s feel, the owners have incorporated inherited items into their decor as a nod to the home's past life.
Like many 1940s houses, the kitchen was a small galley-style space with a separate dining room that didn't fit in with modern living. 'We wanted the two rooms to be turned into one large area. So we employed a local company that we knew and trusted to pull down the wall, put in supporting steel and totally replaster the new room, which took a couple of weeks and cost £1,800. We commissioned some shallow wall cupboards, but we hadn't realised they'd take six weeks to be made, so we didn't have a kitchen for a couple of months - luckily we'd booked a long holiday in Thailand over that Christmas. The rest of the time we ate meals at the nearby pub or with family and friends.'
Rockett St George
Here the owners have embraced their home's original detailing to inject character and celebrate its history. 'The fireplace surround inspired the floor colour. The original pine look would've clashed with the fireplace, so we went for a deep stain throughout.' Every home has its own charm, and this often stems from original features that link the building to the era.
Most old houses have beautiful wooden floors. Once shaded and varnished, they can bring beautiful warmth and character into the room. On this once bare staircase, the owner added a traditional carpet runner with brass stair rods for a classic and practical design solution.
Similar stair runner
This vintage look is firmly in the country camp with its stained floorboards, striped blinds and printed bed linen. 'We bought a load of pine bedroom furniture and spent a weekend painting it grey for a more sophisticated look.'
The wardrobes either side of the bedroom fireplace are an efficient way to use the alcoves without losing floor space. 'We made the bedroom habitable and painted all the walls cream temporarily, because we'd be living in the house the whole time we were doing it up.' A vintage mirror is a nice touch above the fireplace; modern mirrors can often seem out of place in a vintage setting, so the owners made sure that theirs suited the age of the house.
Vintage-style fittings have been paired with industrial fixtures for a rustic, lived-in feel. Radiator covers can be extremely practical. They can hide intrusive, unsightly radiators, protect young children from burning their hands and provide a usable above-radiator shelf, as shown here.
Similar radiator cover
When the owners moved in, there was no proper bathroom, so they quickly fitted a cheap solution. This is still going strong, although they do plan to replace it at some point.
'My husband and I are a good team, as he deals with the technical side of things, while I'm more interiors-focused. But we both agree on major points and we like the retro look we've achieved. I love that everything has been carefully sought out and is individual - I never wanted an off-the-shelf home. We both love making changes to properties, and I think even we found somewhere for the same price that was all finished, we'd still go for the project.'