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Monday, 2 September 2013

Custodian of Old, Harbinger of New

I like old things. Antique and vintage have an appeal for me. I like things to have a patina to them, to wonder about where they’ve been, the stories they might have to tell.  I like old, historic buildings, particularly Victorian ones; London is a fantastic place to live from that perspective.  The Natural History museum is one of my favourite buildings; the exquisite blue-grey brick detailing of the outside, the stunning, stunning stone carvings on the inside.  When I take Pip to the dinosaur exhibit I barely look at the dinosaurs; as he marvels at T-Rex, I admire the animals and plants ornately carved in columns, in awe of the craftsmanship and technique.   Likewise, I love the magnificent stained glass in the domed cafe at the V&A museum. I could sit quietly there (with a good cappuccino) soaking up it’s intricate detail for hours. The Victorians knew how to build things, to make things, their attention to detail was fabulous.  The Gherkin, The Shard, may be held up as examples of modern day great architecture, but for me, they hold nothing on the V&A or the Natural History Museum.  I prefer the craftsmanship of bygone years.

It’s probably no accident that all the properties I’ve owned have been Victorian. I like the character features Victorian properties offer. Our first flat, a conversion in a Victorian church, our first house; a Victorian mid terrace, and now Faulty Towers; another Victorian abode.

It’s fair to say, that whilst some Victorian houses have been preserved in all their finest detail, Faulty Towers has not. Some of it’s original features have been ripped out by someone attempting to modernise (badly),  or damaged and not repaired.  Others; original cornicing, wardrobes and stained glass have been left in disrepair and are in dire need of some TLC. 

Whilst I love ‘original’ features and the patina of old, I am not prepared to live with them at any cost.  I’m done living with draughty windows (however nice the stained glass may be) or keeping a cornice that is cracked and crumbling beyond repair. And whilst I like the character features that yesteryear’s house can offer, I am rather a minimalist when it comes to interiors. Alcove shelves? Forget it. I’m a put it in a cupboard and shut the door kind of girl.

This has left me with rather a dilemma when thinking about the design and feel of our home.  In some ways, I want to rip out everything, the crust and scum of the last 140 years, and start again from scratch with a totally blank canvas. The problem is, my conscience won’t let me.  The stained glass, the fireplaces, the hall floor. The wonderful heavy wood front door, built to last with a quality you just don’t find in manufactured doors today.  I feel that I owe it to this old house to give those things back, to polish and restore them, to make them shiny and new. That they’re not mine to take out, that after so many years of being there,  I am merely a custodian.  Yet I wonder how they will sit side by side by my dream of a minimalist white kitchen.  Bravely, we have decided to mix the old with the new.  Mixing two styles is not easy, but I am committed to making the design work. Heaven forbid that I end up creating a ‘pastiche’;  it seems to me your grand design has failed if that’s how Kevin McCloud describes it.  



Regular readers will know that we are currently in the process of renovating our house.  I thought I would try to document some of the ups and downs here. Juggling life and this project is proving to a challenge, but I hope to provide a monthly update of how the project is progressing. Welcome to my new series; Through the Keyhole.

15 comments:

  1. I love old features! Absolutely stunning.

    Excited to read your new series!! Xx

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    1. I love old too - especially if it's not too crusty!

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  2. Very much looking forward to this new series. I love Victorian styling but it has to come with the most up to date functionality possible. Have you seen this? http://www.rightmove.co.uk/news/articles/celebrity-homes/jamie-theakston-sells-his-renovated-beauty This is my dream house, interior and decor. Victorian but completely modern.

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    1. Yes, I have seen it. Gorgeous isn't it? x

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  3. What a great idea. The melding of old and new can be beautiful. I love the fireplace dinosaurs!

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    1. Thank you, the fireplace dinosaurs were a cheap way of brightening Pip's room prior to redecorating.

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  4. I do love some older things too but am more on the modern side, but my house is only 76 years old with a few upgrades done by us, a mere youngster compared to yours. I look forward to Looking Through the Keyhole xx

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  5. Looking forward to reading/seeing these posts. I think it's great mixing the new and old, we are in a new property but I hope to someday twist James' arm into getting an older one as I am craving some quirky features! x

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  6. Ooh what gorgeous features!! I've got house envy! ;)

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    1. Thanks, I'm looking forward to restoring them to their former glory :0)

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  7. I absolutely LOVE the Natural History Museum and spent many a long afternoon there as a student sketching just those features you describe. Good luck with your renovation - look forward to reading all about it! x

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  8. Hurrah! At long last, posts on your renovation. I have been so looking forward to you doing this. This is going to be a great series. I just know it! A white minimalist kitchen is just what I would love too... a girl can dream. X.

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  9. Oh it's lovely to see a little more of your renovation stuff. I have no doubt you are woman of taste and your home will be refined magic. I also look forward to this series and remember reading an article many years ago by Fiona Fullerton who said always to buy Victorian Houses if one could (although I never have!) because the Victorians had such large families so the rooms were always large x

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