Labour of Love – Part One
June 9, 2015
When I first set eyes on this neglected but beautiful old Victorian house I fell in love with it straight away. My husband Nigel and I had been looking for a new project and home for our expanding family for a number of years. No truer words than “what is for you wont pass you by”, was when we were lucky enough to find and buy this Labour of Love.
Restoring this house has been one of my favourite projects. You may recognise some of the images from my portfolio and Pinterest boards, so I thought it would be interesting to show you some of the before and after shots together and give you some of its fascinating history. Also we set about its restoration from a rundown warren of flats from the 1940’s back into a family home.
The reality of its condition and the task ahead of us soon sank in, but I knew in my heart it had the potential to be an amazing home once restored to its natural state. It was not an easy time, as a working mum of one toddler and another baby on the way, running an interior retail store and design studio and trying to give this project as much time and devotion as it deserved, (oh and being a good wife !) I don’t know how we did it, but we are still here to tell the tale.
From the moment I walked through the gates my eyes were drawn to the front door and its magnificent Venetian Gothic style stone arch, which had carvings of grapes on one pillar and leaves on the other. They had to be restored by hand as the location of being near the sea had eroded the incredible stone details to the point of almost no return. The house had been built circa 1865.
The back of the house was really gloomy as it only got the sun in the morning until early afternoon. It was the task of all tasks with our architect Paul Brazil of Brazil Associates to add as much light as possible to where we planned on housing the kitchen and dining area. It had an original extension off the main house which was a two-storey building. It would originally have been where the maids and cook worked and lived. We opened up the two-storey space to create the high ceiling in the kitchen and added an Orangery for the dining section. Both areas got glass lantern roof lights and floor to ceiling french doors to maximise the light.
To the right of the Orangery we created a link to the living room with steps to the kitchen and garden. As with all my projects I like clients to enjoy every part of their house and where possible to create an open-plan living arrangement. I designed this for our home also as we wanted to enjoy the beautiful rooms from the Victorian Era but link them to the family area, creating a child-friendly home.
In the back garden there was an original coach house in bad need of repair. It still had the original doors where the carriages were stored in the Victorian days. I could immediately see it as a dream design office for me to sneak into when at home and enjoy it as a quiet creative space. My idea of escaping did not turn out as I imagined- when we finally moved in, I would try to disappear out of sight but our kids would have their runny noses pressed against the windows as soon as I sat down at my desk!
I can’t wait to show you more in future posts when I will include before and after images of the interiors.
Would love to hear from you if you have any questions or feedback.
Miriam (aka Minnie)