Thursday, 6 December 2007

Been a long time ...

.. since I last blogged. The reality is that I am too busy working on this house in the evenings to get round to writing anything. Anyway, completed my hall and stairs and have now almost completed the vestibule, it will be done by Xmas, so during the holidays I will write a bit more an put some pics on

Friday, 6 July 2007

Restoration what are we talking about?

To my understanding restoration is about returning something to, or at least close to, its former state. In a sense that is what I want to do to my house. However, I guess I do want to go beyond this in the sense that I want to restore what is there, or there is evidence of, but when things are not there I will create my intepretation of the style and feel (based on evidence from the period but not from my house). I will get it wrong, I may over "Victorianise" the decor, but I try not remove the original materials that exist.

I have noticed that Historic Scotland, and other bodies have a very strict view on restoration. In some cases old buildings are allowed to crumble and fall into ruins. They may not be "restored" to their former glory. While I understand the need not to create a pastiche, I often feel that potentially savable buildings could be more valuable for the community if they are restored with some compromises. In many cases buildings are A-listed and then left to crumble and not even preserved in their current state since the restrictions mean they are not going to be useful buildings and so no-one will invest in these.

I think we could be more lenient, but not stupid, about the how many historic buildings can be restored. However, we could also be more strict about our vast legacy of Victorian houses which we are permitted to destroy without seeking any permission. Doors are now plastic, stone is painted, lime only means a green fruit, portland cement destroys natural porous stone, mullions are removed, thin framed sash windows are replaced with riduculous fat framed upvc alternatives. I think the balance is wrong and maybe too much attention is paid to a few buildings and too little attention is given to our vast collection of period houses.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Who cares about their Victorian Houses?

I have been trying to find out how many Victorian houses were built in Britain and in America and how many still exist. The answer is not easy to find - Google has let me down. From a book I have it looks like about 6 million dwellings were built during Victoria's reign (1837-1901) in Britain. Interestingly in America it seems that a Victorian House is one relating to particular styles during the Victorian era. According to Wiki "The architectural style of a Victorian house is often either Queen Anne, Stick, Italianate, French Second Empire, or Richardsonian Romanesque. Shingle Style houses are also considered Victorian houses."

Anyway - who loves their Victorian House? My observation has been that the Brit's don't and the Americans (also Canadians and Australians) do. This is not a scientific observation but is based on the amount of Web material on the subject and where it relates to. But then maybe I have been unfair to us Brits. We have a huge number of these Victorian Houses left and many are small terraced dwellings and are less likely to evoke strong affections. The larger houses do appear to be more loved. Obviously there are more American's than Brits and although there are probably less Victorian Houses to go round in America, those that appear on the Web tend to be of the "gingerbread" variety and are more unique.

Another observation I would make is that old things in the New World have a higher status than here in the UK. I presume that this is simply because there is less history and hence old stuff is more scarce. I recall once that I was showing an Australian friend of mine the original hand written deeds and records for my house which date back to 1879. To my surprise and slight amusement he was worried about handling these documents himself and suggested that I should perhaps be wearing gloves.

Anyway back to the question. Who cases about their Victorian Houses? I now have now decided on an answer. Most Americans care about theirs and some Brits care about theirs! If you don't agree with this answer you can respond, or ask my wife who will tell you I am always right ;-)

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Faux finishes

Now that my hall project is nearing completion I have been sitting admiring the almost completed decor. One thing that does strike me is the number of fake or faux finishes I have used and which are typical of Victorian decor. Let me create a small list.
  • Doors - grained to look like mahogany (also window frames).
  • Dado panels - anaglypta painted and finished to look like old leather.
  • Stairs - finished to look like veined marble.
  • Frieze - lincrusta designed to look like a plaster frieze.
  • Ballusters - cast iron painted in gold.
  • Oriental carpet - Axminister made in England.
The Victorians were masters of making cheap materials look expensive and why not. While no-one will be totally fooled the result is strikingly rich and opulent.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Period decor

I am busy decorating my hall. This is not a weekends work - I actually started it over two years ago but I am almost finished. When complete I will post some before and after pictures. I have been trying to create an 1880s Victorian feel by using good quality traditional materials and techniques of the period while avoiding over 'Victorianising' it or creating a museum piece.

What I will have created is something that fits the house and will not go out of fashion! In thirty years time the room will still look right - I will never have to decorate the hall again! If I had gone for a contemporary look then we would end up redecorating it again in a few years time!

So there is my tip. If you have an old house and decorate for the correct period it will not go out of fashion and you never need to decorate that room again!

Friday, 15 June 2007

Today I start my blog!

I guess today I am the new kid on the blog!

This will eventually be a companion to my web site This is a place where I can stand on my soap box and tell you about trying to restore my own Victorian house and rant about how most other old house owners appear to be doing everything they can to destroy theirs and to scar our urban landscape!