Finally, after a period of stopping leaks and resolving damp issues our decorating quest begins! Naturally one of the first spaces we are keen to transform is the main living room as this is the room in which most time will be spent. For each room in our Victorian Project we would like to show the task at hand and outline some of the early ideas we have for each transformation. In this article we will explore our Victorian living room renovation and show the ‘before’ state of the space and the challenges to overcome.
Our living room is one of the bigger rooms at almost 5m x 5m in area. It is located on the front of the house facing south and a large bay window lets in an abundance of light. This window is currently surrounded by a curtain & pelmet that has been there for years and has turned a rank yellow colour over time. The room is dominated by a central fireplace located on the intrernal wall where the two properties meet. We are fortunate in that this room is of good size, the perfect square shape and extremely light giving off a good feel to it. It has been closed off for many years in favour of a smaller, easier to heatt living room at the rear of the property but even at first glance has bags of potential.
The Main Living Room Space
The fireplace shown is one of two on the ground floor and the main living room unfortunately does not have the original fire surround. Oddly we were told at purchase that it had been stolen at some point in the properties life time. Hard to understand how you could steal a fireplace but who knows? It now has a rather cheap surround made from what looks to be plaster and a hearth made from a repurposed kitchen work top. Resourceful, but all of this will have to go! [See also: Victorian Roof Repairs – Starting Point for any Renovation]
You can peer in to a little opening in the fireplace behind the electric heater and you can see that behind all the visible bodging the opening itself has been bricked up. This was common as electric heaters became more popular. If this were to be opened back out it will make way for a nice log burner or even an open fire. This won’t come cheap but will restore the grandure to the focal point of the room. [See also: 10 ‘Gotchas’ when buying a Victorian House – Knowledge is Power]
As you can see from the above image the walls are currently a cream colour. On closer inspection they are covered in a thick anaglypta wall paper with a coating of paint over the top. This could prove somewhat tricky to remove and will take some graft! The caret is an almost maroon colour and is absolutely filthy probably sitting in place for a number of decades. If you look at the images it is hard to imagine what they were thinking when they made the colour scheme selection. [See also: Remove Stubborn Wallpaper – Stripping Back]
Bay Window In Original Sash
As you look away from the fireplace towards the door (shown above) there is a modern looking radiator. We may or may not decide to replace this with something more in keeping with a Victorian house. This is dependant on the pipe work and the strength of the wall to support it. Notice the grubby outline of a mass of pictures that the previous owners had filled the walls with. As a result we expect to have a large number of holes to fill should we decide to paint rather than putting up fresh wall paper. At this stage we pulled up a bit of loose wallpaper to see the plaster beneath. It is of traditional lime which will need some consideration when we come to deciding what will sit on top of it. [See also: Ivy Invasion – Removal from Bricks, Roofing & Gutters]
The final view (below) shows the open space of the room and the full bay window. As said, with the room more or less square in shape it provides a good social area with no obstructions or awkward angles. On the wall directly facing the fire place there are two wall lights on a dimmer switch to create a little ambience. You can see these on the right hand side of the image below. They are old and not very well secured to the wall. We will likely replace these with something a little more modern and more importantly correctly fitted. [See also: Fix Damp in Victorian Houses and the Common Causes]
Uncovering The Floorboards & Fireplace
In the main living room we were hoping to go for treated floorboards rather than carpet to add to the uniqueness of the main space. This is on the assumption that the current floorboards are in a good enough condition. So, early on we exposed a corner to see what was lurking beneath. As it turns out they are in fact in fantastic condition and are coated in some sort of black paint for protection (see below). With a little work these should come up a treat! Following a bit of online research it turns out that it was common for Victorians to provide a protective coat to the perimeter of a wooden floor leaving the centre exposed. This would usually be covered up by a rug. [See also: Should I Get A Building Survey & Are House Surveys Worth It?]
The image below shows a closer look at the makeshift fireplace discussed earlier. It is a cheap plaster based surround that is really not in keeping with the grand living space. The image shows the blocked off opening and the old kitchen work top used to make the hearth and back board. If we get the fireplace right it will make the living room tranformation so we need to really give it some thought.
Victorian Decorative Features
One of the real perks of buying an old house is the decorative features that you will usually find throughout. As part of a Victorian living room renovation you want to try to emphasise them. It is these features that finish the property and give it the charm that you don’t see in more modern houses. Central to the living room ceiling is an old hanging chandelier seated on a huge patterned ceiling rose. With a lick of paint this celling rose will dominate the room and provide some real character to the space. We may or may not decide to keep the chandelier. It is in good condition but something a little more current may better suite our furnishing plans. We will make the call when we are a little further along with the works.
Around the full perimeter of the room is some decorative coving shown in the image below. It is a little cracked in places but certainly very restorable. This coving provides a neat finish to the ceiling and a good blend into the old walls. Perhaps a satin colour here against a matt ceiling will make it really stand out.
Victorian Living Room Renovation – Roundup
The main living room of the property is a large space and we are fortunate to have many of the original features such as the windows, ceiling rose & coving to work with. Our plan is to update the space with some more modern colour schemes and styling whilst maintaining its old Victorian feel. Some of the key activities we intend to undertake are as follows:
- Removal of wall paper & possibly apply a more modern painted finish.
- Open out the fireplace and instate a wood burning stove (chimney permitting).
- Install a grander fire surround more in keeping with the size of the room.
- Remove the carpet in favour of exposed varnished floor boards.
The main living room is the space in which we will be spending most of our time when at home and so it is important that we get it right. Also if the décor of any room will add value to the house then it is this one. With the available time we have and the size of the job we are looking to close out our Victorian living room renovation over a 6 week period.