Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – The Work Begins.

I arrived at the house with a car full of stuff, wallpaper steamer, scraper, and bin bags.  A basic tool box consisting of various screw drivers, a Stanley knife, duct tape and crow bar. Crow bar? Why did my husband give me that I wonder. I had also bought three important items too, the radio, the kettle and loo roll.

It was very strange and eery entering the house; It was cool despite the warm day and smelt musty. I popped on the kettle and opened windows where I could, as some were painted shut. My plan is to strip off the paper to the walls that are being retained. This probably appears to be a futile job when such a lot of other work is required. However, from past experiences of electricians and plasterers they have an annoying habit of plastering over wall paper in places, leaving an untidy finish. One then has to strip the paper and make good, double doing the job. This is also a job I can get on with whilst waiting for planning permission.

I removed the faded, rotting curtains which still hung at the windows and tried to remove the rail with the crow bar (he knew it would come in useful). The curtains at another window came down very easily, complete with the rail!

I carefully unscrewed the original white glass splash back from behind the basin, both of which I would like to re-use in the downstairs cloakroom, and placed it in a cupboard for safe keeping. Not so successful was my mirror removal and I promptly broke it in two. It was the first mirror I have ever broken and was mortified by the thought of seven years bad luck which lay ahead of me. But then I thought of my sister who has broken dozens of mirrors in her life, and she is one of the luckiest people I know! However, the mirror had been in the house since the 1930’s and I show up and break it!!   Unfortunately the original basin in the master bedroom we will be unable to clean up and re-use due to a large crack in it.

Original bedroom basin (minus the cupboard)
Original bedroom basin (minus the cupboard)

The wallpaper I believe is from the 1970’s , blue and pink vymura. The top layer peeled off quite easily leaving the backing paper securely stuck to the wall to be removed with the steamer, scraper and a lot of elbow grease. Luckily there was only one layer of paper in this room, and as it was removed it gradually revealed surprisingly good plastered walls, void of too many cracks. This bedroom had originally been painted in a soft ‘Duck Egg Blue’ which was funnily enough the colour I had been thinking about painting it , the look was lovely in the sunny light. this bedroom.  An interesting archive of paint colour’s were uncovered too from the different rooms. A green, which reminds me of Farrow and Balls ‘Arsenic’ and ‘Charlotte’s Locks’ a bright orange being among them.   Discovering archive paint colour’s and wallpaper can help you with creating authentic period colour’s and designs in a restoration project. The Little Greene Paint Company also have historical paint colour’s  according to dates, as do Fired Earth All companies work with English Heritage and the National Trust on house restorations. The only room to have more than one layer of paper is the sitting room where a 1950’s (I think) design wallpaper was uncovered. I periodically cleared up the soggy mess of stripped paper to prevent it sticking to the floor boards and removed the gunk which had also stuck to the bottom of my trainers.


The huge cypress fir tree in the front garden has been felled, the shrubs removed, hedges trimmed and other trees reduced in size. You can now see the front of the house and gain access  more easily ( when the stump and shredded wood have been cleared that is) and is so much lighter inside. There will be plenty of space  for a driveway and room for skips and materials when work commences in earnest.

The rear garden has been cleared too. ‘Cleared’ being an understatement. Despite an agreed list of works required and a walk through with the contractor, the garden is now void of the mature Rhododendrons, lilac bushes and a plethora of other shrubs I wanted trimming and not removed. It was only the brambles,  weeds and the trees on the list removed. Unfortunately I was unable to visit the house whilst the contractors attacked the rear garden, due to family commitments and to check that the work was being carried out as per instructions.However, if an agreed list of works is drawn up, why can’t this be kept to without the necessity of site visits? Advice – always visit the site before work commences to clarify  the agreed written works and price as quoted,  During, to ensure work is being carried out as agreed, and to discuss any unforeseen problems and extras uncovered as the job progresses. And after work is completed to ensure that the job has been finished to a satisfactory conclusion and the site is cleared (if this was quoted for in the agreed price) before settling the bill. Any issues you have, then amicably discuss a satisfactory conclusion for both parties.

I had specified no bonfires, when asked by the contractor prior to the quote, and a shredder was hired, working flat out spewing wood chippings onto the drive to be removed by a ‘grab’ lorry. But when I saw  the, virtually cleared rear garden, a large, very smokey bonfire had been lit and been going for sometime by the look of it. The day was very hot and sunny and people had their windows open. I told them to put the fire out. It was then I met a neighbour. She came storming down the garden and let fly, with full throttle to the contractors about the fire. Quite right too. I apologized profusely and introduced myself. Not a good start, but we made our peace. The contractors did carry out unforeseen extras hidden by brambles, including a long forgotten fruit cage which must have been wonderful in it’s hey day. The contractors did a pretty good job overall, just a shame about the Rhododendrons! The light floods into the rear of the house and the garden looks huge.

Renovation of a 1930’s House – Planning the Design – Kitchen

Kitchen design mood board for Modern Contrystyle from pinterest
Kitchen design mood board for Modern Countrystyle. Image from Pinterest

The old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true. Careful planning is the key to a successful and required outcome. However, another saying ” The best laid plans of mice and men” means that despite careful planning things can still go awry! This said, planning a home layout which incorporates your desired layout, accommodation and budget takes time and input.

Prior to our meeting with our architects who had sketched out a few different ideas for discussion, we sketched out a few layouts and ideas of our own, which if possible we would like to include in the design. One plan presented to us by the architect left very little of the original house – a few walls in fact, and the remainder  re-built. Not only were we not keen on the design layout, but if so much of the original house was demolished we may as well flatten the lot, build a new house and save ourselves 20% VAT in the process. Having bought a structurally sound house, we thought it unnecessary to take such drastic measures, we don’t think the existing house is that bad!

It is interesting the way in which different people have such different ideas on the use of space in design layouts. Some of which we had not thought of or considered, which is why you need an architect. Some of these ideas have been incorporated into a master drawing plan, ‘a fusion of ideas’ and not a mish-match as described by my husband. The main constraint in the design was the roof pitch. The extension design needs to work with the existing roof.

Having now decided on the layout, I needed to be sure that the proposed kitchen was going to be sufficient in terms of space and layout,it needs to be workable. It is no good re-siting walls etc. only to find that the space doesn’t work for the way you like to live and what you want from your kitchen.It is easier to move the door or window position now on paper, than when they have been built.

Armed with a scale ruler, sharp pencils and an eraser I plotted the available space. Kitchens have different zones in them, cooking, wet (sinks and dishwashers) food prep area, storage for groceries and china, fridges and freezers, plus ideally, somewhere to sit. How this is plotted also depends on individual work style preferences and the space available. The zones need to flow for ease of use and not too far apart to avoid unnecessary leg work. Regardless of your budget the key is in the planning of the design. Make yourself a checklist by asking yourself questions and answers.

How much you cook will dictate your needs.

What type of cooker? Range, wall mounted ovens and counter top hob or Aga? Will the hob be gas or electric? Consider the cooker hood extractor, how will it be vented?

Which fridges and freezers do you need to suit your cooking requirements? Do you want a free standing statement piece or fully integrated appliances?

Do you want a tap that provides instant boiling water to replace the kettle?

What is your preferred sink? under mounted, Belfast, single or double drainer?

Your choice of sink will dictate the choice of work top materials. Natural granite, silestone, a composite stone, wood or Laminate. You can’t have an under mounted sink with formica.

What style do you prefer? Modern gloss, contemporary, country?

Do you want splash backs? Will these be tiled,  glass or another material?

What is your flooring preferences? Tiled, wood, vinyl, or another material?

Once you are happy with your layout, if it’s an open plan kitchen, consider how the space integrates and one area to another especially the flooring. When you have decided what you want from your kitchen visit a kitchen showroom, and speak to kitchen planners, they may have ideas which you had not thought of or knew existed which can be included into your design. Prior planning helps you and the kitchen designer.

I would like to include an island with bar stools or chairs on one side or end, for breakfast and entertaining whilst cooking. The other side of the island will be used as a preparation zone with appliances below. Islands are a great way to maximize the available space. Consider ‘traffic flow’ too. People walking through to other rooms, does a door need to be moved to create better use of space, or a door need hanging the other way. Our kitchen will open out onto a garden room designed to be the dining room/ family area with glass doors opening directly onto the garden. Although the kitchen will not be huge, it will be very easy to work in and incorporate my key zones.

A galley plan layout
A galley plan layout

Lighting is a key element in design and very important in a kitchen. Task lighting so you can see what you are doing and lighting to create different moods and activities. The controls should be flexible, controllable and dimmerble. I will do a detailed lighting plan at a later date which will be for the whole house for the electricians to quote on and work from. LED’s work well under wall mounted cabinets as they won’t heat up the contents in the above cupboard.Consider hanging directional spot or inset lights in line with the edge of your counter top. Angle the light to bounce  off the wall to avoid casting a shadow. If you have more than 12″ or 30 cm of space above a wall cupboard install a warm white fluorescent, a linear low voltage or Linear LED to create a diffused light to bounce off the ceiling. A light at kick board height is dramatic when dark. Statement pendant lights, whether you want one or more over the island adds atmosphere and helps break up the solid line of cabinets.Layer the lighting for multifunctions in the room.

Plug sockets for appliances from the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and food processor. Have plug sockets put in your island too, and perhaps a drawer or cupboard for charging mobile appliances such as phones. Where these are sited depends on how you like to work in your kitchen.Plugs for dishwashers, electrics for the hob and oven need to be planned also.

Pull up sockets when required.
Pull up sockets when required.
Special Appliance Storage
Special Appliance Storage

Whether your budget  is a for a  flat pack or bespoke kitchen, the layout will be the same, the design is the key to it’s success. I haven’t decided on cabinets, sinks and specific appliances yet, although have a style in mind. At this stage I’m content with the design layout, the rest will follow more easily now.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (2)

Thousands of new homes were built in the 1930’s, mostly in the suburbs. There were two main architectural trends in the 1930’s. One being Art Deco, with it’s angular lines and modern tiled fireplaces.  The other more traditional based on mock Tudor, with leaded windows, beams, paneled doors and brick tiled fireplaces,  old world charm if you like. Personally I have always favoured the latter more traditional architecture, I am not really a fan of Art Deco or Moderne architecture. It appears that my house is a mixture of the two architectural styles with Crittal windows, flush doors with Art Deco handles, but has brick fireplaces and not tiled.


This is a renovation project to bring the house back to life after years of neglect. It is also in part a restoration to maintain it’s history and origin without slavishly recreating a time capsule museum – a nod to it’s past.  I don’t want to take out all the period details, which was common in the 60’s and 70’s when removing decorative original fireplaces they were replaced with a gas fire. Only to find a few decades later new occupants replacing the gas fires with those of the period to the house.  We plan to extend the house to add a fourth bedroom and en-suite, knock out the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create a large family dining kitchen to reflect today’s lifestyle. We would also like to add a garden room at the rear to make the most of the garden.

A builder would most probably knock down the house and re -build a purpose built modern home. It is easier for them to cost the project and they can reclaim the 20% VAT. Unfortunately, home owners do not get the same financial help on extensions or property renovation unless it is a listed building. This is a shame as the extra 20% would certainly help property owners maintain and improve  homes.

 We have met a couple of architects at the house to discuss possible options and to quote for  the drawings and submission to planning at the local council. Both architects I found on Google search, and though  very different, both we felt would do a good job. It was very difficult deciding which architect to choose. However, one architect had just taken on a very large project and we felt would be too busy for our little job, with the possibility  we might end up at the bottom of the pile. We had hoped to have the plans drawn up and ready to submit to planning on completion of the purchase.  This was not the case, and our architect is presently drawing plans and  incorporating our ideas as discussed at our initial site meeting  including their own ideas. This the key part of the process, as any  changes made later will cost time and money.

Please excuse the extremely poor quality of these drawings, but I have had a spot of bother with my scanner! I hope it gives you an idea though.

Once the plans are finalized and prior to submitting to planning we can pay for a consultation (this service used to be free) with the planning department to see if they think our plans will be passed first time or whether or not changes need to be made in line with their planning guidelines. This could save valuable time and money rather than having to re-submit  altered drawings if the original plans were refused after the initial 10 week wait for a decision. You would then have another 10 week wait for a planning decision. We hope to submit for planning at the beginning of August at the latest. The eight to ten week wait then applies before we know whether or not our application has been successful or not. If not we have to change the plans inline with the councils recommendations and submit another application (and fee of course) and wait it out again for  10 weeks. Once planning permission is granted, the architect and engineer will draw plans to be submitted to the council for building regulation approval. This can take six to eight weeks. If approved, we can finally start building – if your builder is able start then that is! This is the slow bit, when your’e just itching to get going.

I have been busy also getting quotes from tree surgeons and landscaping companies to cut down and remove some trees, cut back shrubs and create some semblance of order in the wilderness of a garden.  A fifty foot cypress tree at the front is too near the house (roots) and blocks a lot of light. Luckily there are no Tree Protection Orders nor is the property within a conservation area.  Otherwise applications, plus fees have to be made to the council for permission to carry out the work.

Oh, I forgot to mention bats and Glis Glis.  (Apparently the Romans used to eat them).  Glis Glis were introduced into the area by Baron Lionel Rothschild, the Naturalist. Glis Glis escaped from his private collection into the wild. Glis Glis scuttle around attics and like warm airing cupboards. Once the council receive the plans, they will send an ecological consultant (another fee ) to check the attic and any outbuildings affected by the proposed works for bats or Glis Glis living in these spaces. Both are protected species and until the Glis Glis are removed by a licensed company and the bats have been provided with an alternative roost you cannot commence the work if it affects these species. Nobody said it was easy!




Utility and Boot Rooms

Interior decoration in our main living areas is always top of our priorities. However, have you ever wondered when walking around beautifully staged show homes where you will keep your vacuum cleaner? Indeed if the home does not have a utility room, where you will keep your ironing board, iron, the pile of ironing for that matter, and the plethora of cleaning materials – in the kitchen or under-stairs cupboard? Even the most modest of Victorian terraced homes had an out house or scullery with a sink and perhaps an old copper to heat the water for wash day. Laundry was not generally performed in the kitchen, this was kept for food preparation only. In today’s modern, modest homes the washing machine is located in the kitchen, which means losing valuable cupboard space. The same loss of space if you have a dryer, and associated cleaning materials and tools. If you have the space, then a utility room is a must.

The minimum space required along a wall is 190 cm, this would allow 60 cm width for the washing machine, 60 cm for the sink and draining board and 60 cm for a tall cupboard to house products and tools – even the vacuum cleaner. If you have a dryer this can be put on top of the washing machine. The minimum depth of space required is 1500.  60cm  being the average measurement of appliances and cupboards, plus room to open the appliance and cupboard doors. Layout examples below.

Utility rooms are best located near the kitchen, with it’s own access to the garden. This allows ease of access to the garden for the washing line, and somewhere to leave muddy footwear and hang everyday outerwear. If a separate room is not possible, and you have an integral garage, which does not house your car, but used for general storage, section a partition wall and place your utility area in the garage. Another option is to designate one wall in your kitchen (or elsewhere if space allows) as the laundry area (minus a sink) and hang sliding or bi-fold  doors across the whole lot, so it looks like a cupboard when not in use.

Plumbing requirements need to be planned, hot and cold supply to the sink, cold water to the washing machine and waste from both into a drain. If opting for a dryer too it will need venting through an outside wall. If this is not possible opt for a condensing dryer. Washer dryers are an option too, but these need to be vented.

White Goods -Appliances – Buy the best quality you can afford. Meille being the top of the range.  Consider whether you want integrated appliances, hidden behind doors. If so you need to purchase integrated appliances specifically designed for the purpose.

Cupboards and Storage – A tall cupboard with well designed interior space arranged so that items can be easily retrieved. Think about whether yo would prefer doors or drawers under the sink. A ‘Sheila Maid’ or rack above the sink for drying clothes is useful.

Flooring – Porcelain or ceramic floor tiles are durable, waterproof and are the best choice in utility rooms. If the room is directly off the kitchen, use the same floor tiles as the kitchen as this makes the space larger. Lay electric matting underfloor heating under the tiles instead of a radiator. This frees up valuable space and prevents the floor from being cold.

Rustic hard wearing tiled floor
A hard wearing rustic tiled floor

Lighting – If space, opt for a window as well as a door, if not have a door fitted with glass to let natural day light in. Energy efficient, good quality  daylight white or warm white fluorescent tubes provide the most economic, practical and shadow free task light. Under cupboard downlights, track spot or pendant lights are also an option.

Sinks  – Consider the use of the sink. If used for cleaning muddy football boots the  Butler sink is ideal. If only used for water to wash the floor a stainless steel or ceramic sink will be adequate. A high level mono tap is best in a utility room, so you can fill a bucket or whatever easily. Worktops – Your choice of work top will be lead by your choice of sink. However, laminate is fine, but will not stand up to hard wear and tear. A granite or stone composite is hard wearing and grooves can be cut for drainage, eliminating the need for a sink and drainer set up.

Decor – If the room is accessed directly from the kitchen, use the same wall paint or a tonal shade. If having a splash back behind the sink use the same tiles as in the kitchen if you have them. If not a plain white brick style tile will create a utilitarian feel.