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period properties


If you’ve decided to purchase an old house then chances are it’s because you like the charm of an older property- otherwise you’d have simply gone with something new. It would certainly be less of a challenge! However, there are lots of reasons that old homes don’t work for modern life, and so changes need to be made, but in a way that stays in line with the house and without losing its unique qualities. One of the biggest challenges is finding that balance, so plenty of research and planning ahead is advised. Here are a few things to bear in mind if you’re considering renovating an old home.

Before you start

Old homes, especially those that have been left empty for a while, could have all kinds of nasties lurking within. Pests, rot, dodgy electrics and plumbing (or utilities that have been completely cut off). You will probably need to replace the windows and doors, but you can always do so in a style that suits the house. Modern double, triple or even quad glazing will keep your home warm and secure, but going with casement/ transom/ slider windows (depending on what style was popular at the time your home was built) will help it to keep its charm. Adding things like external shutters (or replacing them) if the house came with them originally again helps to preserve its unique features. You might need to clear the gardens and in some cases even empty the property of items, too, depending on the state it has been left in. Old, dangerous materials like asbestos and lead paint may have been used; while these materials have been banned for many years they can still exist in older properties that haven’t been touched. Have a survey done to work out the extent of any issues, then have professionals come in and deal with any big or dangerous jobs. Clear everything out so you’re working with a blank canvas, and from there you can properly assess the situation and see what needs to be done. If you plan on taking down walls and extending, speak to an architect and get your request for planning permission sent away as quickly as possible.

Decide on reconfigurations

Once you’ve had the go-ahead from your architect (so you know you’re not removing things like load bearing walls) and have received planning permission, you can get to work on reconfiguring the internal walls. For example, instead of four or five smaller bedrooms, would the property work better with three larger ones? Many old houses don’t have upstairs bathrooms, will you bring the bathroom upstairs? Will you go with a single or double story extension, renovate into the loft or the basement? It’s important to have in mind the kind of functions you will want to use the rooms for- for example a loft conversion with a bathroom would make a great guest suite. A smaller or awkward shaped room could be transformed into a great office or dressing room as you won’t need to fit a bed in there.

Refit the kitchen

In most cases, you won’t be able to save the kitchen in an old home. Rotten wood, damaged tiles and outdated plumbing and electrics will all cause you issues. On top of that, older kitchens don’t tend to be in a ‘fitted’ style and are also usually very small – this is because of the entertaining style of previous generations. The kitchen was seen as a ‘backstage’ kind of area with the main focus being on the living and dining rooms, which is much different to how we live and entertain today. Large kitchens are desirable, having guests in the kitchen sat at an island or even helping with food preparation is common. There are lots of reasons why an old kitchen will need to be completely changed, so even when you’re looking to keep the charm of a house there’s probably little to nothing that you’re able to salvage here. Start by reconfiguring the layout: will you remove a wall to create open-plan living- or add an extension to make the kitchen larger? Aim for large windows, skylights or glass doors which will flood the space with natural light. From there, you can plan your kitchen layout. It’s often best to speak with a professional kitchen designer here, they will bring your vision to life in a way that’s practical and works. For example, you have to bear in mind things like the ‘working triangle’ which puts you in the centre of three points – the fridge, the hob and sink. This allows you to easily move around the kitchen and prepare meals in a way that makes the most sense. Once you’ve cleared the space and know the layout you’re going for comes the fun part- choosing the units! You could choose a theme that matches the style or era of the house to keep it in line with the rest of the decor, but then add a modern twist to things. For example, an old farmhouse would look fantastic with country style wood or white washed units, but then the modern edge would be having your up to date modern appliances fitted in. You can add charm and style with things like taps and sinks, you could check out somewhere like Tap Warehouse’s sinks as they have plenty of different varieties in one place. A vintage or retro style tap for example would be a great way to give a nod to the era of the house but in a way that looks cool and stylish.

Choose the Decor

Finally, it’s the decor that will really allow you to make the most of your old home’s individual charms. If you’ve pulled up carpets and found original tiling or wooden floors in good condition- keep them! If you’ve found original fireplaces behind old wooden boards then clean them up and make them part of your decor. To keep it modern, you could always go with nice smooth, neutral walls which would make any original features really stand out.

We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Tap Warehouse. For more inspiration for your home and garden, please pay a visit to our interiors page.

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