When we moved into our Victorian terrace house in London I was overwhelmed with the need to make everything light and bright. After years of being suffocated by layers of wallpaper and carpet, I felt the house was crying out for me to help it breathe. We decided to tackle the living room, which would give us a much needed sanctuary.
Bare boards and walls took no time at all to expose, but I was unprepared for the task of removing the fire surround. The reinforced concrete hearth and surround had to be jack-hammered out. Once this was removed a sooty black avalanche came tumbling down. Getting this cleared out was really filthy work, but once that was done Timothy took no time at all to claim the space as his.
The fireplace is the focal point of the room. We really liked the old brick, so decided to clean them up and leave them as they were. I tiled the hearth in a lovely slate tile that has tints of blues and greens. I sourced a reclaimed fire surround from eBay, which we got for £75. Then I sent Keith off in the car to collect it. Once again, it was another item covered in white gloss paint. I stripped the paint off and went for a satin black paint, which we thought made it much more elegant.
I like the fireplace to be a focal point for decorative features in a room. I usually choose something substantial for this space. I ended up choosing a painting we got while on holiday in France. I was six months pregnant and it was unbelievably hot! You think growing up in Australia where it was sometimes so hot that schools cancelled lessons and got the slip-and-slides out, that I would be used to heat but I am not. I go red and I get a rash!
Anyway, we decided to go to a well known market in Luberon, Provence. I saw this painting and loved it immediately. The artist was an elderly sun soaked man. He was smoking his cigarette as he packaged up the painting. I was in a quiet panic because the ash was so long on his cigarette that if it fell, and it looked like it was going to, it would fall onto my lovely painting. The colours used in this painting have influenced the colour scheme for the entire room.
The windows in our house were a bit of a dilemma. They weren’t very old and were in very good working order but they had this terrible very wide flat plastic architrave. We couldn’t afford to replace all the windows but I couldn’t live with the architrave either. I knew it had to go so I just took a deep breath and began pulling it off the wall. The strips were only glued in place so they came off very easily, although they did take a little of the wall off too.
I took to repairing the plaster around the window frame. I was so nervous because this had to look good! If I didn’t get it right I would be bothered by these imperfections every time we used the room. I used a metal beading trim to get a perfect edge and that seemed to keep me straight and smooth. These windows are very different to what I would choose but removing the wide plastic architrave has made them as inconspicuous as they can be. I continued to work my way around the remainder of the room repairing the walls. Finally I was able to paint, which for me is a psychological turning point when renovating a room.
One controversial decorating decision we made was to paint the floors an off white. We wanted the floors to flow from one space to another and although the boards were in a good condition in this room, they weren’t in most of the other adjoining areas. Painting the floor boards allowed us to do all the necessary patching without the almost impossible task of matching boards.
We have been really surprised by how family friendly the white painted floor option has been. The floor also reflects the light and gives a modern twist to my eclectic mixture of furniture and furnishings. I am constantly changing things in the house and sometimes I hear the dark side calling me – the dark side of the colour chart, that is!
If you would like to follow our renovation or like handmade homes why not scroll to the bottom of this page and….