We have taken ownership of a Victorian property. It was a romantic notion, foolhardy in the extreme and regrettable at every turn.
I have discovered that there is a very fine line between love and hate in interior decor. Our beautiful Victorian limestone pad is almost entirely bedecked in 1970s kitsch. It is worse than kitsch, since that would imply some intent at humour. It is SO out of fashion that it is almost in fashion.
The vast majority of the walls are kitted out in woodchip (won’t that be fun to get off), but every so often, here and there, there is an accent of colour. A light pattern to relieve the gloom.
Let me introduce you the the colour palette.
This little lovely is in the attic bedroom. It is mostly peeling off, and creates a sort of ‘dark room’ ambience to the bedroom. It was accompanied by posters of Spitfires and a boxed in Victorian fireplace, which we promptly rescued. See what I mean? Do you love it or do you hate it? Is it 70s vile or 2011 cool?
As we move around the house, the patterns continue. Coral pink flowers were a no-go for our two boys, but the house fought back against our campaign of destruction when the ceiling came down, covering my husband in 150 years of Victorian soot! This unhappy incident has led to a very extended period of renovation procrastination.
I recall with great affection growing up during the 1970s myself. Our family home was a festival of pattern. We had swirly carpets (kids are mucky little buggers you know) and tongue-and-groove wood panelling throughout the hallway. Oh, and the omnipresent ‘glow’ of cigarette smoke stains which every 70s house worth its salt had.
And so my tour continues – there are horrors at every turn, I’m afraid.
In the hallway we have beautiful wide stairs. Sadly, covered in snot-green carpet. There is a lovely handrail on one side. It fell off and now we have holes in the wall which leave crumbs of plaster up the stairs.
Outside we have a rambling set of small rooms, all added on to each other – a loo, a coal shed, a garage and a ‘store’ which looks as though it would come down with a strong easterly wind.
We have a pungent odour recently too. It permeates the house from below the floorboards. Perhaps it is a dead thing. Victoriana rats or a burst sewer. It is all part of the joy of the process my husband tells me.
And so you see how we have our work cut out for us.
The builders arrive shortly to begin the demolition of the rear of our property. This will render our kitchen and dining room entirely out of use, and we shall all be confined to one downstairs room for around 3 months. I can hardly wait.
The good news is that this room has been ‘fixed’. The Cotswold stone wall, complete with electric 3 bar fire has been removed and replaced with a Victorian polished iron fireplace. The woodchip has given way to an indulgent Farrow & Ball. The red nylon, un-hooverable carpet has gone and wooden floors are back. After 3 months with the kids in it, it will no doubt need redecorating again.
A recent visitor, however, threw me into a serious quandary over my own taste. We were having a cuppa in the newly decorated lounge. She was admiring the wallpaper and happened to mention that she was an interiors journalist so she had an eye for these things. When she turned to leave, she glanced up the stairs at the chocolate brown monstrosity which hangs violently on the wall there and exclaimed, “Oh, another beautiful wallpaper!”
To this moment I am not sure whether she was being ironic or genuine. Either way, it is still destined for certain black bag death in the near future. What’s that they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder?
Our Victorian house is an adventure. Not just a family memory, but a whole series of stories which we can capture and re-tell in the future. Our renovation nightmares and dreams are being played out on my lifeline, and the fashions with which we dress our homes, just like those with which we dress ourselves, are sure to be time-bound and fleeting.
I shall be able to look back and laugh at my Farrow and Ball in 10 years time and wonder what I was thinking. Perhaps I should save those curtains after all? As my mother used to say “They might just come ‘back in’!”
Savour the memories of your family homes, old and new at www.SaveEveryStep.com, where it’s free to create your own lifeline and lifelines for the whole family.