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Key Architectural Features That You Should Treasure In Your Period Home

According to recent research, 82% of UK homebuyers would prefer to buy a period property rather than a new build home. Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian homes are particularly sought after on account of their beautiful architectural features that modern homes simply cannot compete with.

If you are the proud owner of a period home, you will no doubt be treasuring any original features that the building still has, and you may even want to reinstate any that are missing.

Some say that period homes are like fine wine – they seem to get better and more popular with age, provided they’ve been well looked after.

It is certainly the case that these old beauties hold their value well. The best Victorian and Edwardian properties fetch 20% more than their modern counterparts on average. If nothing else, that should give you plenty of motivation to maintain your period building.

To help you do that, we’ve put together a guide to the key features you should be prioritising.

Keep your sash windows in tip-top condition

Sliding timber sash windows are one of the most distinctive architectural features of period homes as far back as the 17th century. The box casement has independent top and bottom units that slide past each other to open and close. That’s the theory at least.

Unfortunately, over the years they can become draughty and start to rattle, letting cold air in and warm air out. What’s more, the timber can decay to the point where replacement windows make the most sense.

That said, if your sash windows are in reasonable condition, it is possible to have them refurbished and draught proofed by a timber specialist who can restore them to their former glory.

As one such craftsman puts it: “Original sash windows should only be replaced as an absolute last resort. Whether your window is draughty, damaged, rotten, hard to open or close, it’s not only totally possible but also highly desirable to bring it back to life.”

Listed buildings may need to retain the original single-glazing but other period properties may be able to sympathetically upgrade to double glazing.

Make a fabulous feature of your floors

Most period homes have original timber floors, perhaps with areas of tiled flooring too. Wooden floors are relatively easy to restore and refurbish. Replace any rotten sections of floorboards first, ideally taking sections from other parts of the house where the floor will be covered.

Stripping existing wooden floorboards will give your period home an authentic feel. Whether you choose to keep the finish neutral or reapply the dark, mahogany-look stain it would have originally had, is entirely up to you.

If you need to lay new wood flooring, make sure that you stay in keeping with the original designs. Consider the width of the boards alongside other architectural elements, or choose parquet flooring in brick bond or herringbone patterns.

Image Credit: Imperfect Interiors

Fireplaces that look hot

Original fireplaces are highly sought after in period homes, and they can be a real feature, particularly in living and dining areas. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace in a reception room, make sure you celebrate it. It’s a key focal point of the room and creates valuable air circulation in an old house.

This doesn’t mean that your fireplace has to be fully functional, although it could be. If it’s only there for decorative purposes, you can fit inflatable chimney balloons to the inside of the flue to keep draughts at bay.

Reinstating the surround of an old fireplace should be done carefully. Consider the original materials that would have been used, be it marble, stone or cast iron for principal rooms, or wood or cast iron for secondary rooms and bedrooms.

Image Credit: Brian O'Tuama Architects

Ornate ceiling cornices and mouldings

The ceilings found in many period homes can be very special indeed and if any original details are present in your home, it is well worth going to the trouble of maintaining or restoring them. Do your research before you go shopping – mouldings should be matched to each other within a specific period.

The purpose of cornices and mouldings is to enhance the properties of a room. It should go without saying that a Georgian rectory will require grander ornamentation than a simple Victorian terrace. And a Victorian ceiling rose doesn’t go with a Georgian cornice.

Image Credit: Cochrane Design

Picture rails, dado rails and other trims

As a rule of thumb, picture rails should be set 30-50cm below the ceiling cornice, depending on the height of the room. Make sure that picture rail mouldings are alternately convex and concave when looked at from top to bottom.

Further down the wall, dado rails were originally installed to stop chairs from damaging the walls. These days, they may be more of a decorative feature. They’re not essential to have if you prefer your walls to look unfussy, so there’s no need to retrofit them if you don’t want to.

However, if you like the look of them and feel your home is not complete without dado rails, think about placing them slightly higher than they would have been originally to give an illusion of greater room height.

Dimensions and proportions go hand in hand in period buildings and getting them right can make all the difference to achieving the correct look.

Ceiling roses, architraves and skirting boards should all relate to the rest of the interior architecture. A room without a dado rail requires a higher skirting board than one with a dado rail. A larger door architrave gives more impact to a doorway, making it feel grander and more considered.

Traditional fixtures and fittings

Finally, don’t neglect the building’s fixtures and fittings. Instead, think of them as the ‘jewellery’ of the home. From light fittings to light switches and sockets, doorknobs and handles, hardware for windows and more, getting these little details right can make all the difference to the overall feel of your period home.

Preserve and restore any original fixtures and fittings that are still fit for purpose today. Obviously, your wiring and electrics should be meeting the latest safety standards, but there’s nothing to stop you from keeping or restoring mechanical items.

In order to get a harmonious aesthetic that is in keeping with the original era, be consistent in your choice of finish. Whether you choose antique brass, bronze, chrome or brushed steel, try to use the same finish on knobs and hinges, window furniture and light switches. Invest in quality reclaimed or reproduction fixtures and fittings and you won’t regret it.

Image Credit: HUNTSMORE


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