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Image / Living / Interiors

5 things I wish I knew before taking on a Georgian renovation

by Megan Burns
28th Aug 2020

What to consider if you’re planning on tackling a period renovation. 

Designer Tanya Ross’ Georgian Tullamore home shows the rewards a sensitive renovation can bring. Featured in the March/April 2018 issue of Image Interiors & Living, it beautifully marries the traditional and the modern to create a spacious family home.

However, taking on the challenge of a period property is not to be done lightly, and so Tanya has shared what she learned through the process with us.

  1. Go in with your eyes open

“Before purchasing, we identified that the building would require the plumbing and electrics to be re-done. We also enlisted the help of a quantity surveyor to provide an estimated costing to ensure that we could afford the renovation. This removed the large element of risk associated with buying a house of this nature, and helped us decide to jump in. The most important thing to thoroughly investigate at the beginning is the building’s structural stability, as underpinning and re-roofing can be very costly.”

  1. Be prepared to adapt your plans

“An old house can throw up unexpected challenges despite your careful planning. Once we removed the wallpaper we discovered that the walls were extremely uneven. I wanted them painted rather than re-wallpapered, and as they were original lime walls we needed to use a lime plaster to avoid damp. This was an unforeseen extra expense. We also discovered woodworm in some floorboards, and damp that had to be rectified. Some ceilings and floors had to be reinforced, and there were also structural repairs that we had not foreseen.”

Georgian renovation

  1. Consider how to merge the modern and the traditional

“We tried to keep and restore anything in the house that was original, such as the doors, windows and shutters. The windows were very tricky, and this was a huge cost in our overall budget. However, there was not an option to replace them due to the building’s protected status. The kitchen, which is new, pays homage to the Georgian style. We had it designed to reflect the panelling on the shutters.

“Our extension could have been contemporary, but we felt that a glass box wasn’t for us in this case. We added French doors and a large window with Georgian divisions, and mouldings on the walls. Some people have asked if it is original, which I think is a good sign. The original fireplaces were gone from the house, so we sourced restored antique ones for both my studio and the dining room. The flooring is also new, but we tried to achieve a more homely look with a distressed smoked oak board. It looks like it belongs rather than being brand spanking new.”

  1. Working with an old house can be tricky

“As with many period houses, ours is a protected structure so it was important for us to link in with our local council to ensure that we were complying with the legal requirements. The layout also presented challenges. The kitchen was in the basement, as it was designed for the staff to work in, not the family of the house. We moved it to the first floor, to achieve a more inclusive family living space, and gain more light. There were also no windows on the ground floor facing the garden. Adding French doors on the back solved this problem for us.

“Redesigning the footprint of a modern house can certainly be a lot simpler. The internal walls tend to be stud walls that can be easily taken down and re-built. With renovating a period property you are much more restricted to work within the existing footprint of the building. Period buildings, whilst fabulously designed in many ways, do tend to have issues like insufficient toilets, larger rooms to heat, and they generally do not address the garden in the way we would expect of a modern home.”

Georgian renovation

  1. Don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on it

“I’m delighted we added the original date of the house into the entrance hall tiles. I found it extremely difficult to find a place to do this for us in the style that I wanted. Although they may look simple, it took me quite a while to figure out the design. You can choose whatever font you want but this is another expense. In order to achieve the look for less, I decided to use the hexagonal tiles to create the shape of the numbers. This is time consuming, as I had to create a technical drawing myself and submit it to the manufacturer. We are thrilled with the result.” @6highstreet.

Photography by Ruth Maria Murphy

Read more: This terraced home in Irishtown is flooded with light, thanks to a central axis

Read more: Inside the restoration of this exquisite Georgian London apartment

Read more: If stripping paint is on your DIY list, read this first

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