Stephen and I have not moved into our little house quite yet. We have taken a few weeks to do some messy work in the house before we move in. Stephen spent a week stripping wood chip paper and artex (textured plaster) off the walls as mentioned in a previous post. Now the electricians are in rewiring everything and the plasterers are making the walls smooth, creating our blank canvas. Then it will be back to Stephen and I. As everything is (sadly) being covered back up, I thought I would take this opportunity to share some photos of what we uncovered in our 1930's nest. This is not a major renovation and the house is not that old by English standards, but just from the little bits and pieces we found, I can imagine how exciting it is to peel back the layers of history in a very old house. Even a mere hint of a paint colour, or the tiniest scrap of flock wallpaper found in a corner was cause for excitement. So onto our magical mystery tour:
This is the guest bedroom. If you look closely at the walls, you can see the faint outline of decorative paint work. It is just a simple effect, creating a paler tone of colour on a stepped band around the top of the room.
And the same in the main bedroom
In fact, if you look closely at this wall, you can just see loads of drawn pencil lines (you should be able to click on any photo to bring up a larger version)
Stephen and I were quite fascinated by this as we are not sure what all the pencil lines are about. It would be nice to recreate something similar, but these days we have more furniture and general stuff than they had in the 30's and it will only work if it "frames" the contents of the room well. Otherwise it will be chopped up by furniture and look like oddly painted patches. However, I am certainly going to keep it in mind and try to find more references of 1930s interiors to see how it worked with the furnishings. We also found scraps of this lovely paper in the main bedroom (under the lovely wood chip paper that covered it):
It is hard to date this paper. The house was built in 1935 and the yellow painted panels will be the original decoration. We found pencil signatures on the wall dated 1952. My guess would be that this floral paper was put on in 1952. And then the wood chip paper sometime later. When I have some spare time, I am going to look into the history of this house. Sometimes details of the changing of ownership can give you a big clue as to when new decoration was done. Here is another photo of the paper. Had there been more of it and in better condition, I would have liked to have kept a wall and worked my decor around it. The colours are gorgeous.
We also found wallpaper in the small box room. This is classed as the third bedroom, but is only 9 feet x 7 feet so I am turning it into a dressing room/walk in closet.
The paper is a simple floral sprig and so smooth, it can be painted over as is so we didn't go to the effort of steaming this off. There was one small area where we could see the original paint colour which was a pale apple green. And I am not sure, but the woodwork might have been a pale pink colour. There seems to be scraps of old lino down on the floorboards. I had heard that this row of houses had been built with young professional couples in mind. This will take some investigative work, but it could be that the decoration in this room was meant to cover everything from a small hobby/sewing room through to nursery/child's room.
And more on the living room with the stencilling. They weren't afraid of bold colour in the 30's. The main bedroom is ochre, spare bedroom a red/pink grapefruit colour and the living room this terracotta colour (which is more vibrant than in this photo).
The paint finish is lovely. Very matt and chalky with good opaque coverage without being thick. I don't know enough about old paint finishes, but I do know distemper was quite popular. The gloss paint on the woodwork (and ceiling in this room) is also quite different from gloss paint today. (Note: I would love to open up the fireplace again, but that will have to wait. In the meantime, the old gas fire is fine and does throw out extra heat. I am hoping with a bit of tweaking I can make it look a bit more like an exotic chinese pagoda shaped gas fire and less like the stylistically challenged fire that it is. We have taken off the mantle and have smoothed that out. Any ideas would be gratefully appreciated).
As you can see the walls have been well patched over the years so sadly we have no option but to plaster over it all. However, it is still there for posterity. By the way, can you see the chandelier? We have taken it down and kept it because although it is wrong for the schemes I have planned for this house, it would be quite fab in the right room. It has 3 lights and is painted white metal. What is lovely is that it has these wire bits with flowers and butterflies on the ends around the central stem. If anyone is interested in buying it, let me know. It will need rewiring (not a difficult job) so could also work in other countries. If you want more photos, let me know and I will email them to you.
We did find more stencilling.
Aside from the cornerpieces, there is this central motif:
It is on three of the walls (the 4th is taken up by the bay window). It is so simple and effective and I love the pale ochre band with the burgundy coach line that just sets it off.
And now to the toilet/bathroom. In an ideal world, I would have loved to have had the original toilet, bath sink, kitchen and fireplaces in this house. Sadly I have none of those and to add insult to injury, I have a tiled 1980's toilet and bathroom. It was standard practice to have a separate toilet next door to the bathroom. I quite like the idea except that it is not for the claustrophobic....
And when you see the size of the bathroom...
...you will see why we will probably combine the two when we redo the bathroom in a couple of years. The hot water tank is in the cupboard in the corner. These photos show one of my favourite finds: the old lino in black and burgundy. I love it and it is a shame that it is wrecked. But it can stay for now. You can also see the lovely 1980's avocado sink and bath we have. It will have to stay for a while too. In the meantime, I will dream by looking at original bathroom suites on ebay and one day shall have one. They tend to come in pink, blue, yellow, white or jade green and I am rather fond of jade green so that would be my first choice.
Finally, one has to mention and spare a kind thought for my boiler which I am going to name Mo (partly in homage to M-O, the obsessive compulsive cleaning bot from the film "Wall-E" and partly in homage to Mo Farrah who kept on running during the Olympics). He has just gone through his health check and although does not look his best (you have to use the pliers to turn the main knob), he is in tip top condition and does not need to be replaced for the moment (our purse breathes a sigh of relief). So I am extremely fond of Mo.
He keeps our little house warm and is right now working to dry out the new plaster so we can crack on with the painting and decorating of which there will be much, much more in later posts.