Character Building

28th September 2018

Natasha and Paul Wise have filled their 1930s home with family heirlooms and vintage finds…

words: natalie flaum | photography: alison hammond | styling: jemma paugh

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, Natasha and Paul’s home was less sparkle and shine than dust and damp. Before the pair embarked on their labour-of-love renovation, this 1930s house had been untouched for more than 40 years.

“Luckily we could see past the décor, 22 radiators, asbestos and outdoor fully working toilet,” laughs Natasha. “With its wide plot, we knew it had potential to be a fantastic family home for us.”

There were other ‘treats’ in store, too. “Every room was filled with 1960s patterned carpets and woodchip wallpaper, and they were in dreadful condition,” says Natasha. But her design eye had clocked plenty to celebrate. The home boasted lots of original features, including a fully working 1930s servants’ call box, glorious panelling in the hallway, and parquet flooring hidden beneath layers of varnish.

Natasha and Paul’s renovation story began with a leap of faith before they even owned the house. They hoped to build a double-storey side and rear extension six metres beyond the original footprint of the property. “We increased our mortgage and took a loan to finance the build,” says Natasha. “On exchange day we put in for expedited planning, which was granted within five weeks with only minor alterations, so by the time we completed, we had received our planning permission.”

Demolition began with the removal of asbestos in the outdoor toilet block and garage. The family moved into rented accommodation for the nine-month build. “Luckily our rental had a garage for some of our possessions, and we put the rest in storage,” Natasha explains.

“We hired a structural engineer to draw up architectural plans based on my ideas for the extension and had an open plan meeting with a council planner at the house where we talked it all through together with our builder, which really helped us visualise the space. Our builder was fantastic and project managed and coordinated everything with his superb team. He continues to pop back if we need him to fix anything and I consider him now to be a friend.”

Part of the project involved renewing several joists to support the weight of the new roof structure, so the couple’s engineer suggested that they convert the loft at the same time. “It made budgetary and practical sense,” Natasha adds. “The only extra costs would be a dormer window and new staircase.” Once it was built, she turned the new space into a luxurious master suite.

Further ground floor revisions include converting all outside utilities and the existing kitchen into a new elongated laundry room and separate cloakroom, accessed off the hallway. On the opposite side of the house, the former garage has been transformed into a music room/study. “Paul wanted a quiet space and somewhere to play his music so we converted the garage into a music room/study and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to create a hidden door disguised with floating shelves…” This was the perfect opportunity.

Tinkering with so many supporting walls on the ground floor was a tricky business – but worth it for the end results. The connecting doors in the living room lead to an open-plan playroom and stylish kitchen-diner, marrying elegance and style beautifully. “I wanted an open-plan kitchen and living space with a formal lounge that we could close off from the rest of the house, free from toys,” says Natasha. To maintain the character of the property, she selected black monkey tail door handles for the kitchen windows.

She matched the kitchen cabinets with quartz worktops, an antiqued mirror splashback and high quality appliances. “I selected a mix of expensive, vintage and cheaper high street light fittings over the island,” she adds. The purchases she couldn’t live without, she confides, are the boiling hot water tap and the waste disposal unit. “I grew up in a house with a waste disposal so I always knew I wanted one in my home too.”

Natasha’s design vision included plans for a secret bookcase door and a kitchen store. “An old-fashioned pantry conjures up happy childhood memories of climbing up to reach my father’s sweetie jar in my parents’ old house,” says Natasha. “We made ours even more special by fitting an Edwardian door and painting it the same colour as the cabinets. I have a passion for collecting vintage tins and love displaying them in the kitchen; my favourite is my nana’s old Quality Street tin.”

As you enter the house, there is a sense of nostalgic drama. “For me, the hall is what makes this house so special,” Natasha says. In this style of property, the hall was traditionally used as a lounge to sit in and read, and she was keen to recreate this. “The original panelling in the hall had been varnished over so many times that it had been protected,” she recalls. “When we pulled up the carpet in the hall and sitting room, all the original parquet flooring had been preserved.”

To mirror the hall and achieve the same look upstairs, the couple removed two internal walls and Natasha added her much-loved book nook. “We kept the same wide proportions for the stairs leading to the loft and introduced a hall on the top floor,” she says.

The halls have helped make the house feel more spacious, and they turned out to be a useful storage solution, too.

“Our carpenter did such a fantastic job at matching the skirting to the original panelling, so I asked him to build window seats with three storage areas beneath, for all the children to put their school bags in,” Natasha explains. “It’s an amazing way to keep a hallway tidy.” It’s the perfect house for children, she adds. “There’s so much indoor space for them to go wild and burn off energy riding their scooters, wheelybugs or doing cartwheels.”

Before the project began, Natasha and Paul invited their friends over for a pre-makeover party and asked them to draw over the walls and floor with Sharpie pens. “From that point on, none of them saw the house until a year later,” Natasha says. “When we had a housewarming party to mark the occasion, they couldn’t believe their eyes…”

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