How to transform a bland period home
Few people want to stay in a house while it’s in the middle of being renovated, but Julie Hunter loves the process of creating something new.
“I don’t mind living with the chaos this brings to reach my goal,” she says. “I like creating something special out of something old and worn. I get really passionate about it, so renovating our house while we were living amongst the dust and rubble was, to me, one big adventure.”
But even Julie hit a low point when the cellar ceiling was taken out, filling the house with a fine layer of black grime. “It got everywhere. I never thought the house would be clean again,” she says. “It was the lowest point of the renovation. We were still finding dust months later.”
Julie and her husband Ian spent nine months modernising their five-bedroom Victorian property in Huddersfield. This included a basement conversion, a new kitchen, floors and windows, decorating and landscaping.
Although Julie wanted to keep all the original features, she had no intention of trying to reproduce the period style inside.
“If you are not careful you can take away something of the original character by trying to match it,’ she says. “I wanted to move the house into the present day and create a light, modern interior which would highlight the lovely old architecture.”
Although the property is not listed, it is in a conservation area, so Julie and Ian wanted to keep the distinctive square proportions of the exterior by replacing the windows like-for-like. “They were all single glazed and they were so over-painted that we couldn’t open any of them, so we had new double-glazed windows specially made to the original style,” she says.
The old kitchen was oak which made the room look dark and closed in, so Julie drew up her ideas for a modern new kitchen with clean lines and shelves on the walls instead of cupboards to keep the long, narrow room as wide and open as possible.
“It’s the main room in the house so it had to be right,” says Julie. “We camped out in the dining room for six weeks while we waited for the units to arrive and be fitted. I never want to see another microwave meal again, but it was worth the inconvenience. Completing the kitchen was the high point of the whole renovation.”
Although the couple brought furniture from their last house, Julie wanted to introduce bold, jewel colours into the decor so she had the dining chairs recovered and large cushions made for the sofas.
“I can carry colours in my head so it makes life very easy when I go shopping for fabrics, wallpapers and paints,” she says. “I know instinctively which shade or tone to choose.
“Ian lets me get on with it. He doesn’t like the chaos of renovating so he’s happy to discuss options and then let me make the choices.”
Although they tend to like the same things, Julie had to have the courage of her convictions to assure Ian that the bold wallpapers she liked would work in the period house. “I knew they would look fantastic, but not everyone can visualise the end result,” she says. “I also wanted to include lots of glass – not just in the doors and windows but also in the furniture and accessories. I love glass vases and glass tables, anything which draws light through it and keeps the room looking light and open.”
At the same time as renovating the house, the Hunters also redesigned the overgrown garden. The house sits in front of a sheer rock wall which was partly hidden by a retaining wall. They removed the wall, levelled the driveway, rebuilt a rockery that had been buried and redesigned the planting.
“‘It took nine months to renovate and we’ve only just got it as we want it, but I know I shall get itchy feet again before long,” says Julie. “I like to think we have given this house a new lease of life, but I know there are plenty more out there just waiting to be renovated.”