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Following in the footsteps of her renovating family, Maria Bradburn and her husband Wayne have restored an old house with a wealth of Victorian and Edwardian period features
Admiring and renovating period properties is in Maria Bradburn’s family: mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces…every new generation is as passionate about rescuing a piece of Britain’s heritage as the last. So when she and her husband Wayne bought this unusual old house she knew the person she’d be turning to first to help revive its many original features. ‘I couldn’t tell you everything my father’s done for me,’ says Maria, ‘the list is endless: he’s repaired windows, sanded woodwork, helped me paint every room, and he’s sorted the messy tangle that was the garden.’
Indeed, the house Maria and Wayne bought six years ago looked very different from the sophisticated yet comfortable home it is today. Although its previous owners had restored some of the period features, it seems they’d lost their motivation and decided to give up on the project. ‘All that was worth saving in the kitchen, for instance, was the sink and the floor tiles,’ says Maria. ‘But as we had so much work on our hands with the rest of the house, we initially just filled the room with free-standing dressers and sideboards to make it more workable until we had the time to give it the attention it deserved.’
Maria and Wayne then set to work on the house, continuing where the old owners had left off, and their first task was attending to the leaky roof. ‘There were buckets catching rainwater up in the loft,’ remembers Maria, ‘and there were bits of Perspex where tiles should have been, so getting that fixed was our top priority; a friend recommended a wonderful craftsman whose attention to detail was excellent.’
From the outside, the once problematic roof is where you are given the first hint that this is a very special building: a cone shaped turret stands proud like a flag to indicate that this house has a little more history to reveal than its neighbours on the terrace. The builder designed six very different houses around the turn of the century, using this one – his own – as an experiment for all the various features he wished to include in the others. Unlike its neighbours, which are more restrained, this property has numerous decorative Edwardian and Victorian influences: elaborate tiling in the hallway; intricate carvings and mouldings; leaded lights; a panelled ceiling and a most unusual copper fireplace in the back sitting room – and these are just a few of its many features.
‘All these details are what made me fall in love with the building when we first saw it,’ recalls Maria. ‘As we climbed the beautiful stairs and saw the impressive, but broken, stained glass window, I knew we were the ones who would be able to bring this home back to life.’
To ensure the owner accepted their offer on the house, Maria made a direct, heartfelt appeal. ‘I told her that I would be keeping all the period features; I wouldn’t rip out the windows and put plastic double glazing in like some of the neighbours have.’ Maria’s appreciation for the house was clear to the owner, and after the Bradburns sold their smaller house within days, they managed to secure their dream home.
Since then, Maria and her family have gradually transformed the house with many coats of paint, wallpaper, new carpeting, and plenty of hard work. She adds: ‘We’re lucky that we haven’t had to reinstate any missing architectural details – this house still had everything. And it all survived despite being rented out as two flats during the 1960s and 1970s – it had been the landlord’s childhood home, so he was keen to retain its original style.’
Maria has added a few embellishments, however, although nothing out of keeping with the spirit of the house. In the hallway and front sitting room she fitted panelling up to dado height. ‘The walls were in pretty poor condition,’ she explains. ‘Panelling suits the feel of the house, but it also protects the walls from the inevitable scuffs and scrapes of family life.’
However, one job Maria was very happy to hand over to the professionals was the kitchen revamp. Having finally saved up £15,000 a couple of years ago she commissioned tradesmen, and joinery company Pineland Furniture to create the space of her dreams. ‘The craftsmen were absolutely brilliant, and employ all the traditional techniques, creating dovetail joints and using solid wood. But fortunately they aren’t as expensive as some bespoke cabinetmakers because you do all your own measurements and you can choose to finish the woodwork yourself after it’s fitted.’ The table and chairs from an antiques shop and a chandelier bought on the high street complete the look in this comfortable but elegant room.
The rest of the house has been furnished in the same budget-conscious way: Maria’s favourite shopping haunts are salvage fairs, reclamation yards, auction houses and charity shops, where she has found a plethora of chests, chairs and mirrors; she loves the idea of rescuing hidden treasure. And anything that’s looking a bit shabby is given a coat of paint. ‘I’m always covered in splashes of white or grey,’ she says. ‘This house is my hobby, but with two young children and household chores I do sometimes get distracted, so it will probably never be finished. I’d like to do a loft conversion in the future to give the girls equal sized bedrooms when they’re ready to have their own space; but that job needs the right person to come along and help me work out the space.’
So, can Maria ever imagine living anywhere else? ‘Part of me would like a larger garden,’ she admits, ‘but thanks to my father’s hard work there’s enough space for the girls to play outside. You can always dream of owning a bigger house, but we still enjoy our home as much as on that first viewing, so I think we’ll be living here for many years to come.’
Maria shares her renovating and decorating advice
‘I’m a huge fan of charity shops and wish everyone would start using them more – since online auctions launched people seem to want to get a few pounds for their old junk; but if we all donated to charities, and bought from them, we’d all benefit. I’ve got to know all the staff in my local hospice shop and they keep an eye out for vintage items for me.
‘I like to position objects where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them so that you notice them more. For instance, I have a vintage sewing machine in the kitchen, and a cut glass butter dish I use for soap in the downstairs cloakroom.’
Wayne is happy to let me make all the decorating decisions but I’ve tended to go for muted tones, particularly grey, so that when I add all my pretty pieces the overall effect isn’t too feminine.