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Furnishing a Victorian House - where to start?

27 replies

PaddingtonBore · 20/12/2008 20:24

So we flogged our lovely modernist flat a few months ago, and to my surprise I've fallen in love with a Victorian house. Most of the period features are still there - picture rails, cornicing, ceiling roses, sash windows.

We've had an offer accepted, and it's dawned on me that my modernist-lite furniture is going to look a bit weird in the new house. What looks good in Victorian places? And where do I shop for it

OP posts:
CountessDracula · 20/12/2008 20:26

Actually I think modern pieces can look great in period houses, just as antique furniture can look fantastic in a modern house. You need to go for an eclectic mix of both

When I say modern pieces I am not talking Ikea btw.

Guadalupe · 20/12/2008 20:28

I agree, period houses can look lovely with modern furniture. You weren't thinking of ditching it all for big dark sideboards were you?

PaddingtonBore · 20/12/2008 20:31

Contemporary pieces might work, but we were a bit 50's modernist - think primary colours and plastic. I know that sounds vomit inducing but it did work in the old flat....

I have a feeling that if I aim for Eclectic I will achieve Jumble Sale.

OP posts:
hippipotami · 20/12/2008 20:31

We have a Victorian house. It is furnished with an eclectic mix of modern (sofa), victorian (reclaimed sideboard and old victorian trunk which serves as coffee table), 1920's (oak dining table found in skip) and any age inbetween.
We buy furniture based on waht we like, not what era it is. Hence the eclectic mix.
We have put it all agains a plain backdrop of off-white walls and stipped and sanded the floarboards.
I love it

hippipotami · 20/12/2008 20:32

Oh, maybe we have jumble sale....
But anyroad, it works for us

BoccaDellaNativita · 20/12/2008 20:32

I tend to agree with Countess Dracula although, of the two options, I think modern furniture in an older house works better, as it is more plausible.

I'd say stick with what you have, but maybe (and especially if you have more rooms to furnish) look for some pieces of about the same age as the house. Do you have an auction house nearby? The bottom seems to have fallen out of the 'brown furniture' market, which means that you can find lovely Victorian-Edwardian things for about tuppence (and, pace Ikea, it is real wood with proper dovetail joints, that you don't need to asemble ith an Allen key).

HeadFairy · 20/12/2008 20:35

I do quite like a mixture of modern furniture alongside period features. this room has lovely period details but the furniture is pretty modern too, mirrored sideboard, the clean lines of the sofa etc.

PaddingtonBore · 20/12/2008 20:35

I'm sure yours works hippopotami! I'm just not sure I have sufficient elan to pull it off myself.

I don't want to go all neo-gothic grandma either, but I'm wondering where the middle ground is.

What have you all got in your Victorian gaffes, then?

OP posts:
BoccaDellaNativita · 20/12/2008 20:36

Ooops. Am incredibly slow typist.

I still think you should keep what you have. We have some 50s Ercol (is that modernist or is it mid-century modern?) and it seems to work well in our Victorian house. When we came here, I visualised buying non-stop Victoriana but soon realised that would be dark, dull and inconvenient.

uberalice · 20/12/2008 20:36

Agree with CountessDracula. But I'll watch with interest, as we have a Victorian house too.

HeadFairy · 20/12/2008 20:37

Sorry, just read your post about 50s furniture.

PaddingtonBore · 20/12/2008 20:37

ooh HeadyfAiry, that IS nice.


(but not modernist)

I think I need some nice, safe neutral pieces that can move effortlessly from house to house.

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HeadFairy · 20/12/2008 21:04

Can you do some ebaying and change perhaps some key pieces, sofa/seating and large storage items perhaps? 50s textiles are lovely so would work really well with simple furniture.

NotanOtter · 20/12/2008 21:07

no - i love the modern look coupled with features

my victorian bderppm complete with sliding sashes sloping ceiing and fireplace is remeniscent of a 70' hotel room with dark brown hessian walls...

my downstairs has purple walls with 3d flowers - go for it

lalalonglegs · 20/12/2008 21:12

I agree that modern furniture can work very well if it is used as accent pieces - I'd try to keep walls/flooring/curtains etc pretty neutral so that it isn't all fighting each other.(My flat is Edwardian and, apart from a Victorian chest of drawers, everything is modernist c.1950s-70s).

FeelingLucky · 20/12/2008 21:23

Agree with what everyone says about modern furniture in Victorian house. We have an eclectic mix too.
I love Arts & Crafts and if I could afford it, I'd buy from Liberty. Think Heals might also have some, and of course ebay.

When we bought our first Victorian house in Sheffield, we found some real bargains there, which would have been 5 times the price had we bought in London.
Mind you, the house in Sheffield would've cost 5 times the price had we bought in London too!

swanriver · 20/12/2008 23:01

The first thing I noticed when we moved from flat to house with high ceilings was that bed looked completely wrong, as too low and simple. So we bought one of those victorian looking iron beds, which was actually not very comfortable and creaked dreadfully. Same with sofa, when we bought period looking (new)chesterfield that was terribly uncomfortable too. So don't get carried away by detail. However all our brown furniture has been a great success as it is indestructible. But I've got bored with the pine stuff though which looks 70's not victorian. Also all those dirty colours F & B which were so fashionable can be depressingly like dirt. I found myself choosing much brighter clearer colours now, and putting more white everywhere since I had children.

swanriver · 20/12/2008 23:03

There's a good book on paint colours and combinations by Kevin McCloud can't remember title.

ninedragons · 20/12/2008 23:11

Antiques & Home magazine is a very good place to start to show you what antiques look like in real interiors. Actually if you can find it anywhere, the November issue had an article on mixing old and new furniture. If I can find it I'll tear the article out and post it to you, if you CAT me your address.

Agree that brown furniture is cheaper than it should be, by rights. This article had a stunningly handsome Regency clothing press at 900 quid. That's insane. Even the nastiest firbreboard wardrobe from Ikea costs 300 quid.

Dottoressa · 20/12/2008 23:13

We have an early Victorian villa with fabulous original features (14-foot ceilings, etched windows and so on), and it is furnished with a mixture (or mish-mash) of fabulous antiques, 'nice' modern, and - yes - lots of Ikea (the PC I am using is sitting on an Ikea desk, and we have three Tomelilla sofas. One is so well covered in super-duper fabric that it would pass for something more sophisticated, but a Tomelilla is what it is!)

The pictures are a similar mish-mash of my taste (early 1900s watercolours) and DH's taste (weird-looking people looking miserable) - plus some artwork from children's books.

I think you should go for whatever you like, on the whole. We had various bits of furniture that we liked, so kept; others, we got rid of when we moved here as they didn't fit anywhere (physically as much as style-wise).

Paint-wise, we have a lot of Farrow and Ball! (Or, rather, Dulux copies of F&B...)

ninedragons · 20/12/2008 23:14

I forgot to say, I think the key to successful mixing is pick periods that are aesthetically harmonious. We have quite a lot of Art Deco furniture, mixed with a few bits of Regency and a few bits of 50s. They were all periods that went for plain lines and simple, symmetrical designs. I don't think that Rococo would mix with Art Deco at all.

HolyGuacamole · 20/12/2008 23:37

Ours is Victorian. Modern does look good but not too modern IYKWIM. Ours is a renovation and is has been restored to match the existing fittings (fireplaces, geometric tiled entrace, original doors, and handles, picture rails, gold barley sugar banister etc). We have really gentle paint colours from Laura Ashley and in some of the rooms we have one feature wall papered in gold/cream colours. Not flowery and not twee but classic. If your kitchen has black granite, that would look gorgeous with red plasticky things!

In one room we have 2 big fat comfy sofas (olive green and gold) in a deliberate drop sided Victorian style that are sat next to a very modern leopard print John Sankey chaise and it looks great. Everyone loves it when they come in (I know it sounds disgusting but honestly it's lovely!).

Shop near us is called Rotherwoods and they have the most beautiful furniture and accessories, I think they deliver nationwide too.

CountessDracula · 21/12/2008 00:03

DON'T look in blardy mags
you will end up with someone else's taste not yours

So, we have an Edwardian house not victorian but has its features

Type of furniture we have

Modern sofa but with legs not all blocky

Brown cube leather armchair made to our design

Lloyd loom chair

Willy Rizzo coffee table like this but with chrome inside bit not gold and no gold corners.

Georgian card table to put lamp on and rosewood georgian bureau

PaddingtonBore · 21/12/2008 09:01

Thanks everyone.

For some reason I can dress ok, but have always been rubbish at interiors. I think our beautiful sofas are a bit too 50s to work, but I will experiment with the rest. And we'd already planned to paint a lot of the house white, once we have saved up to have the anaglypta stripped (leaving that in place is an authentic step too far) and the walls skimmed.

PS - CD, that table is just marvellous.

OP posts:
lalalonglegs · 21/12/2008 10:55

Are you thinking of getting rid of your 1950s sofas then Paddington? Because I may be able to find a space at Lala Towers...

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