Cara and her husband decided it was time to look for a long term family home. With a two year old daughter, and hopes to add another baby to the family soon, they were keen to secure a larger home that would also be close to good schools.
Cara explains, “We knew if we had a second baby space could become an issue in our current home so we decided to be pro-active and make the move sooner rather than later. I’d grown up in the Stourbridge area and knew what a great place it was for families so that is where we focused our search.
“We looked at lots of houses across all styles. In my heart I knew I wanted something with a bit of character so anything more modern just didn’t give me the wow factor, and some of the other period homes we’d looked at fell short of ticking all our boxes.
“As soon as we walked into this house we both knew straight away this was the one. We had to look past the huge amount of work it needed as it was incredibly run-down, barely touched in years – but full of Victorian character we could see huge potential for the three bedroom detached character home.”
Located in the Old Quarter of Stourbridge the home offered a double fronted Victorian layout and three good sized bedrooms, and it also had the scope to extend and give the growing family even more space. Having had an offer accepted on the home in February 2018 it wasn’t until the August that the couple moved in, now pregnant with their second child.
“We had hoped that whilst run down the home would be more than liveable for us so we could live in the spaces and start planning our renovation, however we quickly became aware that there were some elements of the work we had to do immediately. The original sash windows had been painted shut, the boiler was on its last legs and a lot of the radiators didn’t work and the living room fireplace was condemned as being unsafe to use. I guess having to do this initial work so quickly it just set the motivation for us to crack on and keep going.”
The couple planned to add a double storey extension across the back of the property in the future so knowing this would affect the kitchen, downstairs bathroom and rear bedrooms they gave these spaces a quick makeover to make them more liveable, putting most of their focus on the front of the house and renovating these spaces for the long-term.
“We had an architect visit to look at our extension plans, just so we knew any work we did now would fit with those building plans. The home has a cellar and when he looked at this space he brought to our attention another major issue with the home. The supporting beams below the house were rotten and the floors above completely unstable. We had noticed the floors in the hallway, and the stairs, all felt a bit uneven but thought this was just the cosmetics of old floors and we could level them out. Clearly we were wrong and thank goodness he spotted it. Next thing we knew we were moving out as builders came in to re-underpin our home.”
This work put the front living room, dining room and hallway project on hold for two months but with the issue rectified the couple ploughed on with the work.
“For the living room I knew I wanted a neutral and calm space which would be bright and light but still cosy. The space has two windows so was fairly bright anyway and I wanted the décor to accentuate that further. The room had its original coving and picture rails which we also wanted to keep as this was the sort of character that made us fall in love with the home.”
“Removing the now condemned old fireplace the plaster on the wall around it just started to fall away, at first exposing the original brick arch above the fire place. I thought it was a lovely feature and we should keep it. As more plaster crumbled we decided to just take it all off as the wall would need re-plastering. This then exposed all of the original brickwork.”
Cara loved the look of the exposed brick but her husband was worried a brick surface could make the room cold. Yet to agree whether to keep it or re-plaster over it, it was a visit from the sales contact at Charnwood Stoves who was visiting to specify a log burner for the room that convinced them to keep the brick work.
“He said any kind of fire surround would have to be quite high up the wall to adhere to safety regulations and I thought this would look odd with the original picture rails we were keeping. He also added that the brick wouldn’t feel cold once the fire was in and the was room dressed and decorated so decision made, we set about restoring the exposed brickwork as the backdrop to our new log burner.”
When it came to flooring for the space the couple were agreed on real wood floors, initially planning a solid wood floor, but becoming aware of some of the issues this could have for movement and use around the fire they switched their search to an engineered wood floor.
“We ordered lots of samples from various companies but nothing felt right both in terms of tone and quality. It was my husband who then came across V4 Wood Flooring researching ideas on Instagram. He saw lots of lovely homes that had tagged their V4 floors in pictures and we were really impressed with the look of the floors.”
The couple then visited a local flooring shop and discovered the V4 collection on display. “Seeing the floors close-up we could really see the quality of them. The showroom didn’t have the full collection on display so when we got home we headed to the V4 website to order a selection of samples. We had already decided on a plank style over herringbone, and when the samples arrived we knew straight away the Urban Nature Fired Brick wood floor was the one.”
Urban Nature Fired Brick offers a mid-tone oak floor that delivers a natural and warm feel. The surface of the boards is given various treatments including cross sawing and hand scraping with traditional tools to enhance the character, knots and natural blemishes, giving the appearance of a modern but naturally aged and weathered plank. Finally the top layer is given a deep lustre with the application of colour oils which are UV cured to build up a naturally protective and durable top surface.
“I’d already bought quite a bit of furniture for the space, and chosen the tiles to go under the fire from Mosaics by Post, and the tones in this wood floor blended perfectly. They also had a natural warmth to them which would add a warmer colour tone into the room. The rustic nature of the planks also suited the character of the home and worked really well with the exposed brick wall.”
Cara’s husband asked a flooring contractor he knew through work to install the wood floors, a job that was completed in just one day. An insulating underlay was laid before the floors were installed. The fireplace floor area had been levelled off to ensure a flush seamless fit with the tiling and new wood floors.
The original skirting was rotting in this room so this was removed and new skirting was created to match the original Victorian skirting styles in the home.
Cara could finally start dressing the space. “I’d started securing a lot of items for this room from when we first moved in. Next Home was really my go to shop. It started with a sofa I saw and loved and I gradually added other items. I didn’t want everything to have the same fabric and the beauty of the collections I was choosing from was the selection of fabric options. Everything is slightly different but tonally blends and I chose the same wood legs for all the items for continuity, plus they go perfectly with the wood floors.”
Walls are finished in Little Greene Slate Lime and a rustic wood side board and side tables, also from Next, suit the space perfectly.
“It was lovely to have this room all finished before Christmas. The room is just how I wanted it, soft, neutral and bright with the floors and exposed brick adding warmer tones and textures. The floors have been great to live with. I was a bit worried about scratches with a two and four year old but it’s not been a problem. They tend to play on the large rug I added from Ikea but the floors are great quality so I really don’t think I have to worry.
“We also renovated the dining room that sits adjacent to this room at the front of the house. We had re-sanded the original floor boards in this space but now we have put these new wood floors in the living room we are definitely going to add them in there too. This room is a little bit darker and dramatic with Farrow and Ball Inchrya Blue on the walls but the Fired Brick wood floors will look really great against this colour too.
“We are taking a little bit of time out from renovation work now. All of the rooms that won’t be impacted by our extension are done and it’s lovely to just relax in the home and enjoy it for a while. Once the girls are both in school full time we’ll make a start on the extension. It will be another round of upheaval but at least we will have this lovely space to spend time away from it all as a family.”