The house we live in today is not in the style we had first thought up when designing our dream home. In fact, what we wanted was something more in the Arts & Crafts style which is seen so much throughout the English Countryside. Unfortunately, or fortunately for us, the Planners over here had different ideas of what we could build and refused us planning permission the first time round and so we literally had to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and come up with a new design based on their recommendations.
We then took to looking at houses in our own locality which were traditionally Irish in style and based our plans on these. The end result has more than exceeded our expectations and so I have to concede that the Planning Department knew what they were talking about 🙂
I’ve detailed in previous posts here and here about our experience building our home but in this post I wanted to tell you a little bit about the features which we incorporated into the house that have given it, the period Farmhouse feel we were going for..
If you look at the Arts & Crafts Style drawing above and compare it with this picture of our house, they couldn’t be more different! It was important to us that the house looked like it had been there for 100 years. One of the comments from the planners was that our first idea was ‘fussy’ and would stand out too much on the hill where we intended to build. They made us move it forward off the top of the hill so that it sat more snugly into the landscape and we opted for a simpler design. Symmetry was also important and we spent many long hours trying to incorporate the rooms we wanted into the plan while making sure the outside of the building remained symmetrical.
EXTERNAL WINDOWS & DOORS
Our windows are made from timber and are sliding sash (they are operated using pulleys and weights within the frame of the window) This is a very traditional style of window and was used in Georgian and Victorian Homes. It is somewhat replicated in new uPVC windows nowadays but without the use of the pulley system. While uPVC might involve less maintenance and is more draught-proof, they just weren’t for us as we knew they wouldn’t give the appearance of age to the house. Ours were made by a local company who not only manufacture new windows in an old style but the bulk of what they do is the restoration of traditional sash windows on Period Buildings so they definitely knew their stuff!
The downstairs rooms in our house have 9½ foot ceilings while upstairs they are closer to 9 foot. Building a taller house will add to the overall building cost but you won’t regret it! Not only will your rooms feel bigger but they will also have more of a presence.
INTERNAL DOORS, DOOR FURNITURE & WOODWORK
All of our internal woodwork was made to order. The doors are all wider than the minimum requirement of Building Regulations and all skirtings are taller and architraves wider than the standard timbers which you will get in builders providers. We researched styles for all our internal joinery and the same company who made our windows, made all of the doors and woodwork to our specification. Again, this will mean an extra cost but it was important to us to be as true to the style of house we were building as possible. We did explore the possibility of getting reclaimed pine doors made but in the end opted to have all of the woodwork including doors painted – the best decision:-)
We used brass door furniture throughout opting for door knobs rather than handles and all downstairs rooms have brass push-plates which you would have seen on period properties
Note: If you are building a house with taller rooms then in order for the scale to be correct, I would recommend that you have taller skirting etc
Many old period houses will have timber panelling and we knew we had to incorporate it somewhere in the house. In fact, we love it so much we have panelling not only on our stairs but also in our Master Bedroom En-suite, the downstairs loo and also our Dining Room. I love how the panelling really finishes off a room and gives an extra depth that you don’t get with paint alone.
OPEN PLAN (NOT!!)
Period houses were designed in an era before the ‘open plan’ concept was created. We have very much stuck to the same idea in our house. We have separate Living and Sitting Rooms (the good room) along with a formal dining room and then Kitchen/Breakfast Room. We had done open plan in our first home where we had a kitchen/living/dining room. We found than when our three were all running around (given they were all very young at the time we lived there) it could be quite noisy so decided that in our new home that we would have separate rooms. This, we feel is perfect for us. We have family meals in the kitchen but when we have guests over then we use the dining room.
This of course is our own choice and there is no doubt that if you want to have a period ‘style’ home then open plan can be successfully incorporated into your design.
I know that strictly speaking the kitchens in Victorian Homes probably looked nothing like what we live with today, but in fairness would you really want to live with a kitchen modelled from the late 1800s?? So here is my take on a Victorian Kitchen. It was the one room that I could visualise before all others in our home planning. I feel it has all of the elements of a traditional country kitchen – painted shaker units (I designed the layout myself and gave it to a local kitchen company who brought it to life!), Belfast sink, larder, an AGA range cooker (a real indulgence and we’ve never regretted spending the money on it), an island unit which incorporates a food-prep sink, mantle over the range, a dresser and actual antique Victorian table and chairs. We have also included 2 armchairs here in the past year so that both Feargal and I can sit with our cuppa after dinner each evening to catch up on the days events!!
STAIRCASE WITH WINDOW ON HALF-LANDING
If you are researching period farmhouses, you will notice many of them have a round-top window over the staircase. It took quite a bit of planning to get this feature into our design. Most modern houses are quite deep (The distance from the front to the back) with the stairs running up through the centre of the house and not close to an external wall but traditional houses were maybe only one room wide and so it was easier to incorporate this feature. This window lets in so much light through the house and because it’s on the half-landing (half way up the stairs), it benefits both upstairs and downstairs.
I try to keep my decor very simple and find it so hard to buy accessories unless I can see a use for them. Since joining Instagram over a year and a half ago and comparing our home to all of the gorgeous properties on there, I have noticed just how little I have around the house in the way of decor items. I have to be honest, I have gone out on shopping trips determined to buy some bits and pieces, only to pick them up off the shop shelf and then put them back because I can’t see a use for the item!! I think if you are building a period style home then you need to keep your decor and your furniture quite simple. I’m not professing to be some sort of expert Interior Designer but I know what I like and tend to be drawn to a similar traditional style no matter how hard I try to go that bit more contemporary.
I call my style ‘Modern Country’ and this to me means a mix of both new and antique furniture, rooms which are never painted white (I definitely don’t shy away from colour) but are on a softer palette, lots of florals and pattern and wallpaper is a must.
There are other features which we have included but haven’t mentioned and there are also items which we would have loved to have been able to afford when building but you have to ‘cut your cloth to measure’ and unfortunately, we didn’t have an endless budget. That said, we are so happy with how it has turned out and as I have said before, it is still a work in progress.
I hope this post has been of some help to those of you out there who are thinking of building a new ‘old’ house. I have noticed here in Ireland that there are many more of these type properties being built and can only assume that people are opting for a style of home that won’t date in the same way as houses built in previous generations had features which you can identify immediately as being of a certain decade!!
I am always available on email if you have any questions about self-building – anyone who knows me will tell you that I can talk House/Interiors and Gardens all day long and never get tired of it 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read through my ramblings….
1 thought on “Country Home Style: Building Our New ‘Old’ House”
What a fascinating insight into the building of your beautiful home Bernie. If I were starting from scratch I would be tempted to add in all of the things I like from different home styles and I realise now that would be awful, no cohesion! I suppose you have to start somewhere then work back… I would love to have taller ceilings, ours are low and it restricts our choice of pendant lights.