How to Renovate a Georgian House | Jeffery and Wilkes

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How to Renovate a Georgian House

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Typical Georgian London Town House

Across London you will find many houses with Georgian features and architecture. If you have a Georgian house that you would like to renovate, or if you like the style, then this article will help you with the design to keep it in line with its original style

What Age is A Georgian House?

A Georgian house is between 1714-1830’s named after the Hanoverian King George I through to the reign of George IV (and all the Georges in between)

Most of the original Georgian properties are now listed buildings.

What Does a Georgian House Look Like?

The most famous Georgian house in London has to be Number 10 Downing Street.

Jeffery-and-Wilkes-Georgian-House-Renovation

What design features stand out so you can identify a Georgian house?

Many houses were built as town houses over three or four storeys high.
The top floors were usually for the staff so you will often find the rooms and windows are smaller than the bottom floors.

Style of House

The Georgian style is all about symmetry and often is a square shape, with large spacious rooms, high ceilings and large windows where possible. Georgian style is elegant and formal in style.

There were laws in place in Georgian times that houses were to be built from fire resistant materials (after the great fire of London) so they tended to be made from bricks and slate.

After the construction was complete, the exterior was often rendered or referred to as Stucco. This would either be placed on the bottom of the house and the top would be left as exposed brickwork or the whole exterior was covered. The render was then painted, normally white or cream.

If you are renovating your Georgian property ensure the contractor takes care when rendering. The render will often resemble stone with v shaped grooves. They should use lime and NOT Portland cement as a binder in the mix. Lime doesn’t tend to shrink and expand like Portland cement. Lime would have been used originally back in the Georgian times.

Roof

The roof of a Georgian house are often hipped roofs that are tiled, and were often hidden behind a parapet or wall. Sometimes these have embellished cornices.
Often there are two chimneys in a Georgian house.

Doors

The front door of a Georgian house is often a panelled door in the centre of the house with a fan light above. It would have been made of cast iron and painted black. The door knob was usually waist height, central WITHOUT a letterbox.

Terraced townhouses often have a front door that opens straight out onto the road without a porch.

Often you will see pillars in the front of the house.

 

Windows

During the Georgian era there was continual war and so they added a heavy tax on windows. Therefore, it was a sign of wealth to have many windows at that time.

The windows were sash windows. If they are original, they are normally small and 6 panelled at the top of the property as this was where the staff lived. Whereas, in the main family living quarters (the bottom floors) the windows are larger with 9 or 12 pane windows. The window frames would have been painted.

There was usually either a fan or rectangle window above the door. At the top of the house the windows tend to be smaller.

If your building is listed and you need to replace the windows, you will need to find a skilled joinery company as Georgian windows are not a standard size. As the era progressed into the 18th century, high quality glazing bars were installed and it can be very difficult to get a replacement to this standard. Where possible try and restore the existing ones.

Fireplace

The fireplace was the main feature within the room of a Georgian house. The fireplaces were simple and original ones were made of wood and sometimes marble or both. A typical Georgian fireplace would have a plain wooden surround and if you were wealthy it would be adorned and carved with swags and shells. Again, if you have the original fireplace try and get it restored rather than replaced.

The good thing about a Georgian fireplace is they never seem to go out of fashion.

Staircase

A Georgian property would often have a grand staircase with a winding handrail and classic, elegant mouldings.

How to Decorate a Georgian House?

The Symmetry of a Georgian House (mentioned above) should be taken into consideration when decorating.

Often you will see wood panelling on the walls. This can be a continuation from the fireplace surround. The panelling normally reached dado height and then the plastering above would be painted.

Ceilings and cornices

The ceilings can look spectacular in a Georgian property. High ceilings with ornate cornices, elegant covings and ceiling roses.
Some ceilings would have ribbons and swags or urns.

If you have a contractor coming in to do renovations on your property, make sure they are extremely careful if you have original cornices etc. A plumber or electrician can very quickly cause unrepairable damage whilst trying to add a heating or electrical wiring system in place. If you need to alter or extend the coving, a standard plasterer will not be sufficient. You will need an expert who is highly skilled that can recreate the look.

Paint Colours

As the Georgian period covers a long-time span, colours changed as technology advanced.

The colours tend to be quite mundane. Various shades of browns and greens, greys and burgundy often in a sheen finish. Towards the end of the Georgian era the colours became lighter with greys, dusky pinks and stone shades the finishes tended to be Matte.

If your hallway has wooden panelling, then it is advised to paint the cornice the same shade as the walls. If there is no panelling and the walls are painted, then the cornice should blend in with the ceiling.

Wallpaper

If you decide to add wallpaper, you can still find original designs produced today. The influence came from the far east with simple repetitive patterns, later in the ear, simple block papers were introduced.


Flooring

Trying to replicate the original Georgian floorboards will be very difficult, they are not a standard size and tend to be much wider, so if you can repair them try and do this instead.

Georgian floors were often painted, or bare floorboards that were covered with oriental rugs.

In the wealthier properties, they would have stone or marble flooring in pale colours.

Lights

Metal, glass or wood chandeliers should be used as a centre piece in a Georgian room.
Use brass or silver wall lights too.

Furnishings

Often the fabric would be the same for both the upholstery and the curtains. Cotton is the preferred materials with small sprigs of flowers as patterns

To keep with the elegance of the Georgian era choose delicate furniture, for example; Wing Chairs. The legs on the chairs and tables tend to be dainty.
On the walls consider hanging pictures and paintings with a gold trim.

Exterior Brickwork if extending

What happens if you are adding an extension to your property? Carefully pick the right contractor to carry out the works as many Georgian houses have been ruined with sloppy bolt on extensions or restorations to the original features.

The pointing in the brickwork needs to be sound and a lime mortar should be used.

Conclusion

If you are fortunate enough to have an original Georgian property that you need to renovate then the key is restoration rather than replication. Many of the original sizes will be virtually impossible or difficult to source these days so if it can be repaired then do it.

Hire someone who knows their stuff not just any random builder that will tell you they can do it. The price tag WILL BE higher for an expert but that is because more time will be spent carrying out the actual work and sourcing the right materials for the project.

If you just want to create the Georgian look (many new house builders these days are incorporating many of the features into their new builds) then this article will help you with the designs you can replicate.

We hope this article has helped guide you on how to renovate a Georgian House.


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