Mad About . . .

The Househunter: Georgian Splendour in North London

26th November 2021
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The Georgians really did know how to build houses – generous rooms, tall ceilings, ornate plasterwork and, I was told when I researched this years ago for a series of features on architecture for The Financial Times, they built them much better than the Victorians, who, I was told basically knocked up rows of terraces to house lots of people without ever thinking they would need to last as long as they have.

Most of the Georgian houses are now listed, which can make renovations tricky, and they are widely sought after hence the price of this four bedroom on one of Stoke Newington’s most popular streets (Brickworks). Such is their elegance – as we perceive it now – that it seems hard to imagine the former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli complaining in the 1840s about  “flat, dull spiritless streets all resembling each other like a large family of plain children”.

Similar or not we can’t get enough of them now and this is a beautiful example coming to the market for the first time in 35 years and retaining a wealth of those gorgeous original features.

Above, is the dining room painted in this gorgeous deep blue (try Berrington or Ball Room by Farrow & Ball) and note how all the panelling and woodwork has been painted the same colour. While this is currently a fashionable look, it is in fact, a Georgian thing.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that painting them in white became more fashionable and, as a reader last week pointed out, it works really well in that style of building.

Sticking to one colour manages to both calm a room and enhance the features. In the picture below the wardrobe doors are a mix of soft white and a bone colour and the effect is much busier. That’s not to say it’s wrong it’s just different. Above, drenching the walls in blue means the woodwork and plaster brings texture to the space without cluttering it. It also means the pictures on the wall stand out more.

Coming back downstairs to the sitting room and wouldn’t we all love three huge windows in the sitting room to let the light flood in. Again, there are different ways to tackle this decoratively. You can enhance the fact that there are three windows as the owners have done below. But once again it’s a busier look. You could calm it by keeping the three sets of curtains and creating one long pelmet  – this would allow you to sweep the middle curtains fully into the wall space between the windows and not cut out any light at all. It would also reduce the swathes of material from six to four which might also make for a cleaner look. There’s no right or wrong – as ever I am just offering you ideas to think about.

Coming into the kitchen, which I imagine you will want to redo – I say you – let’s assume one of us will buy it… You will notice if you look at the floorplan that the room is on a slant which makes it slightly tricky – you can see how the units have been angled to go around the window in the room below. The depth of the sill also means it would be hard to position units in front of the windows so it’s not a straightforward revamp. It may be that you would want to ask permission to move it altogether – there is a bedroom and another small kitchen on the lower ground floor.

Be that as it may, you can see here how the cupboards don’t carry on up to the ceiling which is a good way of making a ceiling look higher. Now if you have enough storage then, by all means, use the top of the cupboards for display purposes but make sure it’s just that and not the leftover stuff that you couldn’t fit in the cupboards as it will get dusty and sticky and you will need to stand on a chair every time you need to reach something.

If you need the storage then extend the cupboards upwards and even if you need the chair to get that rarely used serving platter or casserole dish it will at least be clean when you need it. This will also give small kitchens a more streamlined look.

Now let’s just pop our heads into this bedroom. Firstly a four poster bed! Rare that a bedroom actually has room for one as imposing as this. And look at the windows – the curtains here have no pelmets and, compared with downstairs, they look much more unfinished to my eye. While I’m not advocating a return to the full on swags and frilly pelmets of the 1980s I think a simple wooden one covered with material, with a curve or not as you fancy, does make for a more finished and elegant look. And if you are using ready made curtains (and given the cost of bespoke why wouldn’t you if you can find some in the right size) a pelmet will just elevate them that little bit.

Back to a pelmet below and showing how even big houses might have small spaces that can be usefully used. Not everyone will have a piano but this would make a lovely little reading corner or even be a lovely place to work that would mean you didn’t have to put a desk in a bedroom or the sitting room. This has all you need- natural light, enough space for a desk and some storage and you’re all set.

And then there’s this lovely spot in the garden and you better believe I’d make sure the wifi reached out here so I could work at a little table like. Never mind the shed this is the very definition of a garden office.

Now before I go I’m aware that I have mentioned that if you buy my online course between now and 23 December you get a free copy of The Planner, which means you can give someone something to unwrap on the day but also if you buy it before 30 November there is 25 per cent off with the code BlackFriday25 which means you get the course for around £95 and the free book as well. So if you’re interested here’s the link to Create Academy.


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  • Reply suzanne 27th November 2021 at 6:09 am

    I wonder if the lack of pelmet in bedroom is more obvious because the bed is so grand. Maybe it was not added because the molding/ceiling trim is not flush with the wall. I agree it does look a little naked compared to the rest of the home. Thank you for pointing out the little fiddly details, things noticed but not really understood.

  • Reply Allison 26th November 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Oooh now your talking! If they throw in all the furniture I’ll have it! I absolutely love this house.
    If you go a bit later, like 1860’s, you can get similar features as Georgian – big windows, plasterwork, high ceilings, steps up to front door without the house being listed.

  • Reply Lindsay 26th November 2021 at 11:22 am

    I don’t know if it’s just me, you mentioned the kitchen being on a slant but mostly the rooms seem to be and that includes most of the paintings! Inclined to agree with L N although I really loved the Edwardian house we used to live in.
    I couldn’t shake off the feeling that this house reminded me of a dolls house which was a bit disconcerting.

  • Reply Lenore Taylor 26th November 2021 at 10:51 am

    Pelmets are not in vogue here in Canada, and we generally want our curtains to disappear. I would give my eye teeth for that garden. Our climate won’t allow us to grow such a lovely riot. Cheers from Canada!

  • Reply LN 26th November 2021 at 9:34 am

    Actually, the Georgians didn’t build much better than the Victorians, at least in Bath where I used to live. There were plenty of cowboy developers there back in the 1800s.
    My late father in law who was a builder in Cheltenham told me that the best built houses are the 1930s ones. He said they were built with care. I don’t know if that’s true but he wasn’t much impressed when we bought a Victorian terrace with a one brick width party wall.

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