The advantages of Georgian properties and Georgian interior design are well documented and appreciated; scale, proportion and natural light top the bill. The beautiful sash windows typical of the period, often reaching from floor to ceiling, enable fabulous views out and plentiful natural daylight in.
Owners love the elegant features like Adam and Soane designed Georgian fireplaces, majestic stone and wooden stairs and refined, hand-crafted moulding details. Plus the walls and architraves and delightfully detailed cornices are all features we are drawn to.
However, whilst the Georgian interior design style is one of the most admired by home owners in the UK, the practicalities of owning a Georgian property can prove to be more challenging.
If you’re looking for more modern Georgian interior design but want to retain its key period features, then read on…
In this article from Sarah Latham, founder of Etons of Bath who specialise in Georgian interior design, fabrics and curtain making, we look at seven challenges you make face when looking to implement modern Georgian interior design and offer advice on how best to approach them.
With the restrictions of a listed building comes the inability to do what everyone seems to wish for today; knock through to create a large open plan space. Whilst room sizes in Georgian houses are generous, it rarely affords us the open plan, kitchen, diner and living space, and nor should it. In most cases this would entirely remove the character of the house that we fell in love with in the first place. However, with careful thought to character and design and where listed and planning permission allow the removal of a wall between the kitchen and an adjacent room can enable you to have the live-in, open plan kitchen you are looking for.
Georgian houses didn’t have bathrooms when they were built, so any bathroom that now exists has resulted from the conversion of a dressing room or bedroom. Often this has been done by carving off part of a room, leaving the remaining bedroom uncharacteristically small with a disproportionately high ceiling. We are in an age where en-suites to every bedroom are de-facto, so re-thinking the layout of the Georgian interior design is often required. How about re-instating the rooms to their original purpose and incorporating bathrooms within a purpose built wardrobe? Modern Georgian interior design needs to be flexible in this regard.
If you live in a Georgian townhouse you’ll be familiar with the ups and downs of daily living. When your kitchen is on the ground floor, your living room on the first floor and your TV snug is on the second floor you get very fit! However, this presents challenges for those that are less able. The same goes for a large country house and many give serious consideration to the installation of a lift. This is not an easy or inexpensive task and is best considered as part of a total renovation.
At the same time, the staircase is a major feature of the property. If it does not have the original balustrade and spindles consider commissioning new ones like this beautiful example below. If a staircase is in bad repair then consider replacing with an elegant stone staircase like the one below.
STAIRCASE BY IAN KAPPER
One of the characteristics of a Georgian interior design are the many windows. Often there are three windows in a row along one wall of a room and another window on a second elevation. It is also common to have more than one entrance into a room, which means multiple doors. So when you have radiators to add into the mix you quickly find there isn’t enough wall space to place furniture. Our advice is to install underfloor heating, trench heaters or skirting radiators to maximize the space that you can use.
Those wonderful windows feature again. All that natural light flooding in can cause significant fading and sun damage to your curtains, upholstery, mahogany furniture and artworks. Whilst the traditional practice would involve closing all the shutters on a sunny day, I find this rather depressing, scuttling around in the dark hiding away from the all too rare English sunshine. There are three options:
1. If you are not restricted by listed permissions and you are looking to replace windows you can install a Pilkington Product which reduces the amount of UV. This is called Pilkington Optilam™. This can be combined with other Pilkington products should you require solar control or thermal performance. Your choice of solar control product would be dependent on the light transmittance and g value you wish to achieve.
2. Install a UV voile blind that you drop down but can still see through,
3. There are specialist companies who apply a clear film to the glass on your sash windows which cuts out the UV such as CSC window films or Scottish Holland
The numerous and large windows in a Georgian property mean that costs for curtains can soon stack up. Some rooms lend themselves to no curtains, if shutters are in place, but be aware of the impact on acoustics and how the space will feel in the evenings.
Whatever you do don’t try to cut corners with cheaply made curtains or plain fabric. Save up if you have to, do a room every six months, but beautiful curtains are a worthy investment in the house and will do those windows justice. Etons of Bath has its own curtain making workroom on site in Bath where curtains are handmade with a specialism in matching the right curtains to Georgian style windows. So, it’s worth getting a quote and idea of costs as part of your Georgian interior design.
ROOM DESIGN BY ETONS OF BATH
When lighting a large room you cannot merely rely on a central pendant. Lighting needs to be distributed around the room and layered. A mix of chandelier, wall lights, floor and table lamps is a must. And remember to put all lamps on a two-amp circuit so they can be operated from the mains switching.
BRASS SWITCHES BY WANDSWORTH GROUP
Despite these Georgian interior design challenges, all of our clients living in Georgian houses are adamant that the pros outweigh the cons by some considerable distance. With the right advice you can mitigate many of them. If not then it’s a case of embracing them as part of the experience of living in such a special house!
Of course, budget is key to any modern Georgian interior design project so we advise you make a budget plan before you start to ascertain what kind of quality and fittings you can buy. Below is a checklist for you to use: