Whether you're looking for inspiration to take on your own renovation project or are simply curious to see what can be achieved, you're sure to fall in love with this tasteful and character-rich Victorian semi.
Owner: Henry Miller, an art dealer and curator, lives here with partner Jin Ho Kang
Property: A three-storey semi-detatched Victorian home, built in 1900 in Walthamstow, east London
What he did: The roof was repaired and an outside wall rebuilt, floors were replaced, and a lean-to conservatory was replaced with an orangery. Other period details were restored or reinstated
Henry Miller’s home is more than just a comfortable place for him and partner Jin to live. For art dealer Henry, it’s his office and his gallery. ‘I had a large collection of pictures when I bought the house in 2012, and I thought it was a fantastic place to hang them, with a lot of wall space,’ says Henry. ‘As the house developed, I suddenly realised that I could use it as a gallery.’
There are practical advantages to displaying pictures in a home setting like this, as Henry explains: ‘One of the beauties of having a picture rail is that you can move paintings around without putting holes in the walls. And although some galleries have started to mimic domestic interiors with coloured walls, I’ve taken it a step further here. When people come to look at the pictures, they find out what it’s like to live with them.’
This handsome home full of authentic period details is now the perfect backdrop for Henry’s collections, although visitors would never guess that it had once been on the brink of dereliction. One of the outside walls was crumbling away, the leaking roof had caused the floors to rot, and there was a foot and a half of water in the cellar.
‘The ceilings had collapsed in various places, so the previous owners were only using a few rooms,’ Henry recalls. ‘By the time I bought it, it was uninhabitable, and the surveyor told me I was crazy to take it on. But I had just fallen in love with the house. Although it was decaying and I knew we’d have to replace a lot of things, it was all here, so we could clearly see how it should look.’
Luckily, Henry wasn’t fazed by the work that lay ahead. This is the fourth home he has renovated, choosing not to use an architect but instead tackling each job in turn, in collaboration with a builder he’s used for 20 years.
‘I wouldn’t really recommend this route, but it works for me,’ he says. ‘From the point of view of cost it might not be the advisable thing to do, but it allows you to think about things as they come up, rather than having a plan and sticking to it - you end up with a better result.’
Henry and the builder gradually worked their way through the house, starting with the exterior wall before moving on to the top floor where they created a temporary apartment so Henry could be on site. A dilapidated lean-to conservatory was demolished and replaced with an orangery, more in keeping with the style of the house, and one of the bedrooms was sacrificed for a new bathroom.
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Along the way, Henry ensured that damaged or missing period features were repaired or reinstated. All the windows are exact copies of what was there before, but this time they’re double-glazed sashes. The intricate ceiling cornice in the living room was in a poor state of repair, but by making a mould from the original, a faithful plasterwork copy was created. To complete the look, local antiques dealer Mark Finamore restored the elaborate fire surround found in a sorry state in the back garden.
‘My goal was to restore the house to exactly as it was, but make it more liveable, so everything you see here now is replaced or new.’
Now all the work is complete, it’s clear that Henry has achieved his goal with confidence and style. He says the finished home is a culmination of everything he’s learnt in the past.
‘The house lends itself to that modern Victorian aesthetic - I love
the strong colours on the walls. I’m not someone who sits down with moodboards - I just take a look at the room and decide on the colour. It’s quite a decisive process and I buy paintings in a similar way - I make an immediate connection and have a strong sense of why I like things.’