Real home: a renovated Victorian semi-detached home

Art dealer Henry Miller transformed a Victorian semi to function as a modern home, office and gallery space

victorian living room with sofas, rug and fireplace
(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

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. 

Looking for more ideas and inspiration? browse more of our real home transformations. For more advice, check out our renovating a house guide.

Chinese cabinet and painting in living room with fire

At the heart of the living room is Vladimir Zabotin’s 1913 Portrait of a Dancer, which once belonged to art critic Brian Sewell.

On the Tibetan 19th-century chest is a study from the Italian School, dating back to 1700. The wood-burner is a Stovax, reproduction William Morris tiles from Victorian Ceramics reference Walthamstow’s famous son.

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)
The Story

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.’ 

Victorian interior with fireplace with green walls and mantelpiece

Local antiques dealer Mark Finamore restored the elaborate fire surround found in a sorry state in the back garden. The reproduction William Morris tiles are from Victorian Ceramics and the firescreen and cushion covers were made by Henry’s mother. The chair itself is a mid-19th-century family piece.

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

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. 

bathroom with fireplace tiles and wooden floor with traditional toilet and bath

Henry sacrificed a bedroom to create this period-style bathroom, with fixtures and fittings sourced from Burlington and taps from St James.

The lighting is from John Lewis and the walls are painted in Vert de Terre by Farrow & Ball.

For a similar freestanding towel rail, try the Windsor from Victorian Plumbing

(Image credit: malcolm menzies)

blue orangery with original tiles and sofa with kitchen with wooden floor

The orangery features a sofa from Heals, another Tibetan chest with an antique Burmese horse displayed on top. The floor tiles are from Topps Tiles. Cushions by Jim Thompson and the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue.

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

‘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.’

Bedroom image with purple walls and black four poster bed

A four-poster bed with a simple silhouette is topped with a silk bedspread bought in Bejing. 

Above the bed is a traditional ethnic jacket, bought in Sanya, China, and framed locally with denim mountboard. The bedlinen and bedside lights are both from John Lewis and the striking wall colour is Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal.

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

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.

Home office with chinese art and carved table

Henry turned the smallest bedroom into his office, with a modern painting by Balinese artist Mawardi above his mother’s old desk from her barristers’ chambers. 

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Guest bedroom with reclaimed fireplace in a Victorian house

A salvaged Victorian fireplace makes a pretty focal point in the guest room. The bed is from Feather & Black, with bedlinen from John Lewis. 

The cabinet is a 19th-century Chinese piece, from River City Bangkok. Henry had the original floorboards stained to match the new pine ones downstairs, with Sadolin Classic Wood Protection in Jacobean Walnut, then sealed with a hard satin varnish. 

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

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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.’ 

exterior of a victorian house

On a tree-lined street in east London, the Victorian semi has been restored from top to bottom.

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Looking for more restoration advice or real home inspiration? 

Karen Darlow
After a brief foray into music journalism, fashion and beauty, Karen found herself right at home working on interior magazines with her role on Ideal Home magazine. She is now Homes Editor on Period Living magazine and loves the opportunity the job gives her to see how others mix vintage style and modern furnishings in their beautiful properties.