Real home: renovating a Victorian semi for modern family life

With confidence and care, first-time renovators Paul and Laura Clark transformed a dark and dated Victorian semi into a light-filled, playful family home that masterfully blends old with new

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Whether you're looking for insight and inspiration to renovate your own Victorian property, or are simply curious to see what can be achieved, this gorgeous semi is a great example of a space designed with family living in mind.

Awash with original features yet equipped with the latest home comforts; light and spacious but with cosy areas; sophisticated yet playful; bursting with colour and pattern yet calm and homely. These might sound like contradictory descriptions, but Paul and Laura Clark have managed to strike the perfect balance between old and new in their stylish Victorian semi. 

Browse more of our standout real home renovations when you're done, too. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

Project notes

Owners: Paul and Laura Clark, box tax advisers, live here with their son Henry, four, and daughter Edith, five months
Property: A semi-detached Victorian house with four bedrooms in Stourbridge, West Midlands
What they did: The kitchen was extended and the living room knocked through to create a bright, open-plan kitchen/dining/living space

Having been lived in unaltered by the previous owners for eight years, the interior was dark and dated, but it also boasted well-preserved original features. 

‘It had plenty of character combined with the potential to extend and add our own stamp.’ says Laura of the property.

Although it had lovely features, the kitchen was a narrow galley kitchen which wasn’t spacious enough for a growing family. After carrying out essential repairs including repointing, rewiring and damp-proofing, in 2016 the pair turned their attention to the grand plan: adding a kitchen extension.  Although a scaled-back version of the original design, the finished space has transformed family life.  

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

When it came to decorating, despite it being a first-time project, Paul and Laura weren’t afraid to break the rules, mixing furniture from across the centuries and embracing a vivid palette and pattern. 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Muted walls and stripped-back floorboards provide a neutral backdrop for statement furniture and graphic prints. To keep the space cosy, the couple fitted a Huntington 30 gas stove from Beautystone Fireplaces (opens in new tab).  The mirror is from Loaf (opens in new tab) and the bespoke storage is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green (opens in new tab). A Daisy bouquet from Bloom & Wild (opens in new tab) adds a pretty finishing touch.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A slouchy mustard velvet sofa from Rose & Grey (opens in new tab) sits under an eclectic print collection.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

"Period homes aren’t perfect, so we were relaxed about introducing pattern and colour – the busier the better! The rooms are a good size, so can take bold touches."

Laura Clark

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The vibrant living room scheme sets the tone for the rest of the house. Taking inspiration from the original Minton-tiled hallway floor, Paul and Laura chose statement Geometric Prisma wallpaper from More By Design at Not on the High Street (opens in new tab) and have teamed it with a striking blue sofa from Made (opens in new tab) and a coffee table from Swoon Editions (opens in new tab). The floor lamp is from The Clementine (opens in new tab) in Fowey, Cornwall.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A large Crittall (opens in new tab)window and two skylights flood the extended kitchen come dining space with light.  Reclaimed parquet flooring helps to zone the cooking and dining areas, and also brings extra warmth to the space. Paul and Laura chose to keep the existing quirky floor-to-ceiling pine cabinets and have complemented them with a country-style table from Pine Farmhouse Table (opens in new tab). For a similar storage bench, try The Cotswold Company (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A simple kitchen featuring two freestanding units and stand-alone appliances helps keep the open-plan room relaxed and spacious. Paul and Laura upcycled the dresser from the original kitchen with a lick of Farrow & Ball’s (opens in new tab) French Gray and added a deep pine worktop.  Apple crate storage drawers were fitted by local company Country Cousins (opens in new tab), who also made the central island, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe. The splashback is tiled in mixed Batik tiles in blue by Topps Tiles (opens in new tab) and the pendant lights are from Any Old Lights (opens in new tab) in Cornwall.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

A window mimicking the original style was added to the extension to complement the house’s period character, while mix-and-match Mid-century and traditional chairs create a relaxed, contemporary feel.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Before the extension was added, the front room was the main living space, but it now serves as a more formal room. Paul and Laura chose a serene scheme with walls painted in a light dove grey and furniture from Laura Ashley (opens in new tab). Shutters were fitted along with a window seat by a local carpenter, finished with a bespoke cushion in a Laura Ashley fabric.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Paul and Laura were lucky to inherit the original fireplace complete with decorative Victorian tiles. Bespoke shelving was fitted to make the most of the alcove space

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

When they stepped through the front door, the couple were struck by the beautifully preserved period features, such as stunning stained glass and the Minton-tiled floor.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Henry’s bedroom is papered in Scion’s Mr Fox (opens in new tab) wallpaper. Paul and Laura bought the hospital-style bed online and spray-painted it yellow.

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Farrow & Ball’s (opens in new tab) Gable wallpaper makes a playful yet sophisticated backdrop in Edith’s room. The rocking chair was bought on Ebay (opens in new tab) and Laura made the teepee using fabric from Dunelm (opens in new tab).

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The couple opted for a calming and feminine scheme in the bedroom, creating a pretty backdrop with an archive Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab) wallpaper, Melrose. The bed is from Laura Ashley (opens in new tab) and the vintage chest came from Country Homes (opens in new tab) in East Dulwich. Bespoke cabinets are painted in Farrow & Ball’s French Gray, a shade used frequently throughout the house.

Looking for more renovation inspiration?

Pippa is Style Editor for Period Living magazine and spends many a weekend exploring the Cotswolds for decorating shoot ideas. A collector at heart, she is currently looking for a vintage cabinet to store her favourite wares.

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