Real home: restoring a 1900s house

Following in the footsteps of her renovating family, Maria Bradburn and her husband Wayne have restored this unique Victorian house and its wealth of original features

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Are original Victorian features your thing? Are you a fan of Minton-tiled floors, feature stained glass windows and statement period fireplaces? 

Whether you're looking for inspiration to start your own restoration project or simply like to get an idea of what's possible, you're sure to love this Victorian semi awash with gorgeous original architectural features.

For even more inspiration, take a look at our real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.


(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Owners: Maria and Wayne Bradburn, who have two daughters, Georgia and Beau, and a Westie called Lola; Wayne is head of business analysis for a large firm

Period built: c1900

Size: Four bedrooms

Location: Wolverhampton

Admiring and renovating period properties is in Maria Bradburn’s family: mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces… every new generation is as passionate about rescuing a piece of Britain’s heritage as the last.

So when she and her husband Wayne bought this unusual old house she knew the person she’d be turning to first to help revive its many original features. ‘I couldn’t tell you everything my father’s done for me,’ says Maria. 

‘The list is endless: he’s repaired windows, sanded woodwork, helped me paint every room, and he’s sorted the messy tangle that was the garden.’

Minton tiled Victorian hallway

Original tiles and a dramatic arch with carved heads create a striking first impression when entering the hallway 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Indeed, the house Maria and Wayne bought six years ago looked very different from the sophisticated yet comfortable home it is today. Although its previous owners had restored some of the period features, it seems they’d lost their motivation and decided to give up on the project.

‘All that was worth saving in the kitchen, for instance, was the sink and the floor tiles,’ says Maria. ‘But as we had so much work on our hands with the rest of the house, we initially just filled the room with freestanding dressers and sideboards to make it more workable until we had the time to give it the attention it deserved.’ 

Country-style kitchen in Victorian home

Maria commissioned Pineland Furniture to create the kitchen units. The table and chairs came from an antiques shop in Wolverhampton; the chandelier was from BHS 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

‘All these details are what made me fall in love with the building when we first saw it,’ recalls Maria. ‘As we climbed the beautiful stairs and saw the impressive, but broken, stained glass window, I knew we were the ones who would be able to bring this home back to life.’

To ensure the owner accepted their offer on the house, Maria made a direct, heartfelt appeal. ‘I told her that I would be keeping all the period features; I wouldn’t rip out the windows and put plastic double glazing in like some of the neighbours have.’

traditional kitchen

Maria used these cherubs to create a decorative surround for the range 

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Since then, Maria and her family have gradually transformed the house with many coats of paint, wallpaper, new carpet, and plenty of hard work. She adds: ‘We’re lucky that we haven’t had to reinstate any missing architectural details – this house still had everything. And it all survived despite being rented out as two flats during the 1960s and 1970s – it had been the landlord’s childhood home, so he was keen to retain its original style.’

Traditional grey living room in Victorian house

Maria chose a warming grey shade for the front sitting room – a similar colour is Brooklyn Nights 6 by Dulux

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Maria has added a few embellishments, however, although nothing out of keeping with the spirit of the house. In the hallway and front sitting room she fitted panelling up to dado height.

‘The walls were in pretty poor condition,’ she explains. ‘Panelling suits the feel of the house, but it also protects the walls from the inevitable scuffs and scrapes of family life.’

The original copper fireplace receives mixed reactions. ‘Some people hate it,’ says Maria, 'but I love it – especially the curved chimney breast above it. Maria chose a colour similar to Pale Cirrus from Fired Earth for the walls

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

However, one job Maria was very happy to hand over to the professionals was the kitchen revamp. Having finally saved up £15,000 a couple of years ago she commissioned tradesmen and a joinery company to create the space of her dreams.

The original boards in the back sitting room were in a poor state, so Maria replaced them with pine. You can find reclaimed pine boards at Cox’s Architectural Salvage

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

‘The craftsmen were absolutely brilliant, and employ all the traditional techniques, creating dovetail joints and using solid wood. But fortunately they aren’t as expensive as some bespoke cabinetmakers because you do all your own measurements and you can choose to finish the woodwork yourself after it’s fitted.’

The table and chairs are from an antiques' shop and a chandelier bought on the high street complete the look in this comfortable but elegant room.

This side table came from Dog House Antiques in Walsall; it displays a photo of Maria’s parents. The sofa came from Malvern Antiques & Collectors Fair

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The rest of the house has been furnished in the same budget-conscious way: Maria’s favourite shopping haunts are salvage fairs, reclamation yards, auction houses and charity shops, where she has found a plethora of chests, chairs and mirrors; she loves the idea of rescuing hidden treasure. And anything that’s looking a bit shabby is given a coat of paint.

When Maria saw the stained glass window at the top of the stairs for the first time – then in a state of disrepair – she knew this was the house for her family. The wallpaper is by Laura Ashley and the light is from Ikea

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

‘I’m always covered in splashes of white or grey,’ she says. ‘This house is my hobby, but with two young children and household chores I do sometimes get distracted, so it will probably never be finished.

I’d like to do a loft conversion in the future to give the girls equal sized bedrooms when they’re ready to have their own space; but that job needs the right person to come along and help me work out the space.’

So, can Maria ever imagine living anywhere else? ‘Part of me would like a larger garden,’ she admits, ‘but thanks to my father’s hard work there’s enough space for the girls to play outside. You can always dream of owning a bigger house, but we still enjoy our home as much as on that first viewing, so I think we’ll be living here for many years to come.’

Maria's renovating and decorating advice

  • ‘I’m a huge fan of charity shops and wish everyone would start using them more – since online auctions launched people seem to want to get a few pounds for their old junk; but if we all donated to charities, and bought from them, we’d all benefit. I’ve got to know all the staff in my local hospice shop and they keep an eye out for vintage items for me.'
  • ‘I like to position objects where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them so that you notice them more. For instance, I have a vintage sewing machine in the kitchen, and a cut glass butter dish I use for soap in the downstairs cloakroom.' 
  • ‘Wayne is happy to let me make all the decorating decisions but I’ve tended to go for muted tones, particularly grey, so that when I add all my pretty pieces the overall effect isn’t too feminine.’

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