Restoring a Georgian townhouse for modern life

Sandy and Peter Borchert are experienced renovators who transformed a Georgian townhouse with a Victorian extension and Edwardian modernisations into the ideal home for their family

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When Sandy and Peter Borchert first saw this property in the late 1990s, they realised they had found a house that would give them an opportunity to stretch their renovation muscles; and the end result would provide them with a unique family home for the foreseeable future. Their vision to unify the original Georgian building with its subsequent additions more than justified the judges’ decision to name this the Best Townhouse in our Readers’ Awards 2011.

‘We were living in a converted mill,’ says Sandy, ‘but it was in a village, and Peter and I felt that it would be better for our two children to grow up with the benefits of a town. As we’d done a couple of barn conversions and a period renovation in the past, we were both ready to tackle a new project as well.’

‘This large old house looked really interesting,’ says Peter, ‘and we could see its potential. The structure was in a decent condition, but a Victorian extension and Edwardian modernisations all needed to be brought in line with the original architectural model. I came up with my design for the alterations, and eventually obtained the relevant permissions and listed building and planning consent after a few meetings with the local conservation officer.

Readers’ Awards 2011 Best Townhouse

Location: Wiltshire
Period: Grade II listed Georgian townhouse, with a Victorian extension to the front
Size: Four bedrooms; the second floor has been converted into a two-bedroom apartment
Owners: Sandy and Peter Borchert run their own architectural practice; they have two adult children: Dan and Chelsea; and a Labrador, Coco

Shaker style open plan kitchen diner in a Georgian home

(Image: © Robert Sanderson)

The renovation

‘The introduction of indoor bathrooms in the early 1900s brought with it some crude alterations to this property,’ he continues. ‘Windows had been inserted, seemingly random to the elevations, to serve new rooms within – this haphazard fashion is completely out of character with the symmetry of Georgian design. In addition, drainage pipes were planted on the outside of the building. Our initial architectural aim of the renovation was to conceal all these, and to rationalise the windows.’

Other work included remedying the large crack that ran up the back of the house thanks to an overgrown tree that was too close to the house; building a coach house to serve as a garage and additional living space; and levelling out the sloping lawn to create a formal garden within the original boundary walls.

They also added a swimming pool, which received permission on the grounds that an archaeological dig was performed. The second floor of the Georgian part of the house was also separated and given its own access by utilising the original servants’ entrance and relocating the stairs, which had been in the kitchen. For the first few years, the Borcherts’ architectural offices were here; now it serves as a self-contained apartment.

Grand staircase in Georgian town house

Sandy restored the handrail and balusters of the original staircase. The flooring is from Classical Flagstones of Bath and the walls are painted Lulworth Blue by Farrow & Ball

Interior design

Inside the house, the decoration needed updating. ‘It was very shabby,’ Sandy recalls. ‘The house was home to one woman from 1959 until she died in the late 1980s, and not much had been changed since.’ After updating the electrics and heating system, the rooms were freshened up and original features, such as the sash windows, shutters, cornices and the Victorian staircase were carefully restored, and new flooring was laid.

‘I put the specification together, and then hired tradesmen to do most of the jobs,’ Peter explains. ‘But I’m a competent carpenter and enjoyed doing much of the joinery and finishing works myself.’

Peter also designed two en-suite bathrooms, one for the master bedroom, the other for the guest room; and a family bathroom was installed to serve the two children’s bedrooms.

Dining room in Georgian townhouse

The Borcherts prefer eating in the kitchen; similar country style tables and chairs can be sourced from Canonbury Antiques in Hertfordshire. The flooring is Celtic replica flagstones from Classical Flagstones of Bath

The kitchen

Downstairs, meanwhile, the most demanding project was the spacious kitchen/ diner. Sandy wanted to be able to cook for her family and friends in a warm and inviting space, where they could relax and entertain.

‘I needed plenty of workspace, so an island was a great choice,’ she says, ‘and Peter designed a pantry into the scheme, which is really useful when your kitchen is also living space. He knocked through the far wall to fit large glass doors leading to the garden, which has helped flood the room with light.’

Bust

A substantial yellow framed mirror adds an unexpected colour in the hall. The bust was picked up from the Sailsbury Antiques Centre; for a similar console table, try John Lewis’ Arabika console

A traditional living room in a Georgian home

(Image: © Robert Sanderson)

The library

By placing the dining table in the kitchen, the house’s formal dining room could become a library. Peter built floor to ceiling cupboards with plenty of space for his collections of aeroplane memorabilia as well as the family’s many books. ‘We love having a reception room that doesn’t have a TV in it,’ says Sandy. ‘Here, and in the sitting room I renovated the fireplaces and waxed the shutters; and Peter restored the beautiful old door handles, locks and hinges.’

Front door of Georgian townhouse

Peter designed this portico to add distinction to the entranceto the house

The finished project

The Borcherts have lived in their magnificent home for 12 years now, and they enjoy the property just as much today as they did yesterday. Sandy says: ‘Even though our children are now grown up and have moved out, it still feels like a home; Peter and I don’t feel as though we rattle around in it.’

‘Renovating the house wasn’t quite the quick project we were expecting, though,’ admits Peter. ‘The whole process has dominated our lives for many years – it feels like a lifetime’s work. When you think that you are 90% finished, you probably still have another 90% to complete: the finishing touches take up so much time. But we were aiming for perfection, and this house definitely deserves it. After so many years living here, however, some rooms – such as the bathrooms – need revisiting, so our work here is not complete, and maybe it never will be.’

Yellow traditional bedroom in a Georgian home

(Image: © Robert Sanderson)

Budget breakdown

Building work (inc coach house)£290,000
Swimming pool£30,000
Archaeological dig£4,500
Plumbing£18,000
Electrics/lighting£15,000
Window repairs£6,000
Roof repairs£8,000
New kitchen£25,000
Three new bathrooms£15,000
Furniture£19,000
Redecorating£12,000
Flooring and carpets£14,000
Accessories£5,000
Garden/landscaping (inc summer house)£25,000
Total cost of renovation£486,500 (+£20,000 VAT)