6 Victorian Homes That Balance Aged Grandeur With Contemporary Taste

In 2012, London antiques dealer Will Fisher was driving around Spitalfields in London’s East End when he spotted a sad, dejected building with a ‘For Sale’ sign outside. Heartbroken by a previous sale of an 18th-century Huguenot home in the area that was falling into his twenties, he seized this as his moment. Although this is his second home in London – and in many ways incongruous – sometimes with a home purchase there is higher real estate power.

Happiest when immersed in a project, Fisher, owner of upholstery boutique Pimlico, was looking for a repairman he could breathe new life into. “I needed to vent a pent-up desire to renovate a house,” he says with a smile, explaining that every corner of his existing home was decorated to the nth degree.

And there was a lot of work to do. Built in the early 20th century, the former Victorian/Edwardian wigmaker’s house was in a state of disrepair. “There’s nothing like seeing an empty building with nothing in it for the first time. You realize the Herculean task ahead of you. Also why you were the buyer and no one else,” Fisher says. Exciting versus terrorized? “It’s a crazy thrill of both.” —Claire Bingham

Carpentry makes the main stage

Gowing has kept things simplified in the living room, as the original pitch pine panels keep the room sufficiently busy. Bespoke velvet curtains and cushions from Scarlett Gowing Interiors soften the space – they’re also practical in the winter with such a large house to heat. Plaster light fixtures, as well as brass and glass shelves, are also part of his homeware collection, paired here with Bastiano and Cappellini sofas.

Photo: Paul Raeside

Structurally stunning with stunning proportions, this home built in 1879 has all the defining features of the Victorian period, but there is something different going on here. Any hint of the stuffiness of the era is countered by a clean contemporary design, and the upstairs private rooms feel soft and intimate unlike the open spaces downstairs.

Taking over the renovation of this home in St. Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, interior designer Scarlett Gowing had quite the challenge. The nearly derelict Grade II listed property has undergone many incarnations over the years (it has been a convalescent home, language school and drug rehabilitation centre) and in the process has lost any semblance of the family home that she once was. Also, the fear factor was high. “It was a big ask,” Gowing says of how she approached the renovation. “The house had lost its soul: all the stained glass windows were broken and covered with boarding and many doors were bricked up to create smaller rooms.” So she went back to the original floor plan to bring the house back to life. —Claire Bingham

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