Victorian villa in Winchester brought into the 21st century
PUBLISHED: 16:07 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:52 25 March 2015
Emma Caulton visits an elegant Victorian villa updated for 21st century living, but influenced by Prague and the past
This was meant to be Allison and Robin Jowitt’s forever house: a handsome colour-washed Victorian villa within a walled garden in the heart of Winchester. With that intention in mind they completely renovated the house and landscaped the gardens, going to great lengths to ensure the house was updated for 21st century living while its integrity was retained and all interior and exterior work done with respect for a property of its age.
The previous owners had lived in the house for 30 years and were a different generation from Allison and Robin, and so had different expectations – for example there was just one bathroom in the entire property. Allison described the house as: “An elderly lady with a great bone structure who just needed freshening up.”
This ‘freshening up’ involved the house being stripped right back to its brickwork, the attic and basement areas being developed and new bathrooms and shower rooms created. The gardens were redesigned and the old timber-framed coach house in the grounds was converted into a two bedroom cottage.
Altogether the renovation took four years; an undertaking that Allison, with a background in fashion, interiors and property, relished.
Having lived in Prague for over a decade they also had an understanding of the style of this age of property. In fact, they fell in love with the house as it reminded them of their old home in Prague: “Our home in Prague had a lovely warmth about it and when we saw this house for the first time it gave us exactly the same feeling.”
Wherever possible period-appropriate reclaimed materials have been sourced, creating a house that charms as soon as its wrought iron gates (salvaged from a reclamation yard in Romsey) swing open onto a garden that has been designed (by Allison) to appear as though it was fashioned in Victorian times with sculptured topiary, wisteria scrambling over pergolas and hybrid tea roses. Actually a magnificent Atlantic cedar and gnarled apple tree are all that is left of the original gardens: the cedar probably planted when the house was built, about 1840, as home to surgeon officers of the Royal Hampshire Regiment.
The skilful merging of past with present continues inside. The front door opens onto an entrance hall as elegant as a couture gown. The colour scheme is classic monochrome. Atmospheric black and white photographs (some of 1930s Prague) in simple grey frames lead up the decorative original staircase dressed with old-fashioned stair-runner in stripes of light and dark grey. The hall floor is particularly striking: polished black marble tiles laid three by three within oak frames. Allison had first spotted this design in Venice and had longed to recreate the pattern, keeping a record of it in an interiors ‘scrapbook’ – a collection of inspiring design ideas.
Leading off the hallway, the reception rooms are well-proportioned and light-filled with big bay windows and high ceilings with ornate cornicing - the intricate leaf and flower moulding only discovered when the ceilings were restored and debris removed. Alison adds: “It’s amazing what you find if you’re careful.”
These rooms are reminiscent of a European salon hung with landscapes and semi-abstract paintings and furnished with a mix of period pieces, some brought over from Prague, such as a pair of low, curvy armchairs with seats deep enough for a bustle. Bespoke fireplaces have been crafted by Chesney’s in Cararra marble, with one matching the slate original which was moved upstairs to the master bedroom suite. Coloured glass light shades in the dining room and kitchen have an Art Nouveau appearance: “We wanted them to look more like pieces of art than lights; at night the colours shine,” comments Allison.
The kitchen has every modern convenience, including the latest steam oven, but doesn’t look as though it does with units crafted from old French floorboards by Smart Interior Solutions, who were also responsible for replacing many of the house’s rotten windows with double-glazed lookalikes of the originals.
Allison and Robin have not been afraid to move and reconfigure rooms where necessary. So a downstairs cloakroom is now a boot room with cast iron spiral staircase (another find from Romsey Reclamation) leading down to the basement with library area, study (previously the china store) wine cellar and a family room or ‘cinema’ room for what Allison calls noisy kids’ stuff: “You can make as much noise as you like in here and no one can hear a thing upstairs.”
This basement is surprisingly light with a comfortable ambient temperature as it’s lit by light wells and has underfloor heating, except in the wine cellar and what was the water reservoir, now the ‘party room’.
On the first floor the master bedroom suite was created from what were three separate rooms for the lady and gentleman of the house and his batman. Allison was keen to retain these rooms as part of the history of the house, but adapt them for contemporary living. There is also a guest bedroom with adjoining wet room, another double bedroom, and traditional-style family bathroom with original window shutters, Cararra marble walls and floors, freestanding bath and classic white basin on a washstand.
A further door off the landing opens not onto a bedroom, as expected, but onto an oak staircase leading up to what would have been the housekeeper’s quarters, now a sitting room, bedroom and shower room for their son. As servants’ accommodation the attic was very basic, however detailing such as cornicing and architraves has been introduced to match the rest of the house. Cabin-style beds, lit by lights in the sloping eaves overhead, are an imaginative use of space and plays to their son’s interest in Lord Nelson and HMS Victory, while a feature window seat in the sitting room (doubling as billiards room) provides a glimpse of the Cathedral through its arched window and is a tempting place to curl up with a book.
Another place to relax is the garden. The sitting room opens onto a courtyard that’s perfect for quiet moments and entertaining. Allison says, “It’s a cliché to talk about garden rooms, but this really is.”
Again great care has been taken to ensure nothing jars with the age of the house: “Modern bricks and flagstones in metric measurements simply look wrong.” For this reason reclaimed materials have been used to create terracing and paths with flagstones from a Victorian smelting factory in Sheffield and bricks from a French abbey.
Elements of contemporary chic include plantings of mature olive and fig trees, and ornamental ironwork from the Garden Inn, Stockbridge, while topiary armchairs and an outside mirror introduce a bit of fun ‘Alice in Wonderland’ escapism.
Tucked into a corner of the garden is the old timber-framed coach house which had fallen into disrepair but has been transformed into a two-bedroom cottage.
The original stable dividers have been repositioned to separate the kitchen from the living area and help retain the building’s rustic character. Two bedrooms (both with shower rooms) have been created, one above in the hayloft with a balcony of ironwork curved to look like a manger and a Juliet balcony where hay would have been winched in. Allison adds: “We lived in the Coach House for 18 months while we renovated the main house so I have an affection for it.”
Despite loving their home, Allison and Robin have been tempted into another adventure. This time they are relocating to Istanbul, which means another family will benefit from their forever home.
Carlton Villa is on the market for £2,600,000 through Savills, Winchester, 01962 841842
Get The Look
• The only original cast iron radiator was successfully matched with one by Vecchia; these have been installed throughout the house and are available through www.stylishradiators.com
• Many reclaimed materials were sourced from Romsey Reclamation, www.romseyreclamation.com
• Colourful glass light shades in the kitchen and dining room from Forme, Winchester, www.formeonline.co.uk
• Bespoke, rustic-style kitchen made by Smart Interior Solutions, Curdridge, www.siskitchens.co.uk
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