Victorian properties are a staple of the British landscape, with terraced rows forming large swathes of residential districts in cities up and down the country. The original layout of terraced homes, however, was designed to cater to the needs of the time and not for the way we live today. Typically, the kitchen was small, with enough space for a cooker and some cupboards, but not for groups of people or dining tables. The lounge was the most substantial room, and most terraced homes also had a large dining area where the family could eat together. The upstairs often had a bathroom and series of small bedrooms to accommodate a large, working family.
The problem, however, is that the design and amenities were for another era. It’s more than 150 years since developers built terraced houses, and things have changed. The Victorian way of life is no more.
In fact, the way these buildings were designed may be considered as scenario architecture: each room had a purpose and was perfectly formed for who lived there but there were still many issues with the design. For these homes to truly follow scenario architecture, we need to understand what enjoyment the homeowner take from their space and not just the function of each room. Only then can we build a home which is confined by the physical space but uses the internal volume to create something special.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep-dive into a few ideas for how to transform your Victorian property. These are only a guide, and a bespoke concept for you is essential to really get the most from your home.
Use Frameless Glazed Doors At The Rear
Victorian designers weren’t familiar with the concept of transition spaces: parts of the home that would allow people to move from their homes to their gardens seamlessly. It just wasn’t on the agenda, or even possible to engineer. But today terrace house owners want a way to enjoy their garden while bringing it more into the home itself.
One of the best ways to do this is with frameless glazed doors. Frameless glazed doors offer homeowners a way to create maximum visibility out of their rear-facing doors, replacing old-style doors which limit views. Victorian homes were often dark as large windows wasn’t possible without allowing heat to escape, so this is a trick often used to bring light flooding in.
Embrace “Broken Plan”
Open-plan living is popular today but, like indoor-outdoor spaces, it wasn’t applicable to Victorian designers who gave spaces specific uses. The home, for them, was a collection of discrete rooms, all with particular purposes.
Many Victorian homeowners decide to pay homage to this original design ethos when opening up their homes by choosing a “broken plan” layout. A broken plan layout is essentially open plan, but with features that segment the space into different zones. Designers can do this with curtains, Crittall-style glazing, or screens, demarcating the boundaries of the living, dining, and kitchen areas.
Extend The Side Return
Victorian terraced homes have a curious feature called the side return. It’s a segment at the back of the house which sticks out further than the rest, creating a style of courtyard on one side. Traditionally, the side return housed the kitchen and utilities, but today, it doesn’t provide the space that families want. People want bigger kitchens with space for breakfast bars, islands, and so on.
Side return extensions, therefore, are becoming increasingly popular. Terraced property owners are extending their kitchens into the unused courtyard space, effectively doubling their size and bringing them up to modern home standards. Side return extensions that extend both laterally and further into the back yard can double or triple the size of the existing kitchen.
Terraced houses often don’t come with all the space that you need. You might have three bedrooms, but because of your growing family, you need four. A loft conversion is an opportunity to create a new usable space without making dramatic modifications to the structure of the home.
The best loft conversions are those which make use of the inherent lighting opportunities available in attic spaces. By using skylights, you can create a third or fourth bedroom with plenty of natural daylight.
Vaulted Kitchen Extensions
Side return extensions are a great way to increase overall floor space in a Victorian terrace, especially the kitchen. But if you want to generate a real sense of space, then vaulted ceilings are the way to go. Vaulted ceilings provide an unparalleled sense of space when you walk into an extension, and skylights offer a large amount of natural light, cutting down on energy costs and making the space inside much brighter.
You can combine modern materials with a vaulted roof above your side return extension to create a beautiful contrast with the traditional appearance of your Victorian home.
Open Plan Downstairs Layout
Terraced properties typically had rigid floorplans. As discussed, the original designers had a precise vision of what a house should be. Open plan designs, however, can transform terraced homes from accommodation that sometimes feels claustrophobic to that which feels modern and, in some cases, decadent. Removing interior walls is usually relatively straightforward in terraced houses, especially if the majority of the weight falls on the walls on the exterior.
Open-plan layouts that stretch from the front to the back of the house enable you to benefit from two sources of light, no matter where you happen to be on the ground floor. Again, to make the redesign a success, you’ll want to segment the space into various zones for different activities: cooking, eating, watching TV, and entertaining guests. Demarcating space gives your interiors a sense of purpose and focus.
Use Metal Doors And Windows
While traditional uPVC double-glazing is excellent for cutting your energy bills, it looks out of place on Victorian properties. What are your options? The good news is that you can benefit from energy-saving double-glazing windows and doors that use metal instead of plastic. Metal double-glazing preceded UPVC varieties by several years and was the original glazing product before plastic became more popular.
Crittall-style metal windows and doors give your terrace property a more authentic look while somehow bringing it up to date. Black metal frames give traditional Victorian window styles a facelift, helping your property appear more professional and mature.
Use Your Existing Space Better
Making significant changes to terraced properties is currently all the rage. But with some intelligent planning and redesigning, you may not need to go through with that loft conversion you’ve been planning. If you want to undertake a major project on your Victorian property, consult with an architect first. Often, they can show you how you could benefit from small changes to your layout and how you use your space, negating the need for major building projects.
Are you planning on transforming your Victorian property?