Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Look away now...

The point at which a structure is completely stripped back to the essentials prior to restoration can have two effects on the way you feel about it.  On the one hand is the excitement of seeing the building in its raw state, full of potential and promise, one the other is the rising panic that comes from the realisation that every single square centimetre, inside and out, needs attention.
To be fair, we did feel the former during our first visit to the house last weekend - subsequent visits, in poor light and freezing weather tended to encourage the latter.

The clearance of dry-lining and stud walling has thrown up a few unsuspected problems with the building - none of them major, but all needing to be budgeted for.  The ceiling to the ground floor we had hoped would consist of decent old beams - behind the plywood cladding, however, the beams are badly degraded, and will never look good, even if they prove structurally sound.  Given that a third of the ceiling has been replaced with modern joists at some point in the past fifteen years, we are looking to replace this floor entirely - probably using oak beams with new oak floorboards over.

The simple, modest panelling that has been revealed in places hangs on to scraps of old wallpaper - faded and decaying, these scraps are layered over each other, and it is interesting to speculate on their age - the patterns suggest nineteenth century origin.  Elsewhere, plaster has crumbled, stonework has become loose as the lime mortar decays and the shadows of water staining and fungal growth decorate the flaking paint.  There's the picturesque decay of, say, Venice, and there's out-and-out decrepitude: I think we are dealing with the latter here...

With final decisions on the layout and materials and finishes to be made over Christmas, we are looking forward to our next visit to inspect the house once the wood has been cleaned and the worst problems solved.  The trick, as always, is to restore the building while retaining its charm and unique atmosphere.


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