What makes a house into a home? Or more accurately what makes a house into an Instagrammable home, because that’s all that matters these days. Right? For me, it starts with the details. I don’t mean the obvious things, like artwork, textiles, ceramics, (although of course I love spending time finding the right finishing touches). But I’m talking about one layer down from that, the things that are designed to have function, but which can still be aesthetically pleasing in their own right. The things that perhaps weren’t originally intended to be noticed; handles, knobs, doorplates, keyhole covers, locks. They can tie the rooms together, set the tone for the decor and should be a forethought not an afterthought. You don’t want to ruin your look with an unsightly knob.
I know it’s sounds strange, but it’s these are the little things which always draw my eye. It is the shiny escutcheon that I know was once covered over in paint, the crisp clear lines of new paint on the walls, the sanded and polished floorboards, cleaned and waxed quarry tiles, the black doorplates restored, a fireplace revealed; the original details of our old house coming back to life. The care and attention that went into creating them, I believe, needs to be respected; the almost-beehive escutcheon on our dining room door, and the carved handles means I’ve so far been unsuccessful in finding matching counterparts for other doors. These are the rooms which were ‘on show’ to visitors coming to see the Vicar and so have fancier door furniture than those of the old breakfast room and kitchen.
It is the process of uncovering, and transforming. Literally stripping away the past to restore the smallest of intricacies so they are buffed, polished, gleaming as much as I can get them which gives me immense satisfaction. Perhaps this is the lure of renovating an old house, knowing the satisfaction it will bring. But the devil is also in the detail, and it has all taken more time, money and effort than I envisaged and they’re not all perfect. It is all still work in progress. After nearly 4 years I have made it down to the ground floor where the locks remain glooped up and one of the fireplaces is still full of old nesting materials. Despite this, I know the potential they hold.
Our lovely old house has lovely old doors and they nearly all have heavy duty old fashioned rim locks on them. Over the years they had been painted over until a thick ugly globular crust of paint upon paint has rendered them unusable and stuck. I spent hours cleaning them off, until I discovered a specialist lock repairer. It probably would have been cheaper to buy new ones. But that just didn’t feel right to me. Now the massive over-sized lock on the hall door, beams at me with pride; it once again has form and function.
I know I’m not alone in loving a good door knob; Arne Jacobsen, Norman Foster and Aldo Rossi have designed door handles. But the particular joy I get from our period house (besides my restoration work) is wondering who made the lock, who fixed the finger plate to the door, who decided the hall needed a huge lock and who else has turned that handle and has walked where I am walking?