Retro-furbishing

One of our specialisms is returning period buildings back to their original use and/or appearance or at the very least, to recreate the period in which they were first constructed.

However, modern building techniques, and in particular observance of current building regulations, means that it is possible to recreate traditional features and return a property back to its period appearance whilst benefiting from all modern insulation, electrical and technological benefits. This then allows the end result to be, what we consider to be, and a “better than original” standard. We call this “retro-furbishing”. Quite simply, refurbishing back to the appearance of a former period, but better!

This type of work is particularly demanding and requires special attention to detail and frequently means involving outside organisations such as English Heritage or other governing bodies, local authority listing and archaeological departments and meeting strict codes and obligations and planning conditions.

The first property we ever worked on was a derelict Victorian house in a London suburb, almost 40 years later it should come as no surprise there that this is one area in which we relish a challenge.

These photos show the original period structural and load bearing joists which had been cut through by others prior to our firm’s engagement at the property. The acrow props and other temporary support measures were put in place by us as soon as we were instructed as the earlier contractors had left the building in an unsafe condition once they appreciated the complexity of the work involved in the project, but did not have the specialist skills to carry it out.

This is a prime example of the type of specialist work we are frequently engaged to carry out.

In this particular case, we were consulted by a private client who had previously instructed other contractors to carry out refurbishment and modernisation works at his property. Structural and load bearing walls/floor joists had been cut and/or removed without referral to a structural engineer and the whole area had been left unsupported . Our clients instructions were that he had already obtained planning permission, listed building consent and had engaged a firm of private building control consultants and wished to instruct our firm to remedy the ill-considered and badly carried out alterations which had already commenced. Our work initially involved arranging for one of our structural engineers to examine the work which had been previously carried out and then to produce drawings backed up by structural and mathematical calculations. A solution was proposed to our  clients for consideration by them and their  building control inspector, once the solution was accepted by the client new structural and load bearing beams and joists were inserted into the property following which the property refurbishment and modernisation was completed by us – a perfect example of “Retro-furbishment”.

Brick work
This image shows an internal party wall in a grade 2 listed Georgian building located in London, W1. The internal skin of the building had become unstable due to nearly 200 years of settlement and erosion and was additionally visually unattractive. We acquired salvaged bricks which were hand cleaned and the wall itself was replaced one brick at a time by a process we call “unstitching” which is the removal, by hand, of the existing mortar joints taking out the old eroded or damaged brick and replacing it with a re-claimed brick and inserting new lime mortar to a  traditional formula. This is a labour intensive and slow process but it produces an extremely attractive appearance with the added benefit of renewed structural integrity.

The oak beams seen here are in fact brand new and are copies of original beans which were removed as they were completely rotten and structurally unsound. These beams have been created using kiln dried English Oak which, when the correct humidity level was achieved in this oak, they have been given an aged and characterful appearance followed by hand waxing. They are now structurally sound but give the appearance of historical character.

Staircase
This is a further example of our retro furbishing work. The original staircase timbers were complete rotten. These have been replaced with new kiln dried English oak which has been given an ageing treatment. As a further development of the process on this occasion, the additional architectural glass has provided the appearance of an original oak staircase which has been brought into the contemporary era. In the background is a hand cut and honed Chiltern stone wall which is a replacement of an original stone wall which, due to being exposed to more than 200 years of damp, had become rotten and unserviceable so it was completely rebuilt.