Through the keyhole of a beautiful Georgian apartment in Bath
- Credit: William Goddard
Behind the layers of woodchip wallpaper and exposed gas pipes was a Georgian beauty just waiting to be discovered, and Charlotte and Oliver Haines were determined to find her
During the 1970s a great many of the beautiful classical Georgian buildings in Bath were converted – often badly – into flats. “And in the process a lot of the original features were either removed or damaged,” says Charlotte Haines who, with husband Oliver, bought one such apartment some years ago. They know at first hand what horrors had been wrought in the name of conversion.
The Haines had bought their one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a listed Grade 2 Georgian house, dating back to 1772. It had been created from the original drawing and morning rooms, and a previous owner had divided them up into a hallway, sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom using stud walls of plasterboard.
“The apartment was in rather a sorry state,” says Charlotte. “The original cornicing was either missing or was chopped off by the stud walls.
“Big, ugly gas pipes were on show as was a great deal of 1970s woodchip wallpaper; this was adorned with surface wiring plus there was old, stained carpeting, a pink acrylic bathroom and an ugly pine mantelpiece containing a gas fire with a Baxi boiler behind.”
But the couple could see the potential and they loved the big bay window at the rear which took up most of the bedroom wall. “But sadly the Georgian windows had been replaced at some point by Victorian ones,” she says.
They began by gutting the place and it took two years to make it into the charming home it now is as there was a lot of work – “and a lot of thought was involved too,” says Charlotte. They began by removing a wall in the kitchen as well as the big airing cupboard and water tank concealed behind it.
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“That space has now become our breakfast area,” says Charlotte. “We installed a new kitchen from John Lewis with high gloss Mezzo ‘Pergamon’ cabinetry and ‘Black Limestone’ laminate worktops which match the backsplash and the midnight black Karndean flooring.” They then tackled the bathroom.
This was completely gutted, reconfigured and refitted with a Bette bath, a Hans Grohe shower and taps, a Roca basin and wc, plus Villeroy & Boch white tiles, all from Total Bathrooms. “We chose a Bette bath as it is shorter and deeper so quite a space-saver,” says Charlotte. “Plus Total Bathrooms have lots of bargains with ends of lines or items people order then don’t want.”
Some rewiring and replastering were needed and the cornicing was either repaired or replaced with good quality reproduction. “Artistic Plastercraft of Bath took a template of the original to do this,” says Charlotte. “The Georgian floorboards were in good condition – a few needed repairing – but we had to re-carpet them to keep the floors sound-proofed because of the flat below.”
The old Baxi boiler went and a new smaller combi-boiler installed – “but this time hidden in a cupboard in the bedroom,” says Charlotte. “We have a wonderful joiner called Tony Pope and he not only built some extra wardrobes but also repaired the original damaged shutters and put new sash cords in the windows. He also added beading to the ugly flat hardboard doors to give them a Georgian six-panelled look.”
Charlotte’s favourite feature is her new fireplace in the sitting room, created from a cast iron grate, fire basket and insert her sister was storing in a shed in Dorset.
“She had brought them down from London after she had acquired them from an old house in Notting Hill. By now they were dirty and rusting but Grate Expectations in Bath sandblasted the bits, rebuilt them then applied special blacking.”
Charlotte then bought from them a reproduction marble surround and a black slate hearth for the finishing touches. “A couple of years later I picked up a magazine which was featuring a Georgian townhouse and there on the front page was my fireplace. It looked identical,” she says.
When it came to furnishing the place the Haines bought a lot of items from John Lewis and Ikea as she finds them such good value. Similarly the blinds in the sitting room are bright and contemporary as she thinks they look particularly striking against the large high ceilings of a Georgian house.
But for some character she has also added a lovely mahogany and leather-topped antique desk in the sitting room. “We bought it for only £20 at the Walcot Street flea market in Bath. Also the antique chair in the bay window of the bedroom was £5 in a job lot at an auction years ago. We stripped it down and reupholstered it.”
Now the Haines sometimes let out their charming home so others can feel what it is like to live in Georgian Bath.