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How you can make your home into a modern masterpiece

Published 25/11/2015

Focal point: fireplaces can make a great DIY project
Focal point: fireplaces can make a great DIY project
UPVC sash windows are a good compromise and don't cost much more than UPVC casement windows from some suppliers

Period properties have enduring appeal and one of the main reasons is their original features. Gemma Dunn gives her tips on adding value to a house.

1. Fireplaces give a room a focal point and character, and if they're functional, are a practical addition to reception rooms. eBay is a great place to find fireplaces of all styles, including period and reproduction ones. While some are expensive, many can be picked up for very little. You can buy fireplaces fully restored, but others make a great DIY project.

Painting a pine fireplace surround will quickly transform it, and rust can usually be banished with Hammerite Kurust (£8.49 for 250ml, Halfords), metal paint that can be applied directly to rust, or in the case of polished metal surrounds that aren't designed to be painted, very fine sandpaper or metal polish and fine wire wool.

2. Just as a chimney breast without a fireplace is a sorry sight, so are period properties with ugly plastic windows. Lots of people like UPVC windows because they're double glazed and low maintenance, but some styles are more attractive and in keeping than others. UPVC sash windows are a good compromise and don't cost much more than UPVC casement windows from some suppliers.

If you have a bigger budget, or your choice is restricted by planning laws, period-style wooden windows are a beautiful and environmentally friendly alternative. The windows can make a big difference to the appearance of your home and while changing them isn't cheap, it's worth doing if you can, especially if it makes your home more energy efficient in the process.

3. Replacing ugly or dated exterior doors can also make a huge difference to your home's appearance. Wooden doors come in a large range of styles and as long as you pick one that suits the period of your home, it shouldn't date.

If you can't afford new exterior doors, interior doors are generally much cheaper. There are, of course, period-style reproduction doors, but nothing beats original ones, which you can find in architectural salvage yards and on eBay.

Even better, lots of people throw out original doors when they renovate, so they're there for the taking. If the doors are in a poor state, save yourself a lot of time and effort by getting them professionally dipped and stripped - stripping them yourself is really hard work.

4. Some of the easiest period-style features to add are ceiling roses, coving/cornicing and dado and picture rails - there's a big choice online and in DIY stores.

With coving and ceiling roses, the best option for DIYers is lighter materials, such as polyurethane resin, which are straightforward to fit - leave fitting plaster designs to the professionals.

5. Period flooring, whether stone or wood, can be expensive if you're buying reclaimed materials, so it's not for everyone. Modern wooden flooring rarely looks like original floorboards, but stone is easier to replicate.

Modern encaustic tiles are similar to Victorian ones, for example, and some companies specialise in laying them in intricate designs that match original ones. This is a fantastic way to create a stunning feature that won't date.

Belfast Telegraph

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