A Renovated 150-Year-Old English Victorian Is a Playground of Primary Colors and DIYs

A Renovated 150-Year-Old English Victorian Is a Playground of Primary Colors and DIYs

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Name: Sarah Godfrey, husband Tom Godfrey, two small children and, two small fish
Location: A village in Nottinghamshire, England
Size: Was 721, now 986
Years lived in: 7 years, (rented 2 years, owned 5 years)

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Tom and I rented our small two-bedroom Victorian terrace for two years before the landlord wanted to sell. I was expecting my second child and although the house was too small for a family of four, we knew it had potential. Having lived in the historical village for two years we knew it was a special place to be; we purchased the house for very little just before an unusual property boom hit. The house is an 1870s terrace and it still had the original cooking range. A poor kitchen/bathroom extension was built on the back, leaving a small yard. One day I was in the yard and part of the old back wall crumbled on my head. I looked over the wall and noticed a disused Victorian building with a chimney and some scrub land. I knew what to do! After two years of negotiations it was ours. The building was used as a mixing room for a pharmacist back in the early 1900s and was full of bottles and scales, etc. The land was crammed full of medicine bottles and historical items, some of which we donated to a museum. With this land and building in place I could think about converting the roof space into a three bed.

Credit: Sarah Godfrey

Five years after buying the house we now have two small but perfectly formed bedrooms in the attic/dormer and we now have a three-bedroom property. Our builders have constructed it in a way that we can change it back easily to a very large single bedroom if we wish to in the future. It was such a relief to give the children a room each for the first time and they enjoyed seeing them being built. Our old downstairs bathroom will become a larger kitchen, facing our extended garden and the new bathroom is situated upstairs on our bedroom level.

Credit: Sarah Godfrey

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: “Hippie modernism” replies Tom, before laughing. We are very DIY and most of our furniture has been made by Tom, inspired by or using Enzo Mari instructions. He runs two art galleries and has transformed derelict spaces over the years with limited funds, so his skill set has been essential. A majority of our other belongings have been found, were free, or were cheaply sourced.  Our paint splattered dining table top was found in a gallery skip and our very long floating teak bench was found in a Victorian school skip. We have varied the style throughout the house, bringing in more color and fun as you make your way up the three floors.

There are Japanese and Danish influences and I love the Bauhaus, however, as the house is 150 years old, we have sourced some British antiques over that period, too. Our terrace was built for a poor family of knitters (we live in a historical village with knitting at its heart) so it doesn’t feel apt to install fancy marbled fire places or sparkling chandeliers.

Credit: Sarah Godfrey

Inspiration: Magazines and online sources are a handy source, however the best inspiration comes from experiencing something first hand. Whether it be visiting a great exhibition or visiting a great space/place. We spent a glorious summer as first-time parents living simply in a former concrete GDR tower block in Berlin. It was a corner apartment with floor-to- ceiling glass doors that opened onto a balcony overlooking Mitte. The light flooded into the concrete space all day, which was simply furnished with a straw bed and an original Butterfly chair. The entirety of the owner’s pretty things sat on one tiny wooden stool. We enjoyed the simplicity and wanted that for our own home. We spend our summers in an ocean-facing Victorian apartment near Ramsgate, which is owned by a photographer friend. Again, the space is uncluttered. Beyond a wall of books and records his belongings were a collection of striped Shelley Pottery, a series of wooden bowls, and a handful of feathers. There is also a very long bench to lounge/sleep on.

Favorite Element: Our renovation project is still in progress and our favorite elements change, however it’s quite a luxury to now have a light-filled landing space on the second floor by our bedroom. The stair case is painted yellow, red and green which brings me joy, where as a slate gray wouldn’t.

Credit: Sarah Godfrey

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for us was living in the small house as the work was happening. Our two children slept in our room as their bedroom was being converted into a bathroom and whilst the attic was being converted into two bedrooms. We boxed their belongings and stored them in our outhouse and gave them one box each to keep beside their beds until they could be reunited with their things. We also had a battle to get the project completed before shut down over the Coronavirus outbreak. We managed to do it the day before the lockdown. There are still a few things to be finished (carpeting the landing) however it was such a relief we had things like the walls and floors before the lockdown.

Proudest DIY: My husband made all of the furniture using and inspired by Enzo Mari ‘autoprogettazione’ designs for the beds and dining table.

Credit: Sarah Godfrey

Biggest Indulgence: Paying for a builder to do the main building work was our biggest expense however it was the crittall shower screen from Victoria Plum, which was our biggest indulgence. For a shower screen and for our small budget it was expensive. But it was worth it.

Best Advice: My advice is quite boring. When embarking on a building project make sure your builders are skilled, trustworthy, and able to listen to you. We had to wait 18 months for our builders, Omega lofts, who were fantastic. It’s important to listen to their advice and be open to suggestions. Although Tom has renovated and built numerous gallery spaces building a home is another thing. Sticking another floor onto a very old terrace requires expertise. Our builders made our space work for us and they were well worth the wait.



  • Valspar “Lovestruck Red”
Credit: Sarah Godfrey



  • Our kitchen has yet to be renovated.
Credit: Sarah Godfrey


Credit: Sarah Godfrey


Thanks Sarah and Tom!