This Is the Stripped-Down, High-Reward Finish That’ll Give Your Home Tons of Character 

published Jan 24, 2023
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There’s a reason many people in different countries, cities, and states look for older houses when they’re on the hunt for a home: They simply just don’t make ’em like they used to. Homes built fifty-plus years ago were constructed with care, quality materials, and methods that hold up to decades of use — unlike some newer builds today, where corners may sometimes be cut for cost and construction time savings. While older houses often require a good bit of upkeep and maintenance, you’re bound to find something interesting while peeling back the layers of a building that’s been around longer than you maybe have.

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Take Camilla and Andy’s Brighton, England, home. They bought their Victorian terrace house from a woman who had been living there for 60 years, and while it needed some updating, the previous owner had taken extra care in preserving the home’s character. Unlike many people who renovate an older house, Camilla and Andy fell in love with the raw base layer of their home that they unearthed. “As we stripped away layers of paint, pulled up carpets and discovered original hidden four-panel pine doors, we started to get inspired to leave the things we had uncovered as they were,” Camilla said in their house tour. So they did just that, which you can see on display through these images — walls with patchy shade variations from former uses and decoration, sun-bleached doors, and floors with patina.

“The bare plaster walls in the living room walls felt cozy with a fire on,” Camilla says. “I loved seeing the history of where a door was or where the room had once been divided. We decided to leave the newly stripped original doors and upstairs floors and stairs raw wood, as I never like the finish of oils or varnishes. It also made our lives easier, as it meant less decorating! It also stops the house looking too perfectly “done,” and gives it character and a sense of history.” The house was refurbished in its entirety, gaining a new heating system, windows, and a lot furnishings that have become conversion pieces. Still, Camilla says one of the most labor-intensive tasks was stripping the many layers of wallpaper and finish off of the walls. Once they did that, though, they left them as-is, and completely unfinished. And that choice really paid off. Leaving them undone shows and preserves both the energy put into and tedium of that process.

“I counted 13 different textured wallpapers and plaster finishes when we moved in,” says Camilla. “I’d never done it before and what no one mentions is the wallpaper glue gunk that gets left behind that needs hours of scrubbing off, or the new paint won’t stick to the walls.” Leaving the walls “as-is” perhaps was a practical consideration then, too.

According to Camilla, stripping the hallway walls and peeling the paint off the nearby stairs specifically was a gradual two year process. So you can only imagine how long the rest of the entire home’s surfaces and finishes took to unearth. In the end though, the house has perhaps even more character than when it started, and the couple now lives among decades of history right on the walls.