Tommy’s Tips: Victorian to Modernist and Back

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I received another invite to dinner at my friend’s house, and as I suspected, he quizzed me with a barrage of questions, regarding his once beautiful Victorian period home.  Unfortunately as is common with the majority, a large proportion of original features have either been removed, or dismantled, in a process loosely known by professionals, as the “Modernist Period” very much in vogue, around an approximate 30 year period form the early 1960’s to the late 1980’s.  By “Modernist Period” I don’t mean the literal classic definition, which started in the late 19th century, shaping a new economic, social, and political era, driven by massive industrialisation.  I mean people living in common ornate style Victorian properties, wanting visual change, so set about “modernising” their homes, and with the guidance of TV’s first Mr DIY Barry Bucknell, set about changing the appearance, of the housing stock, not just in Hackney, but across the whole of Britain.  Ironically in the technology modernist period of the last 25 years or so, we have been steadily restoring our Victorian period properties, back to their former glory (albeit with a twist). Obviously it’s not just the planet that goes around and around, I think I know where we will be heading next, but that will keep for another day!

My dinner host shall remain anonymous, but I was able to resolve an expensive but pressing problem, saving him a small fortune to boot! He asked; how can I recreate great looking doors, and frames, with high stepped skirting’s in classic Victorian style, without having to increase considerably, my already eye-wateringly, expensive mortgage?  All the Victorian four panelled doors, are missing, stolen or replaced, with horrid plain, light weight, egg-box doors, except the top floor, where the three remaining original doors, which had once been covered by hardboard, (Barry Bucknell style), later removed, and dipped.  How do I know? I can see the pinholes all around both face edges where the hardboard was fixed to the door!  These original doors, have also to be replaced, because they were dipped, in chemical stripper (probably caustic soda) which strips out the natural oil in the wood, causing the panels to shrink and split, dissolving the glue used to hold the doors together, also the chemical damages the wood surface to a depth approximately 1/8”-1/4” rendering the door pretty useless. (If stripping doors, use a hot air gun, and an established paint stripping chemical, such as Nitromor’s, any pin holes, or screw holes, can be filled using a coloured wax).  I suggested he go online, and he ordered Oak Veneered doors, at £70 each, (Lovely quality) and the Victorian style architraves and skirting’s, were created as follows;  cut and shape plinth blocks PAR 6”x2” 11inch’s in length, glued and fixed to the base of the door frame.  Cut 5inch strips, of 9mm MDF, cutting a bead and butt shape to one edge with a router. Then glue and nail a length of   2 ½ inch (63mm) standard ogee architrave to the 5inch (125mm) MDF strips, then simply measure and cut to length, fix with 2” pins, to form a classic stepped Victorian architrave surround to the frame.

(Tommy Tip) Remember to rub down and prepare, your architrave’s and skirting’s on the bench BEFORE fixing! It’s far easier this way.  The skirting’s are formed in the same way as the architrave, using 8inch (200mm) of strips of MDF with a standard 5inch (125mm) ogee skirting, glued and pinned to the MDF strip to create an 11inch (275mm) stepped skirting.  Add a 20/25 mm soft wood batton to the bottom MDF edge, to align with the ogee skirting.  Simple cut to required length, and fix the stepped skirting through the ogee timber section, abutting the plinth blocks fixed to the bottom of the frame.  When primed, undercoated, and top coated in white egg shell, contrasting beautifully with the oak door, creates a classy expensive effect, for a fraction of the price!

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