Restoring A Period Property: doors and interior joinery

Whether your property is listed or not, preserving and maintaining period features can enhance your home. Atkey and Company are experts in authentic, period-style joinery based on a specialist historical catalogue of doors and mouldings from prominent periods of British architecture.

Architectural details are equally important to the character of period or contemporary buildings. We talked to Michael Costello, managing director of Atkey and Company, about restoring a period property, doors and interior joinery, and about how to design a new build with style and integrity.


1. What is the difference between Heritage Joinery and Conservation Joinery?

Heritage Joinery is how I would describe Atkey’s work. We design and produce panelled doors and timber mouldings that are period-perfect, by which we mean based on direct reference to original joinery detail from the late 17th century through to the 1930s. By comparison, Conservation Joinery would include consolidating and repairing existing joinery, for example where an architrave had been damaged because a light switch had previously unsympathetically been inserted, requiring a new section to repair the previous damage. Repairs and consolidation are not services Atkey offers.

Image: A six-panel door that has been relocated, repaired and reinforced in the period, leading to the service areas of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.

2. When do you need to list building consent for changes to internal joinery?

If works to a listed property are planned, I would always advise consulting a conservation officer from the local authority as early as possible in the process. Having this early dialogue demonstrates a desire to work within the listed building consent framework and can generate a resulting level of trust. They will be able to advise whether the planned works will require listed building consent and in general, can be very useful to the overall process. It should be mentioned that in the worst cases of unauthorised works to listed properties, criminal prosecutions can result.

Image: Original panelling in a 1720’s Grade 11* listed house in Holborn, London.

3. When do Atkey and Company become involved in projects?

We tend to get involved with projects where there is either a desire (or necessity due to the listed nature of property) to reinstate appropriate period joinery to properties where it’s been lost during previous phases of work. We have the ability to determine detail that is appropriate to individual properties based on period, style, location, relative status as well as hierarchical differentiation within the property. This design consultancy is not something we charge separately for, but it is this very specialised knowledge that forms an integral part of our proposition, alongside cost/quality of manufacture.

Having said this, we also have many clients who make selections directly from the catalogue on our website.

Image: Atkey and Company doors, architraves and skirting boards with detail from the late Georgian era.

4. How do you decide on the aesthetic elements of mouldings and doors?

When working in period properties the first point of reference is always any existing joinery and establishing whether any of it is contemporary or otherwise dates from subsequent works to the property. In conjunction with this, or in the absence of any internal detail, reference is then made to the external architecture to inform any proposals.

It is very important to us that the joinery we design is aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned. In addition, there may be stylistic preferences from the client or project team and these can usually be incorporated.

Image: Reeded Regency architrave, lion’s head mask paterae and simple pediment as part of works from c.1810 to a mid 18th Century house in Bloomsbury, London.

5. What differentiates Victorian-style joinery from that of other eras and can you give us an example of where you have worked in this period style?

To generalise, Victorian joinery tends to be more boldly detailed and larger than seen before. For example, we have some sections of original Victorian skirting boards that are more than 470mm tall. Stylistically, during the Victorian era, there appears to have been more diverse influences on mouldings geometry than, for example, in most of the 18th Century, during which time the inspiration was almost exclusively drawn from classical Roman and Greek architecture.

Image: Atkey and Company doors, architraves and skirting boards with Victorian detail used in a new build house on The Bishops Avenue, London.

6. How does Regency differ from Victorian style?

Stylistically, Regency joinery reflects the explosion of appetite for the exotic towards the end of the 18th Century. Inspiration in architecture was drawn from as far afield as India and Egypt, whist romantic ideals also had their influence from Norman architecture to the rustic idyll of Cottage Orné.  Reeded or fluted joinery detail is very typical of this period which creates a strong aesthetic identity, but moulding details generally became more delicate and refined compared with those seen earlier.

Image: An original section of high Regency architrave from The Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London, partly stripped of its paint build-up to reveal the fluting and reeding typical of 1810.

7. If you refurbishing your own or are working in an Edwardian property, how would you decide on the appearance of architraves, doors, skirtings and other mouldings?

The joinery found in Edwardian and early 20th Century properties was influenced by many sources. A continuation of much Victorian detail is seen along with strong influences from the Arts and Crafts movement, especially in the South East. There was also a Regency revival around 1910 as well as the emergence of Art Deco which manifests itself in joinery often by the distillation and simplification of earlier Georgian detail, resulting in the typical rectilinear aesthetic.

Image: An original section of high Regency architrave from The Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London, partly stripped of its paint build-up to reveal the fluting and reeding typical of 1810.

8. Can you tell us a bit about the manufacturing process involved?

We manufacture using modern machinery but using traditional materials and methods such as mortice and tenon joints and solid timber for the doors. All of our designs for mouldings come from original sections which were sourced from named and dated properties and then part stripped of the original paint build-up to reveal the underlying geometry. These are replicated without compromise and are identical to the originals examples, apart from the paint build up.

We are also able to accommodate modern performance requirements within our doors – for instance fire and acoustic ratings.

Image: Final mitring and fitting of the door mouldings to a four-panel Atkey and Company door prior to receiving 2 coats of spray-applied primer.

9. Do you also work in contemporary buildings?

Whilst most of Atkey’s work is within period properties, we also create internal joinery schemes for new build properties (mostly classical in inspiration) to reflect the character, status and proportions of the external architecture. In doing so, for modern homes, the best approach is to create two or more levels of hierarchy, as one would usually find in all but the very simplest period properties and there is also the possibility to further soften the feel of a house by introducing elements from different periods to create the impression of the evolution of architectural styles.

Atkey and Company are expert makers of bespoke Georgian, Regency and Victorian style doors, skirting boards and other mouldings handcrafted in Somerset. There’s a standard range of architectural joinery, or internal doors and mouldings can be handmade to order by skilled joiners who can recreate the original woodwork drawn from a catalogue of authentic designs and capturing the period style.


Key Points 

Historic properties often have doors, interior joinery and original features which have stood the test of time and are essential to the character of the property. In listed buildings, any alterations to interior joinery may be of interest to the local authority conservation officers involved with planning consent for the refurbishment of the property.

Historic England’s classification of listed buildings is, “A building is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting”.

 A listed building is on the National Heritage List for England and falls into three categories of significance: Grade I (for the highest significance) – Grade III.

If you are planning building or restoration work on a period property, it is important to check whether it falls on the National Heritage List for England before embarking on alterations.

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