Restoring A Period Property: doors and interior joinery

Whether or not your property is listed, preserving and maintaining period features is essential. Fortunately, Atkey and Company are here to help as experts in authentic, period-style joinery.

Their work is 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.

This article is an interview with Michael Costello, managing director of Atkey and Company. He talks about restoring a period property, doors, and interior joinery. He also explains how to design a new build with style and integrity.

Mumford & Wood door
Image: Mumford & Wood door

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 this, we mean based on direct reference to original joinery details from the late 17th century through the 1930s.

By comparison, Conservation Joinery would include consolidating and repairing existing joinery. For example, in an area with a damaged architrave as a result of a light switch previously inserted unsympathetically.

This requires a new section to repair the previous damage. However, repairs and consolidation aren’t 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’d always advise consulting a conservation officer from the local authority as early as possible. Having this dialogue before time demonstrates a desire to work within the listed building consent framework and can generate a resulting level of trust.

On top of that, they’ll be able to advise whether the planned works will require listed building consent. Additionally, it can be beneficial to the overall process.

That said, in the worst cases, unauthorised works in listed properties may result in criminal prosecutions.

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’s either a desire or necessity due to the listed nature of the property. The company’s job is to reinstate appropriate period joinery to properties where it’s been lost during previous phases of work.

During our work, we can determine details appropriate to individual properties based on period, style, location, relative status, and hierarchical differentiation.

Such design consultancy isn’t something we charge separately for. It’s quite specialised knowledge that forms an integral part of our proposition, along with cost and 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. What Is the Significance of Interior Design in Period Properties? And What Advice Would You Give to Period Property Owners Regarding Design Decisions?

Interior design plays a huge role in period properties. It’s like a visual narrative of the place’s rich history and architectural heritage. From the joinery details to the furnishing, each element contributes to the character and charm of the property.

Preserving the authenticity of period property interior design is essential. After all, it honours the legacy of the property and pays respect to the craftsman who worked on it.

By retaining and restoring original features, one can ensure a building maintains its unique identity for future generations to appreciate.

Not only that, but period property interior design also has an impact on the atmosphere of the space. The warmth of natural materials combined with the timeless beauty of antique furniture creates an inviting environment.

As for my advice to period property owners, it’s to be patient. Living with the house as it is for a while allows time to immerse oneself in its atmosphere. So, they should take the time to observe and appreciate the existing features and gain valuable insight into its original design.

Moreover, thorough research on their period property is always a fantastic idea. Such a search can uncover helpful information about the property’s history, which helps greatly with the final decision.

Paolo Moschino
Image: Paolo Moschino

5. 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. We establish 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’s crucial for the joinery we design to be aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned. In addition, there may be stylistic preferences from the client or project team to 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.

6. What Differentiates Victorian-Style Joinery From That of Other Eras? And Can You Give 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, some sections of original Victorian skirting boards can be over 470 mm tall.

Stylistically, during the Victorian era, there appear to have been more diverse influences on mouldings geometry than, for example, in most of the 18th century. At that time, they would draw inspiration exclusively 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.

7. How Does the Regency Differ From the Victorian Style?

Stylistically, Regency joinery reflects the explosion of appetite for the exotic towards the end of the 18th century. They drew inspiration for architecture from as far afield as India and Egypt.

Additionally, romantic ideals also had their influence, from Norman architecture to the rustic idyll of Cottage Orné.

Principally, reeded or fluted joinery detail is quite typical of this period, creating a strong aesthetic identity. Conversely, moulding details 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.

8. If You Are Refurbishing Your Own or Working on an Edwardian Property, How Would You Decide on the Appearance of Architraves, Doors, Skirtings, and Other Mouldings?

Many sources influenced the joinery found in Edwardian and early 20th-century properties. Inside, you can spot a continuation of much Victorian detail. You may also notice strong influences from the arts and crafts movement, especially in the South East.

Furthermore, there was a Regency revival around 1910 (as well as the emergence of Art Deco). Such a style manifests itself in joinery, often through the distillation and simplification of earlier Georgian detail. Consequently, it results 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.

9. Can You Tell More About the Manufacturing Process Involved?

We manufacture using modern machinery but with traditional materials and methods. This includes mortise and tenon joints and solid timber for the doors.

All of our designs for mouldings come from original sections sourced from named and dated properties. These sections get partly stripped of the original paint build-up to reveal the underlying geometry.

So, they’re replicated without compromise and are identical to the original examples, apart from the paint build-up.

We’re also able to accommodate modern performance requirements within our doors, such as 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.

10. Do You Also Work in Contemporary Buildings?

Most of Atkey’s work happens within period properties. Yet, we also create internal joinery schemes for newly built properties (mostly classical in inspiration). As such, we’re able to reflect the character, status, and proportions of their external architecture.

For modern homes, the best approach is to create two or more levels of hierarchy. This is usually the case with all but the simplest period properties.

In addition, there’s also the possibility to further soften the feel of a house by introducing elements from different periods. This way, we get 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. Such elements have stood the test of time and are essential to the character of the property.

In listed buildings, any alterations to the interior joinery may be of interest to the local authority conservation officers. These individuals are typically 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.

Those planning to build or do restoration work on a period property need to be careful. It’s important to check whether it falls on the National Heritage List for England before embarking on alterations.

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