Living in harmony with London’s listed buildings.

We have lived in old houses, as long as I remember. My grandmothers house dates from the 1400s. Of course, it was updated, added to and extended by various generations, but you can see the shadows of the original plan. It was a pleasant shambles when I was a kid, and my uncle, though full of good intentions, did some truly terrible alterations. It’s still in my family, my cousin who inherited it, went on against all odds to do an absolutely amazing job in restoring and decorating it with taste and sensitivity.
I love visiting and staying there is The highlight of my holiday calendar. (hint for my cousin…)

My own London flat, is very small, but is part of a listed regency town house. The proportions and the grace of the place are perfect and I’ve always considered it a privilege to live in such a beautiful place. I think it’s key, to understand the history of the building and work in harmony with the style. I am not suggesting we live on a frozen timewrap, which would be rather creepy actually – but understanding the different aesthetics. Modern clean furniture can work well with regency interiors, rustic Jacobean and Spanish Inquisition, not so good…ya think?

Listed buildings are funny things, they divide the masses. To some they look like old relics fit for redevelopment, to others are treasures to be cherished…

London has a few architectural gems which are described as ‘listed’; I think most countries, in Europe at least, will have some sort of protection in place to preserve buildings of historic or architectural significance.

It is a criminal offence to carry out work to a listed building, other than minor like-for-like repairs, without first obtaining Listed Building Consent, and it could lead upon conviction to a period of imprisonment and a very heavy fine.

definition of listed building
A building is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting.
As the term implies, a listed building is actually added to a list: the National Heritage List for England. You can use this to discover whether your home is listed and if so, what grade it is.
You may also be able to find out what is particularly significant about the building. Some listing records are more detailed than others.
Listed buildings come in three categories of ‘significance’:
Grade I for buildings of the highest significance
Grade II* and
Grade II
Most listed building owners are likely to live in a Grade II building as these make up 92% of all listed buildings.

I wonder how many of you dear readers, live in an old listed building or perhaps you’d like to live in one. Any favourite period or architectural style?


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9 thoughts on “Interiors: how to live in a listed building

  1. Steve Morris

    Your flat looks amazing. I love old buildings and have always lived in one, although never a listed one. My current house is the most modern I have ever owned – it was built in 1927 and has been brought very much up to date inside, although the exterior hasn’t changed much. Decorating a period property is a delicate balance between the modern and the traditional – I am sure you walk this dividing line with aplomb!

  2. Heidi

    I think it’s key that you respect the architectural style of whatever you’re decorating in. You can definitely make it work with a modern style if that’s your thing, but you need to work out the right proportions to suit the room with modern furniture.
    We have a heritage listing on our house, which is a pain actually. It’s not the house but the street that is listed, but it means everything we do, whether it can be seen from the street or not has to pass through heritage before it goes through the normal building approval process. This included our swimming pool ridiculously.
    Heritage is a tricky subject for Architects though. The approach varies enormously depending on which advisor you get – some are more pragmatic than others. My inlaws live in the family house, built in 1840 which is very old for Australia, and just 4 years after settlement of this part of the country. When they tried to renovate the old kitchen/ scullery area and knock through some small rooms and open up to the light a little more, the Heritage advisor at the time wanted them to put plaques up in the new living space where walls had been saying “there was a wall here” etc. It was ridiculous!! Fortunately sanity prevailed and they managed to create a living space that didn’t still require a household of servants and that didn’t require plaques in a private house to remind them of what it had been like before!!

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      1840 is just about Victorian and still really attractive if well preseserved. My own preference is for a little earlier, Regency period or Queen Anne- sublime proportions…councils have a hard time saving these buildings from evil developers and speculators, carving them to bedsits and stuffing them with tenants!

  3. dottoressa

    Your flat is beautiful-I always admire houses in Bloomsbury or Belgravia.
    Sometimes I’m startling how many houses in the centre of London are demolished for redevelopment
    You have to love the place you live in and to have very good advisors to restore it properly
    It must be amazing to live in a 15th century home
    My father’s home is more than hundred years old (not very old for my city)-it was not listed (and the problem here is that sometimes there are buildings listed that don’t deserve it,too),but I renovated it completely as it was than(with all the complications and expenses)
    I’ve always lived in new houses

  4. silkpathdiary

    I don’t live in a listed building and my dream really was always to live in a Regency building! I really do think one must be sympathetic with the architecture inside as well as outside when decorating or making renovations (which should be kept to the absolute minimum). We should rightly preserve these listed buildings.


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