The Third Door
Something is not right here.
We have three doors into our house. the front door, the back door and a side door. Originally the front door was for the family and invited guests, the back door was for servants and the third door was the Tradesmen’s entrance. It was for all deliveries and calls to pay bills held on account. Both the back door and the Tradesmen’s entrance were behind the servants screen, safely away from view of the family.
A Fire Exit
Over the years of office use this side door had been changed into a fire exit. It looked ugly but also the space didn’t feel right, it was so narrow, and the doors into the hall banged into each other. This hall links the front of the house to the back, so although it was livable with, it was also annoying, and obviously not right. It was clear from the outside that the side window belonged with the door as a complete unit but at some point in history had found its way into a completely different room.
The story so far
When we moved in the space was used as a dumping ground. The only improvements we bothered to make were to unsuccessfully remove the fire exit sticker and try to distract people by changing it into a glitter room. The space was dark and narrow, useless for anything just a waste of space.
Revealing the secrets
When you looked up you could see the plaster cornicing suddenly changed. For most of the room it was egg and dart rope work but then where the wall jutted out it changed to a simple cornice, also we discovered that quarry tiles ran right through the back of the house. It took a LOT of effort to get them looking this good. There were times when we nearly gave up as the effort of the task seemed so Herculean. If you fancy having a go yourself or just want to be amazed at our commitment read the Quarry tile post
The door was replaced with a new timber door in the house joinery style with leaded stained glass to match the side light (thanks Tanseys). This brought much needed light into the space.
As you can see we were still using it as dumping ground. Something was still not right
Removing the screen divide reveals original features
When we took the ceiling down in the downstairs loo we could see what was making the hall so difficult. The wall had been moved to make the downstairs loo bigger, when the false low ceiling was removed we could see high above to the original hall ceiling. We revealed crisp egg and dart cornice and also some very old wallpaper (probably as old as the house as there was no earlier paint or paper underneath it). We carefully removed the dividing screen. We wanted to retain the wooden screen and use it to create a new divide in its original place. The fire exit gained just over 17″(40cm) or if you are a pessimist the loo lost space.
Central heating pipes
All the pipes in this space were either old lead pipes for hot and cold water or surface mounted old central heating pipes which were lagged in hessian. This all had to be removed, rationalised and reinstalled in a neat safe way.
We removed all the corroded central heating pipes, putting in new ones which are fitted tighter to the wall and removed the concrete slab which sat in the footwell.
Removing the concrete slab revealed a tiled footwell, it had a rotten wooden border. We wanted to keep this as a feature (the tiles not the rotten wood) but we needed to bury the pipes along the threshold. The tiles were taken up and used to replace some of the more damaged floor tiles. The footwell was filled with a thin layer of concrete to secure the pipes, then a self leveling screed which was tinted black and finally a wooden threshold to the front.
Old screen new position
In this photo you can see the original wooden screen in its new position. The hall seems to breathe properly and is flooded with light. there is still lots more to do but it is coming together…
The ceiling needs lots of work repairing the ornate plasterwork, as well as filling holes. Painting all the surfaces, new radiator and a beautiful new ceiling light. Check back soon as we think it will be finished in the next couple of weeks. It is starting to look right and an perhaps an entrance that you would be proud to let any Tradesman call at.