Inspiration of the Week: traversing time in a red-brick renovation in Somerset
The calmly decorated interiors of Underleigh belie the architectural punch this Victorian village house packs. From the Jacobeans to the Georgians, the Tudor to the Gothic, its references are as rich as its rooms are ravishing
Underleigh, in the Mendip village of Oakhill, is not your average Victorian house. Yes, it’s got all the original details you could hope for (and then some): the fine mouldings, the stained-glass internal windows and the prettily patterned tiled floors. There are original fireplaces and skirting boards, dado rails and broad bay windows. There’s even a romantic veranda, straight out of a Merchant Ivory film – a rare treasure, since so many of its sort were stripped in the World Wars, when iron was at a premium. But there’s also something even more intriguing afoot in this bonny six-bedroom house, currently for sale with Inigo.
While the exact story of the house isn’t known, it’s thought that Underleigh was built as a vicarage, somewhere between the 1840s and the 1860s. This might explain some of the more ecclesiastical details dotted round the place – pointed Gothic arches, for instance – as well as the house’s relatively grand proportions for a village house. But the references stretch beyond that. This house is, quietly, a study of Britain’s architectural history of the last 600 years. The Jacobeans and Tudors get a look-in (almost literally), courtesy of the stone-mullioned windows dotting the façade, while the Georgians, with their penchant for princely proportions, get a nod in the form of Neoclassical arches and soaring ceilings.
None of this is to say that the recent decorative interventions here aren’t delightful. In fact, despite its contemporary mood, the quietude of the material palette throughout – bare plaster, light-catching zellige tiles, seagrass and sheepskin – combined with the rooms’ soft tonal shifts in pink, grey and stone, complement rather than compete with Underleigh’s historic bones. It’s proof that when it comes to decorating older houses, you can have the best of both worlds.
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