Restoration Stories

Restoration Stories

Patina and Paint in Old London Houses

An informed and delightful visual record of London houses that become rarer and more precious by the day

A paean to the passage of time in old London domestic interiors.

What is it about old pine panelling layered with flaking paint that enchants the eye and tugs at the heart? The soft shine of wooden boards, worn and gappy. Sunlight shafting through an open door out to an unevenly flagged yard where a clay pipe might turn up alongside a Thames oyster shell or a pottery shard. Blue-and-and white export ware; the molten lustre of mahogany or worn silver; the curiosity of tricorn hat boxes or a fragment of Spitalfields silk; portraits whose owners might once have lived here. Would they have believed that these houses would stand 250 years later?

Time has imbued all these things with unforgettable patina − not only in museums, but even more in old Georgian houses still lived in and loved, repaired, and regenerated. Like pearls, warmed to lustre by the daily caress of a hand or foot.

The majority of these extraordinary dwellings began as ordinary terrace houses, built to a pattern, often in pairs or small groups. Clusters exist in the East End of London: in Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Shadwell, Mile End. They are mostly Grade II-listed, and their owners put up with the bone-curdling cold of winter howling through gaps, with mending and colour-matching, patching and piecing. Not just put up with − they embrace it. And among them are some unrepentantly furnished with 20th- and 21st-century modern, finding poetic harmony across the centuries.

Philippa Stockley is an award-winning journalist renowned for her writing on London architecture and interiors, and a critically acclaimed novelist whose latest novel, Black Lily (Pimpernel Fiction) is set in seventeenth-century London. Stockley holds MAs in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and in English from Oxford University.

Charlie Hopkinson is an award-winning photographer of interiors, gardens and portraits, whose latest book, Head Gardeners, also for Pimpernel, won the Garden Media Guild’s Inspirational Book of the Year award (2017).

"This atmospheric book shows the virtues of patient and thoughtful conservation. It is one to recommend to anyone who wants their listed building consent now and the project finished tomorrow. It might just open their eyes to a slower form of conservation and the benefits of a light hand."

Context 164 - The Journal of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation

"A celebration of the poetry of decay and the practical responsibilities of looking after period buildings. Charlie Hopkinson’s pictures are a joy; the writing is equally captivating."

Sunday Times Best Design Books of 2019

"A romp through 16 of London's loveliest Georgian dwellings. It reminds us of our duty to protect historic interiors and may leave you craving a renovation project."

House & Garden

"Will be on all the smart coffee tables this Christmas."

The Times

"Seduces on so many levels, most immediately through its photography page after page of serene interiors interspersed with close-ups....Yet this is not solely a picture book. [Stockley's] relaxed text combines a portrait of each house and its owners with local history, practical information and decorative tips...and she's a fount of knowledge on the quirks and tricks, as well as the economic and health-giving benefits of inhabiting a little-altered Regency dwelling that was once a wreck."

Country Life Mary Miers

"The Georgian period has many admirers for whom it represents the acme of taste and this beautifully produced book, lavishly illustrated with first-class photographs, will provide them with a rich voyeuristic treat."

The Cultural Voyager

"An exquisite celebration of period patina."

Sunday Times

"It would be easy to be seduced into thinking that this is a decorative coffee-table book for occasional browsing, but that would be a mistake...If you, or someone you know, is about to embark on a project to bring life back to an old house, especially a Georgian one, this book is the perfect's also an excellent git for anyone who likes to snoop behind closed doors."

The Georgian Society magazine