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It is often decorative details in a property which create value, bring delight, reveal its history, tell of its status. This is particularly true of refurbishment schemes being domestically re-inhabited. Such details can make the house feel more homely – as if age brings comfort, a sense of security, a presence and perhaps a sense of touching the lives of previous inhabitants.

I recently joined the AECB to visit Arboreal Architecture’s energy efficient refurbishment of a Georgian townhouse in Clapham – shortlisted for the AJ Retrofit Awards 2014 in the Heritage category (click here to link to the shortlist). The process of the refurbishment was touched on in a previous post in its achievement of the Silver Standard in the AECB CarbonLite programme – click here to link to the earlier post.

In this post I’d like to share with you something I thought captured a wonderful ‘moment’ in the house’s (hi)story.

Cornice moulding details

Cornice moulding details

The photo shows part of the cornice in the main entrance hall. Harry Paticas of Arboreal Architecture pointed out only one decorative moulding had been restored of accumulated paint layers. Apart from the challenges of sensitive restoration it struck me the moulding’s pristine restoration is made more jewel-like by the adjacent remaining concealed.

I thought this contrast in treatment brought to life the house’s story: it holds promise of that left covered; it tells of decoration left ‘muffled’ over time – expression gradually lost; it reveals eons of lack of skill and care. If all the detail of the cornice had been restored the overall effect may feel more like living in a museum – patina removed to time warp us to the Georgian era.

This example suggests a full restoration is not always necessary – a partial reveal of detail is as much a window into the past as an accurately re-created setting. Each building has its character, and wisdom of its custodians will decide the appropriate treatment of the time.

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