Property: Style in suburbia

The long-scorned Thirties semi is finally making converts.

Just as lots of people start off with a strong idea of the sort of partner they are looking for, then fall for someone completely different, so it can happen with a home. The handsome Victorian or Edwardian property has long had plenty of admirers, while the Thirties semi is often ignored or rejected outright.

The determined refrain "I would never go for a Thirties house", is as familiar to many estate agents as "I'm looking for a Victorian terrace with original features".

The perceived shortcomings of the Thirties semi are well documented: they lack the relatively capacious rooms of many of the older period properties, and there is often a small kitchen - and the infamous "box" third bedroom. Louise Woodford, curator of the Geffrye museum in London, says: "The fireplaces could often be hideous, with brown tiles, although you could sometimes get marble or wood ones."

There has also been a little snobbery attached to the Thirties semi. "They were built predominantly for the lower middle classes", says Ms Woodford, and for some buyers they still represent an image of net curtains and suburban tweeness.

John Harrington and his wife Sarah-Jane had been adamant that they would not buy a Thirties house. When their two daughters came along, however, and they were keen for them to attend a particular school, the area in which they needed to find a property was effectively circumscribed.

They focused their search for a new home on 15 nearby streets and found that these were made up entirely of Thirties houses.

John says: "I always said I hated Thirties semis, particularly since I had seen so many that had been butchered. However, when we walked into this one we were extremely surprised at what we saw and were instantly smitten. We just looked at each other and said, `we'll have it'."

Much of the attraction lay in the fact that the house retained many of its original features.

"It had lovely fireplaces with dark wood surrounds, as well as the original picture rails. In the bathroom was a big, free-standing bath, still with its taps that infill from the sides. We must have looked amazed, because the old lady who was selling the house told us not to worry about the existing state of the bathroom - she would make sure that this was all replaced with a new whisper-grey bathroom suite for us. We quickly put a brake on that."

The Harringtons also found that the house had original Art Deco tiling. "All we had to do was to clean up the grout."

In Kent, Annette Stephens and her husband, Ervin, did not see themselves in a Thirties house - but ended up being seduced by one. "We had been looking for a Victorian house but all the ones we looked at were too pricey. We then decided, very half-heartedly, to take a look at a Thirties house in the same area. When we saw it there was instant attraction.

"It was on a secluded corner plot so I didn't have the feeling of living in one long row of Thirties semis, and it had a beautiful, mature garden. It was also built in the chalet style with a long, sloping roof, so the room layout was quite different from that of the typical Thirties semi's room structure."

The Stephenses stripped the floors, the doors, the skirting boards and the window frames. "We deliberately made the house as unfussy as possible."

Like the Harringtons, they now believe that having a rear reception room that fully overlooks the garden gives an edge over their former ideal home - a Victorian terrace with just a narrow stretch down the side of the house to the garden. The Harringtons say: "It also makes it very easy to watch the children."

The Stephenses added a conservatory to the rear reception room, so the French doors and flanking windows lead into another bright room.

Louise Woodford says: "Lighting was deliberately enhanced in Thirties houses, with their curved, suntrap windows, or wide horizontal ones that were meant to let in as much sun as possible."

So will there be a continued trend towards Thirties houses? Bryony Galpin, at the magazine Period House, has noted a burgeoning interest among readers.

She says: "Although the majority of our readership have Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian properties, we also have a many readers who live in Thirties properties. We have run features on Art Deco and on Thirties furniture recently, and we've been surprised at how popular they have been."

Thirties semis are certainly well represented in Britain's housing stock. Louise Woodford says: "They form a very important part of most suburban areas, in all their various forms - from the `Tudorbethan' style to the flat-roofed versions."

As couples are forced to look further afield than the urban centres, where Victorian houses may either be in less salubrious areas or command premium prices, Thirties properties make up a larger percentage of the homes available.

Serge Weinberger, of the north London estate agents Anscombe and Ringland, says: "Given a choice, a particular couple may choose a Victorian over a Thirties semi, but in many locations you are talking only of Thirties properties.

"Some of these areas are readily accessible to the city centre, yet still relatively close to the countryside, and saw big price hikes when prices started taking off.

This has now levelled off," he adds, "and the over-pricing by sellers has been nipped in the bud."

The Geffrye Museum (0171-739 9893)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Windows 3rd Line System Administrator

    £35000 - £39000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifting Equipment Service / Installation Engineer

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Lifting Equipment Service/Ins...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior / Apprentice Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £11000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This financial company offer ma...

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen