FROM THE GROUND UP
The inimitable Stephen Bull. The house next door was Charlie Chaplin's birthplace.
Stephen repairs, restores and revivifies old buildings, especially Georgian houses, using traditional materials and methods. Close grain larch, lime plaster with horsehair mixed in, shallow dense flat bricks, he gathers what he can from the buildings themselves, and scrupulously sources what he can't.
Stephen trained and worked as a graphic designer - we were working for the same company, publisher Mitchell Beazley, just a year or two apart. But his love of fastidiousness gradually found another outlet. I visited his latest restoration in Kennington.
Minerva. Original. Stephen borrowed the dots ringing her for the cornice design.
Subsidence is so severe, they have had to 'drop' the floor by 20cms.
You can the tilt in the stairs, corrected in the floor above.
The tilt of the house showing in the structural beams.
A clever exercise using a single length of pole (instead of expensive lasers) to measure the extent of tilt in the beams. Each piece of paper drops to exactly the same level.
The entire house rests on this half-brick. But it has for about 200 years...
Lovely wooden shutters. The men who did the woodwork on houses in the eighteenth century were often the same men building boats.
The reconstituted coving or cornice (to give it its classical name) has been cast on site.
Stephen showing how he designed the cornice from acanthus leaves, with a Prince of Wales feather at every end ... in reference to the palace of one of the Prince's of Wales only metres away.
Wooden cornice on top of the "dado", the lower level wooden panelling.
Dado. Floorboard carefully cut to same width as originals, in Siberian pine, to match the fine grain of eighteenth century pine ... the weather was far colder in the 1700s and trees grow more slowly in cold conditions with tighter rings, makes for stronger wood.
Original wallpaper. Sourced from a scrap. Being reprinted. (Too busy for my liking.)
Highly decorative cornice plus wallpaper.
Original fireplace bought on Ebay.
Verdant gardens, full of palms, roses, bay trees.
Investigating the consistency of the lime plaster.
Unlovely Kennington Road.
Georgian bricks. Far flatter and denser than "London bricks". (That is how one half of one can hold up an entire house!)
Stephen, some kind of self-made historian, architect, builder, house physician, shaman.
Original paint colours. (Yuk.)
Light streams in. Giant windows everywhere, far brighter than a modern house.
The house in question.
Sneezing lime plaster dust.