Tony Pell of the Wood Window Alliance and Sarah Latham, founder of interior design agency Etons of Bath, look at the resurgent trend for period features in homes, and the key importance of windows

ith our fixation on the future and our need to always be at the cutting edge and seek the latest innovation, it is perhaps easy to lose sight of our past. Our heritage can seem immaterial to some, but in fact our history is a key factor that helps to provide our buildings’ identity. Thanks to a myriad of factors, both cultural and economic, properties with period features are experiencing a resurgence in sales. But while this trend for ‘period’ is undoubtedly positive, it brings to the fore the challenge of how to rectify the commonly-held misconception that you must compromise aesthetics or historical accuracy for practical functionality. Nowhere is this more relevant than windows. Inextricably linked to the architectural style of a house, windows define character. But too often, a misplaced and outdated fear of draughty wood windows, soaring energy bills and high maintenance requirements has left elegant properties scarred with starkly out of place windows.


In a time of uncertainty, people tend to look to the past for familiar comfort, a sense of belonging and a solid foundation, and nowhere is this more tangible than in period architecture. According to Savills, period features make historic houses some of the most sought-after on the market. With the rise of period TV dramas such as


Downton Abbey and a flourishing trend for vintage, heritage clearly has both economic and emotional value.


The heritage movement is emerging from a volatile political world. A lot has changed in the last year and that’s feeding into the trend for vintage and period features – within properties, people are looking back to the past. Whether they’re lusting over the fabrics and fireplaces in Downton Abbey or are inspired by projects on The Restoration Man, period homes and interiors are being championed. They have a stamp of individuality, often the result of the touch of a local craftsman, or locally- sourced materials. People are looking for a ‘project’, whether that’s taking on the renovation of an old property or installing period features, seeking out homes and products in order to cherish and preserve the history that comes with them. This ongoing gentrification, known as ‘Heritage Gain’, will see the ripping out of features once considered to be ‘improvements’ and the reinstatement of traditional features such as old fireplaces, timber framed windows, original floorboards and ornate cornicing.

PROTECTING THE ‘PERIOD PREMIUM’ Of course while the majority of self-builders are building their home to live in themselves, its value is still an

important factor. Period architecture not only boosts the value of a house but makes it easier to sell, too. The desire for heritage means that people are willing to pay an average 11 per cent more for a house with well-maintained period features. The ‘period premium’ suggests that, in the eyes of a buyer, heritage trumps all other practical considerations. Some years ago, English Heritage warned of a “plague of plastic on England’s houses” and said that unsympathetic windows and doors were the single biggest threat to property values.

Many homeowners still compromise aesthetics for functionality, often unaware of the technological advances in timber window frames which make this compromise redundant. Wood windows are far more energy efficient than people realise, as they can now be double or triple glazed. Switch the more modern PVCu windows for more authentic looking alternatives full of character. Think reclaimed or replica wood casements,

march/april 2018

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