Restoration expert pays fond homage to post-war panache
DESIGN and restoration expert Anthony Cousins is perhaps better placed than most to tackle his own property refurbishment. Ten years ago he bought a run-down three-bedroom 1948 ex-council property in Mangotsfield, because it was in the area where he grew up, it was solidly built and retained many original features.
But it was in a real mess. Anthony worked on the house for a year and, while friends and family are now used to what lies behind the ordinary front door, the extraordinary sight is a surprise to new visitors – and estate agents – alike.
Now wanting to sell the house, Anthony interviewed 10 different agents before deciding on Connells in Emersons Green.
For sale at £165,000, the house is a homage to the decor, furniture and habits of a post-war generation, right down to the green Berylware crockery and the vegetable patch at the end of the garden, vital until rationing ended in the 1950s.
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Stripping back the layers of paint and paper, Anthony discovered swathes of grey and pink decor in the hall and stairwell, which he says were typical cheap-to-produce post-war colours, with hints of peach and pea green (together!) elsewhere.
In their place are less obtrusive tones of pale cream, buttermilk yellow and the Berylware crockery green, while a painted stepped design used to highlight features like chimney breasts is copied from a period decorating manual.
Anthony scoured car boot sales for light fittings, clocks, ornaments, side tables, books and pictures, while the mirror above the lounge fireplace was rescued from a skip.
Original panelled doors, with their handles and coat hooks all remain, but the old aluminum-framed windows, with only 2mm thick glass, have been replaced with white UPCV.
Bathroom walls are covered with three types of white tiles, lest it should look too new. The suite is white, too, with a black and white chequered floor, which replaced three carpet layers and three more of lino.
And although there's now a central heating system, Anthony often uses the open tiled fireplaces in the lounge and main bedroom.
Easily the most modern room in the house is the kitchen, where the cupboards are painted Berylware green, while the distinct crockery itself is neatly stacked on a high shelf.
In pride of place in the centre of the room is a highly polished, 1960s walnut-topped table that once belonged to Anthony's grandmother.
The bigger, chunkier dining room table has also been passed down through the family, and Anthony can remember it in the "best" room where he grew up, at The Lamb pub in Mangotsfield.
"Just after the war it was desirable to have a best room, and that is what I have tried to create here," he says.
In one corner is a glass-fronted display cabinet and the window sill is crammed with glass bottles dug up on an old dump. With so many ornaments everywhere in this ultra-tidy pad, I find myself thinking that Anthony is either a domestic god (there's not a spec of dust) or else he has a meticulous cleaner!
He is passionate when it comes to attention to detail, which continues outside, where he made an ornate wooden side gate typical of the age of the house. Outside the back door is a lawn surrounded by flowers in beds and pots and two metal posts which would have once held gas lamps, but now support a washing line.
Beyond a hedge, which cuts the garden in two, is a vegetable patch, from where there is a good view of the chimney stack, which Anthony repointed himself and completed with a true-to-the-period "pot".
It's clear that Anthony has put his heart, his soul and his considerable knowledge to work here, and there's no doubt that his next home will receive the same treatment, born out of a life-long love of buildings
He says: "I thought about being an architect, but I was always obsessed with the history of buildings and I wondered whether I wanted to design buildings or to work on existing ones. I chose the latter.
"I will miss this house but I am ready for a new project."
Call Connells at Emersons Green on 0117 956 9555