Recently I moved into a classic villa with a symmetrical front like a child’s drawing – door in the middle and windows either side. The windows are original and as expected, the sash cords are non existent – I need to use wood offcuts as props in order to keep them open. The central hall is a delight. I can spread my arms out wide and touch each side with my fingertips – a luxury of space. It lends a formal air to what is essentially a working class cottage, and entices you on to the rest of the house. Each room is probably quite small, but the lofty ceiling height creates a sense of scale. When people visit, the first thing they do is look up – I can understand now why ceiling roses and cornices were used to add another layer of decoration. The kitchen and bathroom are quite tragic, but the wonderful thing about villas are their adaptability – they are quite simple boxes that can accommodate endless makeovers.
Christchurch City Libraries have a new book in their collection called Villa by Patrick Reynolds (photography) and Jeremy Hansen/Jeremy Salmond (text). It is a coffee table book that could almost serve as a table in its own right. Often I’ll skim over the introduction in these type of photo heavy books in order to get to the pretty pictures quicker, but this one is definately worth reading. It explains simply why people have a fascination with and fondness for these old houses. It has home truths (yes, they’re old and cold and don’t usually get a lot of sun), but also exhalts in their simple beauty and the reasons why they continue to be loved (they are usually close to the city centre, are of enduring construction that can be brought back from the brink of death, remind us of simpler times). Most of all, the book reinforced my instinct upon first viewing my property – it looked and felt like a home not a house, and what could be better than that to retreat to at the end of a working day?