A Silber & Fleming (probable) Restoration
by Wendy Gater
I saw this house whilst looking through eBay items one day, it caught my eye immediately. It had a familiar look to me but I couldn't work out what it was. I found the off centre front door very interesting, it clearly was a box back house. The dark red paint to the back and sides are colours you would expect on this type of house dating from around late 1800's to early 1900's. The house has a Hamley's Toy Store label on the back.
I put in my bid and waited, I was delighted to win the house, although the seller lived a long way from me they were visiting London in the next few days, so we arranged to meet in Surrey, on route of their journey. I collected the house early on a Saturday morning, the house also came with a table (can be seen in picture above) which has a picture of a Beefeater on it, quite unusual.
I asked the sellers if they knew any history of the house, a question I always ask. They had bought the house at auction a week earlier and knew nothing of the house's past.
I got the house home and immediately had a small pick at the paint work and wallpaper, I could see the original creamy yellow colour underneath the heavily overpainted yellow gloss paint. The familiar old chalky powdery paint finish found on these very old houses.
I mentioned to one of my friends that I had bought the house from eBay and she told me about a similar house that was a three storey version (minus the bay windows) that had sold recently at one of the auction houses, the house was described as a "probable Silber & Fleming". This other house looked to be in original condition inside and out so it gave me a good indication about the probable details of my house.
I have restored a few houses to date but I am not an expert or professional Dolls House Restorer.
The restoration begins...
I was keen to see if the original brick detail would still be present on the house so very carefully I started picking off one layer of added brick paper only to find another layer of added brick paper. I removed these two layers and was pleased to find the original brick detail in very good condition considering its redecoration and age.
There was a layer of grey coloured paint over the tops of the upstairs windows which I had to carefully remove, only one small piece was damaged (photo on left above). I then started to remove the overcoated paint from the rest of the house, this was an extremely slow and laborious task! This had to be done by just chipping and scraping at the added paint.
There was evidence all over the house of the original paintwork, the creamy yellow paint. There were traces of green paint on the front door.
The house appears to have had bay windows originally, there is no added wood to the main opening front door indicating that there may have been two smaller windows in place of the one bay, so the pillar unusually resting on the top of the bay would be an original feature.
From my stripping of paint I did find old paint on the bay windows there was a residue of an olive type shade of green over the creamy yellow layer of paint which is a typical Silber & Fleming colour but I had strong doubts as to whether it was original or not.
The pictures above on the left shows the main opening house door one side has been cleared of added paint and one hasn't. The side that has been worked on shows the original paint revealed.
The picture to the right shows before and after stripping: note the front door frame.
The bright blue paint on the stairs was very hard to remove, a lot of it had been added onto bare unprimed wood, the original undercoat and original creamy yellow paint can be seen in the above pictures in places.
The back and sides of the house are painted in a bright red gloss paint, I have had a pick and scrape and there is a lighter red underneath, it could be the undercoat but possibly the original paint, I have for now decided to leave this as it is.
The house has the Hamleys label on the back of the house, as can be seen in the above picture on the right.
The house, stripped of added paint (apart from the front door)
The house is now starting to look more like it would have done originally. The base has also had the added green paint now removed.
The inside still has its original fireplaces with metal inserts that are fixed. My first job was to remove the carpets, this was by no means an easy task. The carpets had been very heavily glued to the wooden floors, I tried a hairdryer to apply heat to the glue, this helped a little.
Eventually I was able to remove the carpets but a large amount of glue was left behind, this I had to chip off with a wood scrapper. I decided to stain the floors as the bottom room on the right hand side had been stained previously but now was left very patchy after the carpet removal.
The next step was to see what was under the added wallpaper, using a fine mist water spray I started to pick the wallpaper off with my fingers ( best way I find). The top picture above shows the bottom right hand side room. There was some blue paint? down a strip of the back wall and two tiny pieces of old paper, two different patterned papers, green in colour mainly. These fragments were so tiny I couldn't get a picture of them with my camera.
In the upstairs left hand side room (middle picture above) I could see the blue colour again along the bottom of two of the walls, it has been hard to work out if this is paint or wallpaper residue. I have another Silber & Fleming house with original wallpapers and in parts the paper appears to have gone but the print of the wallpaper is on the wood. Also in this room there is a green patterned paper showing, I would guess that this paper dates to 1920/30's?
I decided to leave the wallpaper now present on the inside of the main opening door and the upstairs right hand side room, the wallpapers appear to have some age to them and from stripping the other two rooms this gave me a good indication that the underneath would be in the same condition as the other rooms.
I then added original antique/vintage wallpapers that came from K T Miniatures. I left the kitchen yellow paint on the walls as this also looked a little grubby so fitted in well. The kitchen floor had a thick red gloss layer of paint, I decided against removing this as there was unlikely to be any original features underneath left ie. floor paper, I added a reproduced vintage paper.
I ordered some match pot paints (water based) from Farrow & Ball Paint suppliers, who do an excellent range of colours and finishes, fitting for these old houses. This was a tip given by our member Yvonne (tips can be found on the website heading "Restoration Tips"). I also used the tip from Celia Thomas, using very watered down acrylic "burnt Umber" to give paint an "aged affect" (used on kitchen walls).
I used the paint very sparingly and added a lot of water, I did not want the house to be totally recovered in new added paint and look like a fresh newly painted house. I added the new paint to areas where the original was no longer present.
The finished result was a patchy paint effect which gives the house an aged look.
The front door which I had scraped back was also given a watered down coat of green paint as I had found traces of the original green paint. I left the door furniture, a metal decorative piece and what appears to be a bone door knob.
I measured the windows to get the correct sizes I would require to fit the glass. Once I had collected the glass I set about fixing it in place.
I used panel pins to hold the glass in place and as an added measure I also used glue. Fitting the bay windows was particularly tricky but I had ensured I measured the glass correctly before ordering.
I added carpets/rugs, fireplace mantel trimmings and lace curtains to the windows.
House Restoration Complete
The house was now complete, just awaiting furniture and a new family to move in.
This house has taken me many hours to restore, I have enjoyed the most part of it but these restorations do command a lot of time.