The hall at Ty Isaf as it was when we moved in four and a half years ago. I’d just stripped out the fitted-carpet from the floor, though the stairs remained clad with it for another two years.
Readers to the Artlog will know that for the past two and a half years Peter and I have been slowly but surely getting to grips with the interior of the house. Ty Isaf had lost much of the detailing that characterises a good period residence, and we needed to get some of that back. Because the house had no central heating, carpets had been fitted throughout to make it more comfortable. I’m a man who hates fitted-carpets with a passion… don’t get me going on the dirt that they trap… and though the ones here probably made the place feel marginally less chilly in the winters, they simultaneously muffled sound and rendered Ty Isaf too much like a seaside guest-house. In the hall a green-ish carpet made grey with age, muffled floor and stairs. The overwhelming smell at the front door was of rank wool too many times drenched with rain, Ty Isaf having long ago been stripped of its protecting porch. ( Fitted-carpet is simply not the thing to have at a front door that takes the brunt of the weather and incoming wet and muddy feet.) Mystifyingly the back of the hall had been lined with glazed black and white bathroom tiles, perhaps because it was where wet coats were hung. The beautiful handrail that curves up through the four-storey house had been painted in many dribbly layers of gloss white paint, and many layers of embossed wallpaper had been pasted up in lieu of properly maintaining the delicate lathe and plaster ceilings of the hall and stairway. Another major disfigurement was the massive and largely ineffective night-storage heater that took up so much space and made the thoroughfare uncomfortably narrow. At the rear of the hall you can see the only remaining Georgian door at Ty Isaf, prettily half glazed in the original glass and leading to the servants’ passageway at the back of the house, a place so dark and dank that only spiders and beetles elected to explore it.
These days the ‘servants’ passage’ is much improved, rendered sound and dry by the new central heating and decorated with a jaunty red clay-based paint. Its back wall has been fitted with a dresser rack and the shelves hold our china. To my everlasting relief the fitted-carpet has gone from the house, every last bit of it stripped out and disposed of. The many flights of stairs have been repaired, rubbed-down and finished with a soft, dove-grey Farrow and Ball floor-paint. The hall floor, for too long deadened of any footfall, once again celebrates the massive slate flagstones that had been hidden away for too long. Sound now rings clearly off the hard surfaces of stairs and floorboards, where before there had been nothing but the muffled shuffle of feet on matted fibre. I can now identify people by their approach, something that had been impossible when the stairs were carpeted. I hear the click of Jack’s nails underlying the soft thump of his pads as he tumbles down to breakfast, and the brisk, business-like clatter as Peter descends in a morning rush, suited and shod for the office. Everywhere there is clarity, and I feel as though my ears have been unplugged of wax.
Many hours of work have rendered the staircase handrail gloss-paint free, sanded to fineness and finally stained and French-polished to a rich mahogany gleam.
We discovered that it is made not from pine, as we had thought, but from poplar wood. In the photograph above you can see the restoration work in progress. Those sharp turns of the wood at the landings were extremely difficult to sand and French polish.
We’ve also stripped out the ‘dimple-glass’ from the half-glazed front door, and replaced it with clear. Why would anyone in this house need obscuring glass when there are no passers-by to peer in? Now when I go to open the front door of a morning, I see not dull daylight as though through a fog, but the clear, clean vista of our garden and the valley beyond. The prison door has been thrown wide and the landscape re-admitted. After a long, long silence, Ty Isaf begins to sing again.
Rhys Edwards and his sister Alba arriving at our front door for the garden party two weeks ago.
Good conversation on the stairs at Ty Isaf: Pip and Peter.