9 great ways to mix old and new – lessons in style from a converted Victorian school

A striking architectural kitchen addition and reinstated period details look equally at home in this former school

kitchen with vaulted ceiling and steel framed windows and doors gray cabinets and white worktops and flooring
(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

This mid-Victorian home has lived through many changes and had multiple identities over the course of its 170-year-history. It started life as two symmetrical houses, which were then knocked together to turn it into a boarding school, before eventually being turned into four separate apartments.

Now back in one piece and fully restored, it is one of the world's best homes. The period details have been reinstated throughout and a striking and contemporary open-plan kitchen extension has been built at the back of the house, referencing the original building's Gothic Victorian architecture. 

The extended seven-bedroom house is the family home of interior designer Mairead Holland, co-owner of Wild Hearts Wonder (opens in new tab), a fabric and wallcovering company. Naturally the new interiors showcase some of the company's latest wallpaper and textile designs, but Mairead also refreshed the key features of the original building, reinstating feature fireplaces, wall paneling, sash windows and doors. 

This is one old school that still has plenty to teach us about blending the best of old and new to create a stylish and comfortable home. 

1. Contemporary kitchen addition

gray kitchen units and white worktops and flooring with steel framed windows

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Once the renovation of the home's original features was underway, attention turned to the contemporary kitchen and family space planned for the back of the house, extending out beyond the original footprint. The far wall was to be mainly steel-framed doors and windows, with an atrium-like design to mirror the Gothic Victorian pitch of the original house style.

Kitchen ideas for the finished space include a generous run of cabinetry and fittings with an enormous island to create a bold focal point, zoning this working area from the rest of the family space. The palette of smart gray units and soft plaster-pink walls adds to the contemporary feel of the space. 

2. Relaxed open-plan family living

white sofa in open plan kitchen with steel framed windows and vaulted ceiling and gray kitchen cabinets behind

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

If you're looking for family living room ideas, there's plenty to inspire in this open-plan space. The living-kitchen-diner takes multitasking to a whole new level, with this cozy and relaxed seating space, within sight of the kitchen-diner, so that the whole family can gather together. 

3. Salvaged bricks for a new look

exposed brick wall in kitchen diner with old farmhouse table and chapel style wooden chairs and white bookcase

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

How about this characterful set-up for a breakfast nook within the new open-plan extension? Eat-in kitchen ideas here include salvaging the bricks from home's back wall, dismantled when the new kitchen was built, and repurposing them here. The bricks have been left exposed to create a warm textural focal point to the dining area. The table and chairs are antiques, with a patina that complements that of the old bricks. 

4. Traditional living room style

living room with dark gray sofa and leather ottoman with blue painted walls panelling and period cast iron fireplace and wooden floor

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Living room ideas bring a shift in mood and style in the original Victorian part of the home. Although the fireplace and paneling are replacements, and not original to the house, they are in keeping with the period and give the main living room a more traditional look. Just seen, the paneling around the original staircase had been hidden under layers of false cladding and was used as a reference for paneling introduced in some of the other rooms. 

5. Formal dining room mixes old and new

dining room with pale wood table and gray chairs with copper pendant light and period fireplace beyond and cream walls

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Since, as we've seen, there's already a good-size informal dining space in the kitchen,  dining room ideas for this separate entertaining space needed to mark the difference. The traditional-style wainscotting instantly creates a more formal look, similarly the period fireplace sourced from a reclamation yard.  

A pale wood table by Matthew Hilton, paired with gray upholstered chairs, bridges the style divide between the contemporary kitchen and the more traditional looks in the older parts of the home. Sadly, the original dining room floor wasn’t salvageable, so has been replaced with new parquet oak flooring. The statement brass pendant lights are from Tom Dixon. 

6. On-trend bedroom inspirations

bedroom with dark gray wallpaper and rattan bedhead

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Bedroom ideas for the guest bedroom began with a wallpaper design from Mairead's company. An on-trend bamboo fan headboard adds to the exotic look. 

7. Classic calm for the primary bedroom

bedroom with cream walls and gray headboard with picture ablove

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Softer, neutral colors turn the primary bedroom into a calm sanctuary, with a minimal clutter-free look that is both restful and spacious. 

8. Bathroom with vintage appeal

attic bathroom with blue walls and freestanding white tub large mirror and statement chair

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

The family bathroom is tucked under the eaves. Bathroom ideas include paneled walls painted in a gray blue shade, and a freestanding bath. The vintage chair is upholstered in Wildcats fabric from Wild Hearts Wonder. 

9. Old and new architectural references 

exterior of modern extension with steel framed windows

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

The new kitchen extension's dramatic soaring roofline nods at the home’s original Gothic architecture. The Victorian part of the house (below) was once a boarding school. 

exterior of Victorian home with bay windows and pointed gabled roof

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Photographs: Richard Gadsby (opens in new tab)
Original feature: Sharon Parsons

Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.