Your chateau

Restoration Project: How to Restore Old Photographs

When Sarah from @ahouseacrossthestreet embarked on her bathroom renovation, she stumbled upon some vintage treasures and decided to restore them back to their original beauty.

Last year we began renovating our Victorian Terrace house in Newcastle and one of the first jobs we did was to rip out the toilet on the landing. When I got home from work one day the builders showed me what they had come across when removing some panelling. They said they decided they’d better not carry on ripping out the wall until I’d seen it because they ‘knew what I was like!’ Anything original or old I always wanted to save…or at least have a proper look at.

I was faced with a crumbling wall but stuck on to that wall was the most beautiful vintage newspaper! Thrifty people in the olden days would stick pictures from newspapers on their walls as a DIY interior project. The ones we uncovered are from a colour supplement to the ‘Pictorial World’ on April 16th 1885. The same year the house was built. From that moment on, I knew I had to restore these portraits to their former glory.

I asked our plasterer how I could salvage the pictures and get them off intact, he suggested I use PVA glue. Then my aunty who is a huge Escape to The Chateau fan had a brain wave and suggested I email Angel for some restoration advice - never in a million years thinking she’d reply…and she did!

“Wow, amazing pictures! I don’t know about removing them but yes, if you need to then PVA is probably the best bet…I would probably leave them where they are (we have done this with some wallpaper in the Chateau), buy a sheet of perspex to cover them and then put some beading around the edge to make a frame…let me know what you decide to do!”

- Angel Strawbridge

Angel’s reply made me even more excited so I decided to jump into the project head first and give it a go. Here’s what I did…


DIY Steamer

Unfortunately, leaving them where they were wasn’t an option as that wall was part of the landing being reconfigured… so I had a go at taking them off. The PVA glue didn’t work so I attempted a DIY steamer job. I didn’t have time to get my hands on a proper steamer so I placed a bowl of boiling water on the floor under the pictures. I had to refill the water a couple of times and gradually the steam loosened the pictures.


Removing the pictures with a gentle touch

Lord Wolseley and Alexander 3rd (or as we call them ‘the lads’) had only been attached to the wall at the edges of the sheet so with a bit of care I was able to very gently peel them off. It took quite a while and the paper was so fragile, it was like rice paper, that it crumbled very easily and was breaking off in my hands. It was also very dirty and dusty!


Clean up with a little TLC

Once I got the pictures off the wall I gently cleaned the muck off round the edges and then lightly wiped them with a damp piece of kitchen roll. Next, I trimmed away the damaged edges using a stanley knife and a ruler, using scissors wasn’t an option as the paper was so fragile so it was important that I was extra careful. Luckily, they turned out really well and I managed not to add to the current damage!


Time to Frame

To give the pictures the respect they deserve I decided to frame them in some simple black frames which I picked up from Habitat. They now sit proudly on my book case in the nook where the toilet used to, in the original spot where the photos were first discovered. I’m so pleased I managed to restore them and give them a new lease of life.

Don’t forget, you can also join the Escape to The Chateau Fan Club on Facebook and join a community of like-minded creative people who love to share their craft and DIY projects. So, if you’ve recently completed a project that you’re proud of, be sure to share it on there…we’d all love to see it!