Interior features and finishes

Villas were typically finished with timber lining or wallpaper, and a range of machined timber mouldings.

The main rooms in villas commonly had a ceiling height of 10–12’ (3–3.6 m), and one floor dimension of 12’ (3.6 m).

Typical features included a timbered ceiling with a central rose for the single gas or electric light, walls with wallpaper on scrim over sarking or match lining, a picture rail at approximately 8’ (2.4 m), and a decorative frieze used above the picture rail with a plainer paper beneath. 

The interiors of windows were generally painted, while a varnish or shellac finish was used on skirtings, the picture rail, doors and frames, cornice and often the ceiling.

Living areas typically had a fireplace, often with a cast iron register for burning coal or coke, set within a tiled or timber-panelled surround of kauri or rimu.

Internal linings

Original details

Interior walls were typically lined with timber, overlaid with scrim and wallpaper in living areas. Read more.


One of the challenges of villa renovation is to incorporate plasterboard linings without removing the interior skirtings and architraves. Read more.

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Original villas had single-glazed sash windows. Many will require attention to improve airtightness and insulation. Read more.

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Doors and other joinery

Villas typically had panelled timber doors and a wide range of machined timber joinery for skirtings and architraves, cornices, window facings and so on. Read more.

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Bathroom fittings

Baths became common from about the 1890s and plumbed-in toilets from about 1910. Read more.

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Electrical switches and outlets

Original villas commonly had electrical fittings of ceramic and brass. Read more.

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Common problems and remedies

Walls out of plumb or corners out of square

Some villa walls may be out of plumb or the corners may not be square. Read more.

Matching new mouldings and glazing to original

Skirtings, architraves and other mouldings are not made in imperial dimensions, making it difficult to get an exact match for original mouldings. Matching original glazing is also difficult. There are several ways to deal with these problems. Read more.


Building movement can cause cracking in plaster ceilings. Read more.


In some villas, borer marks may be visible in finishing timbers such as flooring. Read more.