You’re planning your next great novel. You know the setting and the time frame it’s going to take place in but what about where your characters live? Do you plan their house, flat, or even stately home based on yours, your friends’ or places you’ve visited?
If you’re stuck and you have something in your mind’s eye but it’s not quite coming together as you had hoped it would, why not go online and search the real estate agents’ websites? There is no shortage of choice out there – from price, to location, to size of house.
For UK properties, I like to use Strutt & Parker, Savills, and CKD Galbraith. These sites allow you to download a brochure (sometimes called a schedule) in .pdf format that you can save to your computer for handy future reference.
When I wrote my debut novel, I had the house to begin with. I fell in love with the ruins of Wardhouse Mansion on my first trip to Scotland in 1993. But with it being a ruin, how had it been laid out? What was the staircase like? What about the lighting fixtures and furniture?
I began a dutiful search at the estate agents’ sites and luckily found a mansion that was built about the same time, and looked similar in design. That laid the ground work for a floor plan for Wardhouse (Weetshill mansion in my novel). While I didn’t follow the plan I found online strictly to the letter, I did use it and blend it with how I imagined the mansion would have been laid out.
Period properties, time settings need the right furniture, too. I used www.sellingantiques.co.uk to find the furniture, fixtures, and even an engagement ring! The portion of my novel that took place at Weetshill mansion was in the Victorian era – 1886 to be exact, so when I went looking for these items I had to bear in mind that I could have nothing newer than that year. For the most part, I chose furniture and fixtures from about the mid-1800s to be on the safe side.
I keep all of my research for my projects in three-ring binders. While they may take up more space, everything that I printed from the websites is there. It’s all well and good to save the links to the treasures you’ve found online but after an item is sold, the link to it is taken down. If you’ve taken the time to print it right from the beginning, you’ll have it at your fingertips when you need it and won’t have to searching again.
Another fun thing was placing the furniture in the individual rooms in Weetshill mansion. For that I used a program called Sweet Home 3D. This software lets you design your house and place the furniture in it afterwards, put drapes on the windows, add fireplaces, and when you have everything placed where you want it, you can view it in 3D.
Between that and my pages of antiques (photos and descriptions) in my binder organized by room, if I needed a quick refresher as to how a room was laid out and what furniture and accessories were in it, I pulled down my binder and went to the room I wanted.
If you’re a visual person and the location and time setting of your novel aren’t local to you, using these websites and software can be extremely useful.
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