Lucky you, you live in an old house. That may not be your first thought… an old house comes with a lot of challenges, but they also come with character and history, which can only be created over time.
Old houses differ between styles and eras, which can be challenging, but there are some general recurring themes; lack of storage, odd spaces that don’t fit with modern life, crooked walls, sloping floors, poor placement of (and not enough) plugs. How do you solve old house problems without embarking on a major renovation project.
Keep tradition alive where you can.
Old houses with original features hold their value, so modernise with caution. Think about ways you can keep the ‘truly’ original features or how you can re-use, for example, if you are removing a fireplace keep the mantel and incorporate it as a shelf or bench. If you are removing a wall with internal doors, re-use the doors on a cupboard or wardrobe. If you’re removing the carpet, re-use it as a rug or hall runner.
Update the small stuff
Handles, light fittings and window furnishings – these details can be modernised and make big impact. I’m a fan of handles and fittings matching the era of an old house, but you can get new versions of old designs that hint at current trends without overriding the historical character. Lush curtains are an instant way to make a home feel new and when well made with good fabric they will stand the test of time.
Embrace the old
Some quirks of an old house can be fun. My favourite is built in shelves, they’re a great spot for creating vignettes of treasured objects. Pelmets are brilliant used as display shelves. Tiny wardrobes provide the opportunity for new furniture that incorporates storage. Leadlight windows bring pattern into a room.
It’s all about balance
Our homes would fall in a crumbling heap eventually if we didn’t maintain and update them. Walls need repainting, floors need polishing, blinds need replacing, light fittings need fixing. When it comes time for an upgrade think about how far you go with your modernisation. For example, if you’re repainting a old house with wooden features you could paint over some and keep other parts woods. If you’re updating lights, find a fitting that is in keeping with the original ‘feeling’ of the old house. Or perhaps it’s time to harp back to tradition and replace something ‘out of place’ modern with a salvaged original fixture
Employ diversion theory
When all else fails and you simply have something ugly that cannot be replaced or moved without major renovation, find a way to divert the eye away. A rug or new piece of furniture will divert the eye from old floors. Plants can divert the eye from built in features, we are naturally drawn to living things so place a plant in your preferred line of sight to lure the eye away.
We can’t bring heritage back from landfill so embrace your old house and the features that make it unique.
Kate Alexander is the owner of interior styling business – Places & Graces. You can find more tips and tricks on her blog and in her book – Finishing Touches, how to find grace in your place.
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