AdvicePeriod homes

Introduce period features to your home

Live in a modern box that could do with some character? Owner of an old house that has lost its decorative flourishes along the way? Find out how to put the historic (back) into your home.

Sad to say but there was a time when ripping the original features out of old houses was commonplace. Rooms were stripped of architectural detail in pursuit of a streamlined, dust-free modern interior. There’s no need to despair about the indignities visited on your bricks and mortar, though, because it is possible to put some of its original character back. Equally, if you live in a new-build where the developers drew their frill-free line at adding coving to the ceiling, you might want to lavish some of the attention our forebears did on your interiors.

Think mouldings

The dado rail is a moulding that runs horizontally round a room, dividing the lower half of the wall from the upper. It was designed to protect the wall from being knocked by chair backs – and there’s no reason not to add one in for the same purpose these days. However, probably more important is that it provides an opportunity to treat the lower and upper half of a wall differently.

For a contemporary look, don’t paint the dado rail to match the white woodwork elsewhere in the room, creating a stripe that contrasts with your wall colour. Instead, try using a deep shade of paint for the dado rail, below it, and on the skirting board with a paler shade on the wall above.

Image source: Farrow & Ball

Picture rails were used to, er, hang pictures, running horizontally around the room near the top of the wall. You probably don’t want to dangle your favourite artworks from large hooks with the cord visible but reinstating a picture rail can help bring back character. They can work in a more modern property too but you’d probably only want to introduce one if your walls have good height because otherwise the ceiling will feel too low.

Add a ceiling rose

Slightly uneven ceiling somewhere near the middle of the room? It can reveal that your room once featured a ceiling rose. Reinstating this decorative feature can bring back the grandeur to a living space in an older home, as well as helping to put the focus on a fabulous pendant light in a new build. Both traditional patterns and simpler designs are on offer whether from DIY stores or specialist suppliers, so you can complement the age of your home or go sleek.

Image Source: Houzz

Look underfoot

Encaustic tiles were a feature of Victorian and Edwardian hallways and you can strike it rich and find them hiding ripe for restoration beneath more contemporary floorcoverings. If they’re long gone, buy them new or go for reclaimed. As a less expensive option, choose a modern patterned tile with the same look.

Image source: The Vintage Floor Tile Company

Patterned tiles are a practical solution for a hallway whatever the age of your home because they’re hard wearing, easy to clean, and won’t show marks as the family troops in and out. The striking pattern can also make an impact, transforming a hallway that’s been the Cinderella of your interiors.

Fit in a fireplace

If the focus of your room scheme is the big black screen in the corner, adding a fireplace could be just the style remedy you need. You’ll find reclaimed fireplaces to suit, as well as modern reproductions. Make sure you keep the design you choose in proportion to the height of the room – whether you live in a lofty-ceilinged Victorian, a cute cottage, or a somewhere-in-the-middle new home. If your fireplace is going to be more than merely decorative, make sure any fire is fitted by a professional so it’s safe.

Image Source: Pinterest


Restore the windows

Owners of older homes often replace original wood windows with uPVC designs when the sashes start sticking, or they feel the draught. To keep the character, consider instead draught-proofing plus secondary double glazing, or a new double-glazed sash with the look of the old design.

Image source: Houzz

A wooden window is also an option for a newer home when the uPVC designs come to the end of their lifespan, and can mean your house is more in harmony with older homes nearby. Opt for a glazing style and a wooden frame that creates a little historic harmony.

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