Period property interiors: Tips on bringing new life into old homes

Period interiors should reflect the demands of modern life while staying true to the building's integrity.

Period interiors should reflect the demands of modern life while staying true to the building's integrity. - Credit: English Listed

Found that perfect period property, but not sure how to make it liveable and stylish? Catherine Turner, an interior designer at The English Listed in St Ives, offers advice on how to create beautiful modern interiors for your olden-day home.

What are some of the key considerations when designing the interiors of a period home?  
The layout of the home of yesteryear was intended for a very different lifestyle to how we live today. The most vital thing for us to determine is how our clients aspire to live in their home, while designing an interior that is relevant and suitable for the demands of modern life.

Does the original series of small rooms work, for example, or would a larger, more open-plan configuration provide a better way of living? At the same time, how to retain the original integrity of the building while making a contemporary intervention underlies this thinking.

It’s particularly important also to plan, plan, plan for every eventuality when designing the interior of a period property, as one never knows what might be uncovered, potentially adding time and budget to the project.

Integrity of materials and traditional building techniques are also an important factor, while having an understanding that both have improved significantly over time, and we’re also very mindful of making draughty old houses as energy efficient as possible.

Of course, if your house is listed, you will likely be required to seek Listed Building Consent to make most changes.

The addition of Critall-style French doors and a reclaimed brick floor bring authenticity to this Georgian townhouse.

The addition of Critall-style French doors and a reclaimed brick floor bring authenticity to this Georgian townhouse. - Credit: English Listed

What is your starting point for a period property’s interiors scheme?  
The historic ‘bare bones’ of the building itself will always inform the interior for us. Look for ways to incorporate these elements in order to preserve its character and originality and look to give them an important role in the interior. 


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Whether it’s the oak frame of a cottage, a Victorian tiled hallway or intricate cornicing in a country house, this is the DNA of the building and something to make a feature of.  

This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything should be kept, but it is about making careful decisions about what is important, and then treating it in the right way. 


How can you bring in contemporary design elements?    
Often the simplicity of contemporary interiors serves to enhance the period features of an interior space, so a Scandi-modern sofa will look wonderful alongside a panelled wall or contemporary lighting in front of an exposed reclaimed brick wall. 


Are there any common interiors issues for period homes?  
Invariably, nothing is perfectly aligned, which can prove challenging when trying to lay a floor or fit cabinetry, and is another reason why great care has to be taken in planning period interiors!


Are there any particular colour schemes that work well?  
We tend to favour more muted, soft and chalky colours which sit beautifully alongside natural materials such wood and stone. We also like to inject more striking, rich colours as a counterpoint and often use inky blue-blacks and heritage greens and pinks.  

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A favourite tip of ours is to choose a limited colour palette for a zone or even a whole house, with a light, mid and slightly deeper shade of the same colour. The ceiling will be the lightest shade, the woodwork such as picture rails, architraves and skirting boards will be in the mid and the walls in the deepest shade.

Sometimes, if a room is lacking interesting period details, we might introduce some panelling or a tongue and groove detail to a wall to bring another level of detail to the room, and again these will be picked out in a lighter tone to enhance these features.

Scuffed brass taps, an elegant console basin and a tiled herringbone floor give timeless style to this en suite bathroom in a Victorian home.

Scuffed brass taps, an elegant console basin and a tiled herringbone floor give timeless style to this en suite bathroom in a Victorian home. - Credit: English Listed

Do you lean on any particular textures, materials or patterns for period properties?    
We create a palette of materials within a house to help provide continuity between the different spaces. For example, we might choose polished nickel, limed oak and a natural grey limestone as a palette and run this throughout for a well-considered, harmonious look.

Small details layered on top of this will really bring the scheme together, including door and cabinet ironmongery, worktops, and the brassware in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Period homes often don’t have perfect floors, or even ones that can be restored with a satisfying result, so we recommend high quality wooden floors or natural stone for hallways, kitchens and bathroom, particularly if you are introducing underfloor heating.


englishlisted.com

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