Bring your period living room sensitively into the 21st century with these simple-yet-effective design tricks
If you own a period property, you’re probably keen to preserve its characterful and historic qualities – but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own 21st century stamp on your space. After all, it’s the mix of old and new that makes a space interesting.
From thoughtful colour punches, to quirky lighting, there are plenty of ways to give your period home a boost without sacrificing your favourite features – such as sash windows or traditional fireplaces – in fact, these contemporary decorating updates might just show them off even more!
Bring in bold hues
Colours play a huge role in not only making your house a home but honing its style and atmosphere. While many period homes embraced rich tones, it can be tempting to stick to neutral tones that add light and space (such as timeless, subtle grey tones). This then provides the opportunity to inject personality via bold jewel tones on your upholstery, window treatments and accessories, such as the accents of green and yellow shown here.
Pattern play. Tap into the spirit of the era by layering modern patterns. Team period features such as this ornate marble fire surround with a retro-print sofa, geometric rug or boldly-striped throw.
Keep it white
On the other side of the scale, a bright white scheme can have great modern impact in a period property. Layer walls, floors, paintwork and original features with nothing but white (you can vary the shades and textures if you want to soften the effect).
To add definition, introduce black accents. In this scheme, period features, such as the fire surround, antique light fitting and ensuite bathroom plumbing, are updated in matt black to dramatic effect.
Introduce a statement wallpaper
Wallpaper in ‘Green Sanctuary’ by Mind the Gap
Wallpaper is an easy way to elevate a room. It occupies prime real estate and offers instant texture, colour, and pattern – and for a period property, it’s a vibrant and clever way to add a contemporary twist.
With so many designs out there, the possibilities are endless. Moody oversized floral designs will add period drama the modern way, while Chinoiserie patterns are having a blossoming moment right now. For kitchens and living spaces, botanical, leafy wallpaper designs bring vitality and warm, shimmering florals can be soothing and uplifting in the bedroom.
Colour clash. For extra punch, team vibrant colours from opposite ends of the colour spectrum, such as this combo of rich yellow floral wallpaper and teal blue painted joinery and headboard, upholstered in luxe velvet.
Opt for black fittings
Black taps, shower heads and frames look fresh, edgy and different and are a great way to refresh even the simplest of bathrooms.
Upper wall painted in ‘Mayfair Dark’ by Mylands
Tile talk. If you’re in love with traditional tiles in the bathroom but want to give your room a more modern feel, choose dark grouting to emphasise the lines and modernise the look. You could also bring tiles to half height and paint a rich inky tone for a neat look with contemporary contrast.
In this bathroom in Kensington, elegant stone tiles are paired with a rich tone in blue for an understated but beautiful scheme, with a classic dado to nod to the home’s period heritage.
…or brass fittings
The warmth of brass marries perfectly with a natural palette and other earthy elements such as timber and stone, and will give your space a welcoming and homey feel.
Like other metals, brass can come in various physical finishes that give the metal a different appearance depending on what style you’re going for. The most common variations (for less or more shine) are brushed, matt and polished, as well as faux-ageing for an antiqued look.
Marvelous marble. Marble has long been seen as the ultimate indulgence material in a bathroom or kitchen, adding interest and a sense of glamour to the space. For real impact, introduce flashes of the material to get the look without busting the budget. Here, marble adds stunning natural artwork as a kitchen splashback and bathroom wet zone.
Add quirky lighting
Why choose a vintage chandelier or a traditional wall sconce in a Victorian home when there are so many modern-day alternatives to put an altogether different slant on things?
Big lighting fixtures are great in the tall ceilings in period houses and can provide an excellent focal point for a room. In this kitchen in Queen’s Park, a group of large cage pendant lampshades create an industrial-style feature that zones the cooking zone in an open-plan space.
Space saver: If space is at a premium in the bedroom, opt for wall lamps instead of bedside lamps to keep the top of the bedside table free – it’ll also add wonderful symmetry.
Bedroom wallpaper in ‘Nuvolette’ by Cole & Son
Try bright encaustics
Celebrate the playful pattern of 19th century geometric and encaustic tiles, but with a modern twist, by choosing punchy shades and modern shapes. This is a great way to showcase your home’s history, whether you’re having to part-restore flooring or add a new nod to its heritage.
Powder panache. In smaller schemes, making a feature of your floor can add interest without impacting the sense of space. In this listed townhouse in Kensington, the owners chose to use a traditional patterned tile in a vibrant and contemporary palette of greens, oranges and blues, which stands out proudly all the more thanks to the mint green pale backdrop.
Hang modern art
Displaying modern prints is a popular and pain-free way to sky rocket a period property straight into the 21st century, without sacrificing or damaging any original features – and what’s more, it couldn’t be easier to change up.
Mix old and new by hanging a modern print in a traditional, gilded frame and if you’re lucky enough to have a dado rail and picture rail, be sure to hang it between – that’s what they’re there for after all.
Why stop at art? One of the simplest ways to update your period property is to update the furniture inside it. Contemporary furniture looks idyllic when contrasted against traditional backgrounds and will bring an effortlessly sophisticated feel.
In this room, the bones of the room are unmistakably original, from the ornate cornicing and rich wood floorboards to the stunning fireplace, while Modern-style furniture choices bring a contemporary twist.
Install a wood-burning stove
As much as you might relish the idea of an open roaring fire after a hard day at work, the reality is that they take a lot of upkeep, can waste heat and can release toxic fumes into the home.
Instead, embrace the traditional surround and call in the professionals to install an electric wood-burning stove. It will offer easy maintenance and maximum heat efficiency, as well as adding a contemporary touch to a period space.
Be inspired by more of Huntsmore’s latest projects in our photo gallery. Plus, if you’re looking to start your own unique project, we invite you to book a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced design experts who will advise you on how to turn your ideas into reality.