Period homes, such as those from the Victorian era, are often brimming with character and old-world charm. With features such as high ceilings, decorative roses, timber floors, arched walkways, wrought-iron fireplaces and tall sash windows, they offer timeless appeal and a captivating snapshot of bygone days. If you’re lucky enough to own a terrace house, Art Deco apartment or California bungalow, the big question is: how do you update your period home to bring it into the 2020s while retaining those beautiful features that made you fall in love in the first place?
Updating a period home allows the opportunity to incorporate these classic features into a modern residence, yet the crucial key to success is achieving a balance between old and new with your floorplan, fixtures, finishes and furnishings.
The goal is to amplify those beautiful original features that are worth preserving (and showcasing!), while also integrating the contemporary comforts of the modern day that you want and need, such as open-plan design, an entertainer’s kitchen, the most comfortable furniture and a seamless flow between indoor–outdoor living.
Start by doing plenty of research to find out as much as you can about the style of your period home, then use that information to search for renovating and decorating ideas from places such as Instagram and Pinterest.
Keep in mind, while you want to be true to the era you’re working with, you don’t want to create an exact replica of the period, like the set of Downton Abbey or Mad Men. Your home should be filled with the modern creature comforts that suit your 21st century lifestyle, yet with a stylish echo of the past.
Seek out the elements of the era that resonate with you, such as the plush velvet and curves of the Art Deco period or metallic tones and bold geometrics of mid-century design. Better yet, allow a sophisticated and subtle blend of overlapping of eras that carry the decades into the contemporary age.
Establish what you want to keep and you want to change — always check on any heritage-listed features before you start renovating as there may be restrictions on certain alterations. If working within the existing footprint, you may need to get creative; if structural work is required, consider using an architect, draftsperson, designer and/or builder who specialises in heritage projects.
Colour is very important in capturing a particular mood of a style. The Victorian era, for instance, was known for dark, moody interiors with layer upon layer of patterned wallpaper, floral rugs and rich drapery. The Art Deco age often incorporated rich colours and geometric patterns.
Today, there’s a clear preference for a foundation of white on white in interior design and you really can’t go wrong with neutrals. They’re timeless and help to amplify the space and light and really open rooms up to their maximum potential. A neutral backdrop also makes it easy to add depth and character with accessories, such as cushions, rugs and artwork. Homewares can be affordably updated or rotated throughout the seasons or whenever you feel like a change.
Don’t be afraid to integrate your modern style too, such as plush oversized sofas, modern art and lighting and, of course, the latest appliances. The stark contrast of old and new can be truly striking. To replicate the period-style aesthetic where new embellishments are needed, features like shiplap, wainscoting, shaker cabinetry, quality hardware and stone benchtops marry old-world charm with contemporary living.
Finally, ensure your period home renovation caters to all of your lifestyle needs. Costs can add up when updating a heritage home so you want to ensure you make it your dream retreat. One of the biggest trends in contemporary design is the integration of outdoor living.
It’s worth investing in sliding or bifold doors off the primary living zone to a large alfresco deck or pergola for spacious outdoor living and entertaining. Not only will this add tremendous lifestyle appeal, it’s a feature that will also add considerable equity to your home when it comes to selling.
9 tips for styling your period home
❦ Focus on the features
Put the home’s stunning original features in the limelight by arranging the layout of your room to showcase them. A cast-iron fireplace, stained-glass window or chandelier can really capture the essence of the era.
❦ Keep it light and bright
Amplify the space and light with a neutral backdrop. Fresh whites and light tones are calming, bright and airy and can be dressed up or down with your furniture and décor.
❦ Anchor your rooms with the right furniture
While we love those lofty ceilings that so many Victorian homes are known for, it’s important to fill your rooms with the right size furniture so your sofa, bed and dining table anchor the room and don’t feel like dollhouse furniture.
❦ Be bold with a rich colour palette
Add depth and a rich a colour palette with your cushions, plants and other accessories. Homewares can be affordably updated or rotated throughout the seasons or whenever you feel like a change.
❦ Amplify the space and light with mirrors
Large gilded mirrors are one of the trademarks of period homes, so put one in every room if possible. The magic of mirrors is that they amplify the space and light and make your rooms feel larger.
❦ Marry the old and new
Contrast comfy contemporary furniture against a few well-selected statement pieces, such as an oversize sofa with some Art Deco inspired velvet armchairs and a coffee table with cabriole legs.
❦ Restore your floors
One of the most beautiful features of period homes is the hardwood flooring, sometimes hidden beneath old carpeting. Peel it back, polish the boards and relish your timeless timber topped with a few cosy wool rugs to soften and zone your spaces.
❦ Curate some gallery walls
Make the most of those high ceilings with plenty of large wall art. You could pick some period pieces, go geometric with mid-century modern or even hang some contemporary prints to contrast against the cornices and ceiling roses.
❦ Let the floorplan flow outdoors
One of the biggest trends in contemporary design is the integration of outdoor living. It’s worth investing in sliding or bifold doors off the primary living zone to a large alfresco deck or pergola for open-air living and entertaining.
Visit us online or in-store at Early Settler to get inspired with furniture and homewares to update your period home (check out all the furniture and homewares used in the styling of this spectacular 1890s Victorian home in Adelaide below). And don’t miss the before and after pics of this spectacular renovation and styling project.