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Whether it’s the home of a beloved relative or the old Victorian down the block, we’ve all fallen in love with an older home at one time or another. Homes with history offer built-in character and charm, even when they need a little work.
Living in an older home also comes with unique challenges. Unless they’ve already been modernized, older floor plans are usually more divided and closed off, unlike today’s popular open floor plans. Spacious kitchens designed to accommodate the ‘work triangle’ are often absent, and storage space may be minimal.
Plus, strict building codes and the price/availability of historically accurate materials can make exterior updates tricky and time-consuming, especially for those homes which are officially designated historical. This is why many historical homeowners are choosing to modernize their interiors while maintaining a historically accurate façade.
Recently, an array of interior designers updated every inch of two gorgeous homes in the historic Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of Indianapolis as part of the Schlage-sponsored St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild Decorators’ Show House and Gardens. The show built a new construction home for designers to outfit and rehabbed a mature home next door. Designers opted to add fresh, modern touches to both homes to make them more attractive and livable to modern families, while honoring the history of the neighborhood.
So what can you learn from these designers to freshen up your older home?
Older homes often feature beautiful, naturally finished woodwork. When you pair this with a closed floor plan and highly divided rooms, the house can begin to feel dark and crowded.
An open floor plan and spacious kitchen are the most obvious ways to open up and brighten a home, but those are major projects. There are simpler, quicker ways to add a fresh touch without a major demolition; the key is simply to create a bright, welcoming interior.
Start with white. Whether you choose eggshell or a brighter cream, white adds instant airiness and space to a room. It’s also a great way to pull together old and new elements within a cohesive background. Use it on walls and furniture to let more colorful accessories speak.
This master bath by designer Tom Korecki of Thomas and Jayne Interior Design features a white countertop, trim, and doors, with pastel accents adding a touch of restful color. Korecki’s design was within the new construction home, which featured Schlage decorative designs on each door. The designer was spot-on with his choice of an Accent lever with Camelot trim in Aged Bronze against a white door.
“A dark finish is a great way to have a subtle pop against a classic white. Sometimes that simple statement is so timeless,” says J.D. Dick of Cabinetry Ideas, another show home designer. This hardware look also provides continuity with the dark finish of the cabinets, leaving Korecki free to experiment with different finishes for the light and plumbing fixtures. A metallic finish on the chest of drawers, a patterned backsplash and a rose quartz vase add a touch of glam.
Go for glassGlass doors and skylights are another great way to add light to a space. They also make it easy to modernize a previously traditional space – it’s common for minimalist and contemporary spaces to use glass as a fresh, modern architectural element bringing even the most rustic structures into the present day.
These glass French doors in the new show home add extra light to the space, and make the family area feel more inclusive. Schlage Accent levers with Camelot trim in Aged Bronze add an earthy accent to ground the look.
“Door hardware can be the jewelry of the room, and treated in quite a similar way,” says Dick. “Too under-scale can hold the room back, while something too over-the-top can distract from the overall harmony in the room.”
If you don’t want to replace doors or windows, try accessorizing with glass. Highly reflective finishes are on trend right now, even in the furniture world. Choose a large mirror with an intricate frame, or a night stand with mirrored surfaces.
Last but not least, lighting is one of the most important functional pieces in your home, but should also be placed as carefully as any accessory. In spaces like living rooms or bedrooms, you’ll want three light sources (not including ceiling lights). Unless you’re going for a symmetrical, art deco-inspired look, avoid using two lamps that are the same – vary heights, styles, and even bulb wattages. Choose brighter bulbs for areas where you read or do work, and dimmer ones for more restful areas (tip: consider a dimmer switch, which gives you constant control over the lighting mood in a room.) Many designers even mix in a soft pink bulb for a slightly cozier touch.
Choose eclectic accents
A simple way to modernize the interior of an older home is to try out a few eclectic contemporary styles. This strategy is all about accessorizing – it’s the perfect opportunity to try out all of those DIY craft ideas you’ve found on Pinterest.
Found art, created from pieces of random cast-away objects, is the epitome of eclecticism. Check shops and galleries nearby; they often feature pieces by local artists that can add a modern edge to your traditional home.
Another way to add an update to your home is to incorporate blown glass. Stay chic with clear, custom-made glass to add shine to a room filled with woodwork – or go bolder with a colorful glass sculpture hung in the center stairwell.
Embrace and expand
If you love the history and traditional style of your home, simply embrace and expand upon it. There are many modernized interior décor pieces that run parallel to traditional styles- from Arts & Crafts to Victorian and more. Aim for a modern interpretation of the classic style – because, as designer Korecki reminds us, “classic doesn’t always mean old.”
Research popular interior styles associated with your home’s architecture - preferably from the same time the home was built - to understand its design roots. You may find a few themes you love, and a few that are just a too outdated for your taste. Then, start the search for pieces that mirror the style you want or offer a fresh interpretation on the ones you don’t. Before you know it, you’ll have created a look that’s true to the home, unique, and modern – without becoming completely contemporary.
Rustic is versatile
Incorporating rustic accents into the home is a great way to add a fresh touch to a traditional space. This strategy is often used in farmhouse or French cottage settings. It’s not uncommon for designers to work natural textures and materials into their creations, even in the most modern settings like industrial-inspired lofts.
Wood flooring is beautiful in any style of home, and nothing beats the rich look of reclaimed wood. Made from lumber recovered from older buildings and painstakingly refurbished for use in the home, reclaimed wood is an environmentally friendly option that has already stood the test of time. Because it is usually made from Old Growth Timber, reclaimed wood is much more dense and durable than new wood, making it less likely to bend or change shape.
For more design inspiration, including how to incorporate Satin Brass and Polished Nickel finishes into your home, visit Schlage’s Style Center. You’ll find design guides, home renovation tips and more information about all of Schlage’s styles, finishes and products.