Updating a period home for a 21st-century family to use is ultimately about striking a balance between old and new. Updating the architecture and layout of a period home is only part of the story. A house is its structure, of course, but it’s made personal, at least in part, through its furnishings.

There’s nothing like antique pieces, often inherited, to make a house feel like a home. Antiques add gravitas and depth to an interior, a sense of history and heritage, but that doesn’t mean that interiors have to be stuffy. We like to mix the old with the new but there is a knack to combining pieces from different eras.

Today we would like to share a few ways you can honor the history of a period home while also fitting each room for the needs of a 21st-century family.

Good Beginnings

Every project should start with the property itself. Look to the interior architecture, the context, and the history to inspire designs. Identify elements that give a place its character and charm and then try to preserve and protect them.

Think Practically

The most important factor for any design work is to consider the homeowners’ lifestyle and needs. Be very careful to build up a picture of how a room really will be used before developing the aesthetic. Today’s client appreciates quality and beautiful craftsmanship, but they don’t live nearly as formal as before.

Open Up

Don’t be afraid to knock down a few walls (if planning allows it). We love designing functional open-plan living spaces, particularly kitchen and dining areas. 

Create Space

We always look for ways to add more light. Adding bi-fold doors, skylights and large windows where possible will totally transform the livability of a space by making it feel welcoming and generous.

Great Reflections

A wonderful way to enhance the feeling of light and space in a room is to add mirrors. Larger spaces can handle a more dramatic statement, while smaller mirrors can create beautiful compositions when paired with furniture and other decorations.

Out with the Old

Just because something is historical or original doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. Don’t be afraid to remove the parts that don’t work for your lifestyle. One thing that can be especially transformative is opening up ceilings to expose the rafters, making the most of its height.

Lighten Up

A simple way to transform a property from its manorial past is to go lighter. You can often achieve this by simply using lighter materials, such as paint and fabrics, that will breathe new life into a period home.

Timeless Appeal

We love to mix in the old with the new. Furnish the space with a refreshing blend of fine antiques and comfortable and clean-lined upholstery. Celebrate your “brown” furniture! The patina of an antique adds a layer of strength and interest.

Be Eclectic

The hero piece in your dining room might be the antique dining table. To bring a sense of playful informality, reupholster the chairs in subtly different fabrics for an updated look. Rather than opt for more dark wood, try hand painting sideboards to add an injection of contemporary chic. The result carefully balances the old and the new for a modern take on classic style.