Rule numero uno in historic interiors is:
We don't live in a museum, so it doesn't need to look like one!
Very few would be comfortable in a stuffy Victorian parlor at this day and age. We live a different lifestyle and our homes need to reflect that.
It is ok to mix furniture styles. Adding a classic, trim, comfortable sofa to a home of any style can work. If you have an arts and crafts home, you don’t have to own everything Stickley. A blend of styles can make a space look collected and livable.
When selecting paint colors for historic interiors, you can pull from color palettes that were popular at them time your home was built, or to the period you are restoring it to. Several paint manufacturers offer historic color palettes specific to different time periods. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams are the most popular and easy to obtain. Benjamin Moore has a Historic Williamsburg Paint Color Collection, and is currently a Corporate Partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. California Paints is know as the industries leading color authority, and has a relationship with the Historic New England Foundation. They have documented colors from the 1600’s to 1985 (I am a particular fan of 1984 at the moment). Fine Paints of Europe has a special relationship with the Mt. Vernon Estate and a historic color palette reflecting the vibrant colors George & Martha Washington adored.
Rule No. 2:
Work with what you have!
When selecting wall color for historic structures it is important to work with and emphasize the beloved historic details in the building. Often times a fireplace surround or bathroom will have period tile or marble you can pull from for inspiration. A stained glass window can work this way as well. That gorgeous unpainted woodwork can also be a jumping off point. Cool tones in wall paint will make warm tones in the natural wood trim and floors stand out.
In other circumstances historic properties may have period wallpaper in a room you can pull color inspiration from for other non-adjacent rooms. Repeating the same or similar colors throughout the building can help to bring continuity to the overall design and help one space flow easily into the next.
Rule No. 3:
Area rugs are your best friend!
Don’t cover up those gorgeous hardwood floors! Wall to wall carpeting isn’t appropriate here. Many are hesitant to pull up old broadloom carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath fearing it will be in poor condition. More times than less I have pulled up old nasty carpeting to reveal the wood floor to be in surprisingly good condition. If you aren’t happy with the results of some of the scratch cover products out there, an experienced hardwood contractor can work wonders quickly. Invest in a good quality vintage or contemporary wool or natural fiber rug. In addition to the environmental and air quality benefits of an area rug, they can be relocated as your style changes and can be removed for washing by a professional rug cleaning service.
Historic interiors can be wonderful blend of elements bringing together pieces that reflect your life and style while emphasizing the character that drew you to the property in the first place.