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Interiors 101: How to master modern in a traditional home

Juxtaposing modern interior design with the original features of a period property is one of the most effective ways to inject endless amounts of chic into your home.
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There’s something of the sublime in the way clean-cut, glossy surfaces complement hardwood floors and rustic fireplaces, creating a look that’s effortless and bold. Original features seem suddenly to sing, standing out in all their vintage beauty against statement mirrors and modern colour schemes (whites, creams and pebble tones work wonderfully). Think light-drenched bay windows framed with tumbling linen curtains or high-ceilinged rooms filled with vibrant house plants and eclectic soft furnishings. It’s all about embracing the eccentricity of your home, but giving it direction and definition too, with unflinchingly modern designs.

That’s not to say it doesn’t feel a little risky at first. Our period homes are steeped in history and whimsical charm. What if, by ‘messing’ with them, we mess them up for good? Will our other halves ever forgive us? Will we ever forgive ourselves? The short answer is: stop worrying. It’s entirely possible to give your interiors a modern overhaul without touching – or damaging – original features. Read on to find out how…


Out with the old, in with the new (furniture)

Your home is characterful, and you love it for that. In fact, it’s this age and originality that you fell in love with in the first place. But one of the most common traps to fall into when decorating a period property is to think that, just because the building is old, its furniture must also carry an air of antiquity.

Modern furniture, with its clean lines and effortless comfort, can be surprisingly at home in an older property. Where matchy-matchy rooms often blend into one homogenous, nothing-to-write-home-about interior, the home that expertly merges eras and styles is the one people remember. With that in mind, don’t shy away from bringing brand new, boundary-pushing, totally 21st century furniture into the mix.

If your house is characterised by spacious rooms with high ceilings and ornate cornices, go for deep-seated, square-shaped sofas with straight edges and tapered legs. The gap underneath will enhance the feeling of spaciousness in the room, while bringing an air of chic modernity to the space. That’s not to say you can’t introduce some contrasting, antique (or antique-feel) features to your house to draw everything together. An ornate chandelier over your exceedingly modern, glass-topped dining table, for example, does justice to worlds old and new. We love this ultra-modern Calligaris dining set, which sits perfectly with raw wood floors, and basks elegantly in the light from its adjacent bay window. In fact, Calligaris furniture is a great place to start if you’re dipping your toes into minimalist design territory for the first time. It’s famous for its clean lines and defined edges, neutral colours and funky finishing touches like these smoke grey acrylic chairs.

Turning original features into actual features

The second element of mastering modern décor in your traditional home, is to make sure its original features aren’t overlooked. You’ll have been told that it’s a crime to get rid of them, in fact you’ve probably said it yourself. But it’s another thing to make sure they don’t simply fade into the background.

If your property has sash windows, for example, start by giving them an upgrade – Victorians may not have benefited from double glazing, but that’s not to say we can’t! Then, use complementary décor to make them a focal point of the room. Frame them with floor-length curtains for a modern feel and consider installing a window seat if there isn’t already one there. Adorn with brightly coloured cushions and throws and finish by placing a statement rug at the foot of the window. That way, you’ll instantly draw the eye to the original, sash window, while at the same time making sure it’s got that stylish, modern feel – just like the rest of your home.

Likewise, string fairy lights around solid oak beams, or give that Victorian front door a lick of glossy red paint to really make it sing. If you’re lucky enough to have them, keep your home’s feature stained-glass windows to preserve a touch of vintage and add a splash of jewel like beauty to an otherwise modern hallway. Rip up carpets to reveal original wooden floorboards, and then cover with geometric pattern rugs – or simply leave bare for a raw, industrial vibe. And if you’re going for the industrial look, there’s nothing more on-trend than an exposed brick wall, counterpointing sleek lighting and chunky square furniture for a decidedly modern feel.

Bringing your period property into the 21st century is all about breaking the rules, and daring to go where others don’t. Be bold and have confidence in your decisions. By embracing modernity, you’ll turn your home into a bright, beautiful cutting-edge design masterpiece, while making sure its original features are celebrated. So, without further ado, let the two worlds collide, and watch the magic happen.


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