Even staunch modernists are hard-pressed to deny the warmth and charm of an old, well-built structure. While a Victorian mansion or sturdy Tudor home are distinct in style, it’s the decades of stories-gone-by reflected in their detailed, patinated features that are responsible for enriching your soul upon entry (a quality that is hard to manufacture). If your dream pre-1960s home just isn’t attainable, try implementing some of these tips to give your modern dry-walled digs an extra helping of depth.
Display Real Paintings
Prints largely didn’t exist back in the day, which is why machine-made art feels… well, machine made. Being able to see the texture of brush strokes painted on canvas by a human hand registers in your brain (and heart), whether you consciously realise it or not. Even if you lean toward the modern or abstract, seeking out and finding pieces you love that have that human-made textural quality will help give your spaces integrity and your home that indescribable old world feeling.
Use High-Quality Organic Materials
Again, low quality plastics and synthetic blends didn’t exist when that alluring ‘period home’ was built. If you’re looking to add architectural integrity and a sense of soul to a home, pieces that are made with natural materials like hearty woods and metals in an organic finish, or high-quality linens and wools, are the better options. But similarly, don’t feel like you have to replace all of your linens and furniture at once. By building up your possessions one-at-a-time you’ll avoid stockpiling whatever is on-trend, making for a more timeless overall aesthetic. And the good news is, most of these materials, if cared for, will last a lifetime.
Buy From Multiple Eras
Buying antique pieces for your home is the most obvious choice for bringing some historical character into your home, but be mindful. While Mid-century Modern may be your go-to decade for home decor, it pays to remember that real Mid-century homes were, by and large, comprised of pieces predating that era. Using a mixture of pieces you love from a variety of eras is the best way to give your home that warm, lived-in feel without looking like a contrived, theme-y vintage store.
Install Crown Moulding/Base Boards
Sadly, maximum profit trumps attention to detail in modern architecture, meaning pretty carved base boards and arched doorways are hard to come by. Try adding elements of detailed design to your walls with crown moulding, base boards, or even wooden shelves or frames that contain carved detailing.
Put Up a Picture Railing
Originally installed to allow home owners to hang art on the walls without damaging plaster, this molding contains a lip just big enough to hang special hooks. People can be reluctant to punch holes in the walls to hang paintings – rails encourages us to add interest to what might otherwise be starkly boring wall expanses, whilst creating a more period feel.
Paint with Lime Wash
Chances are your flat, smooth, ‘variation of white’ wall is making your home feel more sterile than time worn and soulful, which is why lime wash paint is a great option. This mineral-based pigment has been around for centuries and gives walls wonderful tactility, texture, and character without feeling unnatural or forced, like some “faux” finishes out there. Porters Paints and Bauwerk lime-wash paints are what dreams are made of.
Replace Modern Hardware
Try replacing modern brushed nickel hardware with classic pulls and knobs in a natural or aged finish. There are so many options available on the internet as far as style is concerned, but better still devote a weekend to hunting for vintage handles and treasures at local antique and second hand stores.
Look for Worn Rugs
Rugs are a must-have for anyone looking to add an old world warmth to their home. Hold out for a piece that is big enough to fit under all of the furniture in whatever space you’re buying it for, and make sure it shows some actual wear. Be warned: Faux-distressing may look good on the internet, but, in person, will likely absorb hard-earned soul points from your home and convert them into disappointment. Opt for vintage and lovely natural fibres for a lovely underfoot feel that will last a lifetime.
Turf the High Shine
Opt for matt, organic and tactile surfaces. Natural finishes over two pac gloss, reclaimed timber bench tops over Essa/Caeser, stone or stone look tiles over shiny porcelain. And if budget permits, invest in aged brass taps and fittings to add a beautifully old world feel. These taps are aged by hand, have natural imperfections and an un-lacquered finish that will further patina and evolve over time.
Grow/Buy Established House Plants
The appeal of a beautiful old house is really more a feeling than a look, and that’s where a lot of people get it wrong when trying to recreate an antique aesthetic. Having large, well-established house plants and trees (think big!) creates a feeling that your space has been around a while and is full of its own stories and history.
I surmise that what we all love about old homes is the sense of connection they provide with the people of decades past. Old homes have an established personality, a reverence for craftsmanship, and interesting details that ignite the senses. Keeping this in mind while implementing these elements is key to maximising your home’s soul points.