Hints on Updating an Old House

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Victorian exterior

I received an email from one of my readers along with 238 pictures of their new old house. I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and proceeded to look at the photos (well, most anyway). The home was beautiful (no, it’s not this one shown, and right out of the late Victorian era. It was clear however that the previous owners had decorated in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.
That’s the problem with decorating in the latest colours. Even if you have a heritage home your house looks dated and old – not a good combination. If you stick to schemes from the past (when your house was built) and not fad colors you won’t have that problem!
Here are some of the tips I gave her:

  • Remove any sliding curtains. Remove peachy – green theme from everywhere.
  • Stain woodwork in kitchen darker to tie into the mill work in the rest of the house or paint it. Golden oak looks way too modern.
  • Reconfigure wall separation in every room where the previous owners split the walls in half and put wallpaper on the top and paint in the bottom. First of all it cuts the room in half and kowers the ceiling. Secondly it is not authentic. A late Victorian home had tripartite walls – see my web site for more info on this.
  • All ceilings are a flat white. Never would have been that way then except for maybe bathroom or kitchen. Tie in ceiling decoratively (a whole subject on its own).
  • Long lace curtains look more elegant than two tiny curtains and accentuate lovely high ceilings.
  • Fabulous woodwork on bench, under stairs etc – keep original at all costs.
  • Cut down on patterns in bathroom – way too busy. If you want to create an authentic busy Victorian look you need to use darker, different wallpaper.
  • It is ok to have wallpaper in closets (small motifs good)
  • Change toilet fixture.That mint green colour is good for 1930’s bathrooms.
  • Wallpaper designs needs to tie into each other from room to room. Victorians knew how to do this. Incorporate either a colour or pattern from one room to another.
  • Don’t cover nice stained or etched glass windows with curtains – show them off!
  • Pick a more appropriate lace. These curtains look like they are from the 60’s and 70’s.
  • You have great floors and a gorgeous fireplace! Wow!
  • Remove the scalloped curtains unless you love them. They do not show the woodwork and they blend so much into the matching wallpaper on the walls that they disappear. It also changes the scale of the room and the windows too.
  • Change the fans to more appropriate styles.
  • Remove pinky wall to wall carpeting to show the hardwood if possible?
  • Lucky you – you have transom windows!
  • Replace lights around mirror in bathroom with other more appropriate style.
  • Remove curtains around sink – get additional storage in another way.
  • 2 inch wood blinds in window is good – appropriate.
  • Wow – great space in attic.
  • The round room is great – but woefully drab. The ceiling needs to be played up big time.
  • The dark green is too stark – for walls, curtains, lace… Choose a softer colour.
  • Straight valances are not authentic and they make windows look like they have bushy eyebrows.
  • The kitchen needs some vintage touches for it to tie into the rest of your lovely home.
  • A Victorian colour scheme to the exterior would make all the lovely details absolutely sparkle!

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