A house museum in Spain

Living in a Museum?

Decorating a museum house requires specialized knowledge
Decorating a museum house requires specialized knowledge

A reader asked me a question about decorating a heritage home a while back. She asked if it was possible to do it in such a way that wouldn’t make it look like you were living in a museum. My answer? Absolutely and most likely.

First of all, it would be difficult to find enough authentic products, accessories and appropriate furniture to use in the decoration of such a house. Sourcing such products takes a huge amount of work and connections. If you doubt this, I invite you to watch “The 1900 House” on You Tube. It’s a fascinating 11-part program about a contemporary family who agreed to live exactly how a family would have in the year 1900. The first episode clearly explains how difficult it was to find the right products to decorate and outfit this home.

Secondly, setting up a home to look like a museum takes specialized knowledge that most people do not have. Because of this, a homeowner would make choices that contribute naturally towards a comfortable 21st century standard of living rather than live with the more authentic antique version. For example, would you buy an antique, single speed fan rather than a new fan with three speeds? Probably not.

Art Nouveau detail
Wall detail in an Art Nouveau interior

So the question you have to ask yourself is “What kinds of objects or environments cause me to feel like I am living in a museum? Then, simply change them if authenticity is not your goal. Even the concept of authenticity itself is often a moving target depending on who you speak to.

I often see images of heritage homeowners, in magazines, proudly showing off their white woodwork against boldly painted walls. This may look attractive to our contemporary eyes but there is nothing remotely authentic in such decor – especially for homes before, say, the 1960’s.

My advice? Keep the envelope, or the structure of your home as authentic as possible and have fun changing those things that can easily be changed back again – should a later owner want to do so.

4 thoughts on “Living in a Museum?

  1. Johanne the delights of your visit to Amsterdam challenge my deep desire, unacknowleged and perhaps nonexistant to do the necessary housework in my Heritage home.
    The Vancouver market’s spiralling land prices solve all discussions with a bulldozer.

  2. I agree with you, the best way to make your home feel less like a museum is to find out what it is about the home that makes you feel that way and then change it. Just don’t change the structure of your house, I don’t think you would, but I love old buildings and think it is a shame when they are remodeled instead of restored. It doesn’t matter how old the house is, you can make it modern with decorations.

    1. I totally agree. Some people are hung up on the fact that the surfaces (like walls and floors) aren’t pristine. I say, “embrace the character – or buy a new house!”

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