5 key rules for decorating a heritage property

Bring out the best of your home's beloved history
Armelle Habib

How to make your home look its best by celebrating, rather than compromising its architectural integrity and historical charm.

Don’t slavishly copy the past

While it is important to look at a home’s history, it doesn’t mean that you need to copy it item by item. Today’s homes tend to be more open and free-flowing in their floorplans, so don’t be afraid to lighten up an older house by painting timber trims white, open-plan kitchens and punches of colour. Grey-toned whites, rather than those with creamy/yellow bases update a colour palette and complement dark cabinetry.

Respect the architectural heritage

In your quest for a modern look, don’t strip out a home’s heritage features – items such as ceiling roses, decorative cornices or fireplaces all tell a story about the house and its history. Picking these details out in a lighter colour will allow them to be noticed, without dominating a room. If you are adding onto an older house, look for details that can connect the old and new spaces – skirting boards, lighting, flooring are good places to start.

5 key rules for decorating a heritage property | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia

Check with your local authorities

Some heritage homes will need approval for even internal renovations, depending on its history and architectural significance. It’s always a good idea to check with your local council as a starting point – many have rules about street frontages and even exterior colour schemes of older houses. Some councils will ask you to get a heritage architect to make a submission as part of the planning approvals. 

Mix your styles

In Toad and Mandy’s home, the teams mixed different eras and styles to come up with a contemporary take on a historic property. Laurence particularly liked the use of the French-style sideboard in the dining room. “What’s nice is that they were confident enough to actually mix in a bit of French there,” he says. “They basically took ‘country’ as their starting point and used that as a kind of jumping off point, but then became very eclectic with it. There was a bit of Americana in there, there was a bit of French, there was quite traditional British stuff in there and all of these things together made something very new and fresh.”

5 key rules for decorating a heritage property | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia

Be authentic

An older home deserves to have furniture and accessories that complement its past, not modern pieces that will jar against the home’s historical details. While you don’t need to be restricted by only using furniture that originates in the era your house was built, be mindful of introducing ultra-modern furniture. Consider custom cabinetry for items such as technology (TVs, music, computers), which can be created in the style of your home’s era, and hides them away from everyday use.


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