How to Decorate a Historic Home

Decorating a historic home is not just about finding the perfect furniture or color palette, but rather, it is an opportunity to honor and celebrate the rich history and architectural significance of the space. Historic homes exude a captivating charm that transports us back in time, allowing us to experience the past in our everyday lives.

In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of decorating a historic home – from understanding its historical context and preserving its authenticity to selecting the right furniture, artwork, lighting fixtures, and more.

Historic homes carry with them a sense of nostalgia, filled with stories and memories that have stood the test of time. Before diving into the world of decorating these special spaces, it is important to understand their historical context.

Researching the era and architecture of your historic home can provide valuable insights into the design principles and styles that were prevalent during its construction. By familiarizing yourself with historical details such as popular color palettes, architectural features, and interior design trends of that time period, you can create a decor scheme that pays homage to the house’s origins.

Preserving authenticity is an integral aspect of decorating a historic home. From original features like ornate moldings and stained glass windows to unique architectural elements like grand staircases or fireplaces, maintaining these elements helps retain the character and allure they bring to your space.

Conserving these features goes beyond keeping them intact; it also involves understanding their significance within their historical context. With careful consideration and proper restoration techniques, you can ensure that your historic home maintains its authenticity while still accommodating modern living needs.

As we embark on this journey through decorating historic homes, let us remember that every element – from color palette selection to furniture choices – plays a vital role in capturing the essence of history within our spaces. By thoughtfully curating decorative pieces inspired by specific eras, era appropriate artwork, and unique artifact displays, we can infuse our homes with a tangible connection to the past.

Together, let us unlock the secrets of decorating historic homes and embark on a transformative journey that captivates the essence of history through our decorative choices.

Understanding the Importance of Historical Context

Understanding the historical context of your historic home is essential in order to properly decorate and preserve its unique charm. By researching the era and architecture of your home, you can gain a deeper appreciation for its significance and design elements. This section will provide some tips and techniques for conducting research and understanding the historical context of your historic home.

Researching the Era

To begin understanding the historical context of your home, it is important to research the era in which it was built. Look into the major events, trends, and cultural influences that were prevalent during that time period. This will give you a better understanding of the context in which your home was constructed.

One way to gather information is by studying old photographs, documents, or newspapers that may be available. These resources can provide valuable insights into the original design and architectural features of your home. Additionally, consider reaching out to local historical societies or organizations dedicated to preserving historic homes in your area. They may have archives or resources available that can aid in your research.

Understanding Architectural Styles

In addition to researching the era, it is equally important to understand the architectural style of your historic home. Different eras were characterized by specific architectural styles, such as Victorian, Colonial Revival, or Craftsman. Familiarize yourself with these styles and their defining characteristics so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to preserving or restoring certain architectural elements.

Consulting with professionals such as historians, architects, or preservation specialists can also be helpful in identifying the architectural style of your home. They can provide valuable guidance on how best to preserve or enhance specific features based on historical accuracy.

By taking the time to thoroughly research both the era and architecture of your historic home, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions when it comes to decorating and preserving its unique charm and character. Understanding this historical context not only allows for a more authentic restoration, but it also helps to create a space that truly reflects the essence of its time.

Preserving the Authenticity

When living in a historic home, one of the most important considerations is how to preserve and maintain its original features and architectural elements. These are key elements that contribute to the charm and character of the house, and their conservation is essential in maintaining the authenticity of the property. Here are some tips for conserving these unique aspects of your historic home.

Firstly, it is crucial to carefully assess the condition of any original features or architectural elements in your home. This includes items such as ornate moldings, stained glass windows, or decorative plasterwork. It is recommended to consult with experts in historic preservation or restoration to ensure that any maintenance or repair work is done correctly.

Once you have identified any issues or areas that require attention, it’s vital to use historically accurate materials and techniques when repairing or restoring these elements. Opt for original reproduction materials whenever possible, as they can help retain the authentic look and feel of your historic home. For example, if you need to replace a damaged piece of molding, try finding a matching piece from a salvage yard or have a custom reproduction made.

In addition to repairs and restoration work, regular maintenance can also go a long way in preserving original features and architectural elements. Keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear, such as peeling paint or loose tiles, and address them promptly before they worsen. Regular cleaning with gentle methods can help prolong the lifespan of these unique features without causing damage.

Preserving original features and architectural elements in a historic home requires careful attention and expertise. By assessing their condition, using historically accurate materials for repairs/restoration, and practicing regular maintenance, you can conserve these priceless aspects while ensuring the authenticity of your home remains intact.

Preserving the Authenticity: Tips for Conserving Original Features and Architectural Elements

Assess the conditionThoroughly evaluate the state of original features and architectural elements to identify any issues or areas in need of attention.
Use historically accurate materialsWhen repairing or restoring, opt for original reproduction materials to maintain the authentic look and feel of your historic home.
Regular maintenanceUndertake regular cleaning and address signs of wear and tear promptly to prolong the lifespan of these unique features.

Nailing the Right Color Palette

When decorating a historic home, one of the most important aspects to consider is the color palette. The right colors can enhance the historical charm of the space and create a timeless look. Here are some tips for choosing historical colors and period-inspired paints for your historic home.

Researching the Era

Before selecting colors for your historic home, it’s essential to research the era in which it was built. Different time periods have distinctive color palettes that were popular during those times. Look into historical resources, such as architectural books or period magazines, to understand the color schemes that were prevalent during that era. This research will help you stay true to the historical context of your home and choose colors that align with its authenticity.

Color Samples and Swatches

Once you have an idea of the historical color scheme, gather color samples and swatches from different paint manufacturers. Many companies offer specific historical or period-inspired paint collections designed to accurately replicate colors from past eras. Take these samples to your home and observe how they look in different lighting conditions and against your existing architectural elements. This will help you make an informed decision about which colors work best in each room.

Taking Inspiration from Architectural Details

Another strategy is to draw inspiration from the architectural details of your historic home itself. Examine elements such as trim work, moldings, or unique features like stained glass windows. Consider using accent colors that highlight and complement these details while keeping in mind the overall color scheme of the era.

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The Importance of Historic Preservation

While choosing a color palette is exciting, it’s crucial to be mindful of preserving historical integrity in your home’s paint selection process. If possible, consult with preservation professionals or experts who specialize in restoring historic homes. They can provide guidance on appropriate colors for each room based on what would have been historically accurate for your home’s time period.

By carefully researching and selecting historical colors and period-inspired paints, you can create a cohesive and authentic look in your historic home. Not only will this enhance its timeless charm, but it will also celebrate its architectural significance and preserve the essence of history for generations to come.

Furniture and Decor Selection

Understanding the Era and Style of Your Historic Home

Before diving into furniture and decor selection for your historic home, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of the era and style in which your home was built. This knowledge will guide you in making informed choices that ensure cohesion and authenticity throughout your interior design. Researching architectural styles, trends, and cultural influences of the time period can provide valuable insights into what types of furniture and decor would be appropriate.

Embracing Historical Reproductions

When it comes to furnishing a historic home, one option is to invest in historical reproductions. These are new pieces designed to replicate the aesthetics and craftsmanship of specific eras. Historical reproduction furniture allows homeowners to enjoy the beauty of period pieces without worrying about damaging or depleting original antiques.

When choosing historical reproductions, pay attention to details such as materials used, construction techniques, and finishes. Look for reputable manufacturers that specialize in creating accurate replicas. By incorporating these high-quality reproductions into your decor, you can achieve an authentic look while also ensuring durability and functionality.

Mixing Antiques with Modern Pieces

Another approach to furnishing a historic home is blending antique furniture with modern pieces. This creates an interesting juxtaposition that adds character and uniqueness to your space. When mixing styles, it’s essential to strike a balance between old and new. Consider using antique statement pieces as focal points in rooms, such as a vintage dining table or a Victorian-era sofa.

To avoid overwhelming the space or creating a disjointed look, select modern furniture with clean lines that complements the overall color palette and style of your historic home. Mixing antiques with modern pieces can bring dynamism to your decor while preserving the charm and integrity of the architectural era.

Accessorizing with Vintage Decor

In addition to furniture selection, incorporating vintage decor items into your historic home can further enhance its period charm. Vintage accessories, such as mirrors, clocks, and artwork, add a sense of authenticity and nostalgia to the space. Look for pieces that reflect the time period in which your home was built.

When selecting vintage decor, consider visiting antique stores, flea markets, or even online platforms specializing in vintage items. These places often offer a wide range of collectibles and knick-knacks that can bring character to your space. However, be mindful of not cluttering your home with too many decorative objects. Select a few key pieces that truly resonate with the era and style of your historic home to create a curated and visually pleasing ambiance.

Showcasing Art and Artefacts

Incorporating vintage artwork and historical objects into your decor is an essential aspect of decorating a historic home. Not only does it add a unique charm and character to your space, but it also helps showcase the history and heritage of your home. Here are some tips on how to effectively showcase art and artifacts in your historic home:

  1. Research and collect: Start by researching the time period and style of your historic home to get a better understanding of the types of artwork and artifacts that would be appropriate. Look for pieces that reflect the era or are inspired by it. Visit antique stores, flea markets, auctions, and online marketplaces to find authentic vintage pieces.
  2. Mix old with new: While it’s important to have authentic vintage pieces in your decor, don’t be afraid to mix them with more contemporary artwork or accents. This creates an interesting contrast between old and new, adding a fresh and dynamic element to your space.
  3. Display strategically: When showcasing artwork or historical objects, consider their size, shape, and material. Larger pieces can act as focal points in a room, while smaller items can be grouped together on shelves or displayed in cabinets. Pay attention to the placement of these items to ensure they are well-lit and easily visible.
  4. Tips for Showcasing Art and Artefacts:
    Research the time period and style of your historic home
    Mix vintage pieces with contemporary accents
    Display strategically based on size, shape, and material
    Create dedicated spaces for specific collections
    Consider consulting with professionals for preservation
  5. Create dedicated spaces: If you have a specific collection of artwork or historical objects, consider creating a dedicated space to showcase them. This could be a gallery wall, a display cabinet, or a designated shelf. This not only helps organize your collection but also allows for easier appreciation and enjoyment.
  6. Preserve and protect: Depending on the age and condition of the artwork and artifacts, it may be necessary to consult with professionals on preservation and restoration techniques. They can provide valuable advice on how to properly care for and maintain these precious pieces, ensuring their longevity for future generations to appreciate.

By incorporating vintage artwork and historical objects into your decor, you can create a truly unique and captivating space that celebrates the rich history of your historic home. From carefully selecting the right pieces to strategically displaying them, these decorative choices will enhance the charm and character of your home while preserving its unique heritage.

Lighting Design

Lighting is a crucial element in any home decor, and it plays an even more significant role when it comes to historic homes. Choosing the right lighting fixtures and lamps can help capture the ambiance of yesteryears and enhance the authenticity of your historic home. In this section, we will explore some tips and ideas for lighting design in historic homes.

When it comes to lighting design in historic homes, it is essential to prioritize authenticity. Opt for lighting fixtures that are true to the era and style of your home. Researching the historical context of your home will help you understand the appropriate lighting choices for each room. For example, if you have a Victorian-era home, chandeliers with intricate details and decorative elements would be suitable for formal spaces like dining rooms or entryways.

Incorporating period-inspired lamps can also add a touch of nostalgia to your historic home. Antique table lamps or floor lamps with ornate designs can create an elegant and timeless look. Consider choosing lamps that have materials commonly used during the era, such as brass, crystal, or stained glass.

To provide a harmonious blend between historical authenticity and modern functionality, consider working with a professional electrician who specializes in historic homes. They can help ensure that any electrical work is done safely while maintaining the unique character of your home’s lighting fixtures.

Tips for Lighting Design in Historic Homes
Research the historical context of your home to understand appropriate lighting choices.
Choose lighting fixtures that are true to the era and style of your home.
Incorporate period-inspired lamps made from materials commonly used during the era.
Work with a professional electrician to ensure safety and authenticity in any electrical work.

Window Treatments and Draperies

When it comes to decorating a historic home, paying attention to the windows is crucial to maintaining its authenticity and charm. The window treatments and draperies you choose can have a significant impact on the overall aesthetic of your historic home.

To enhance the charm of historic windows, it is essential to select period-appropriate coverings that complement the era and style of your home. Here are some tips for choosing the right window treatments and draperies for your historic home:

  1. Research historical window coverings: Start by researching the types of window coverings that were popular during the time period your historic home was built. Look for photographs, books, or online resources that showcase accurate representations of historical window treatments. This will give you an idea of what styles, fabrics, and patterns were commonly used.
  2. Choose fabrics wisely: When selecting fabrics for your window treatments, opt for materials that were popular during the era in which your historic home was built. For example, silk or velvet curtains may be appropriate for Victorian-era homes, while cotton or linen might be more fitting for Colonial-style homes.
  3. Consider traditional styles: To maintain authenticity, consider traditional styles such as pinch-pleated draperies or Roman shades that mimic the look of historical window coverings. These classic styles can add elegance and sophistication to any room while staying true to the time period in which your home was constructed.
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To further enhance the charm of your historic windows, pay attention to details such as curtain rods and tiebacks. Opt for hardware that matches the style and finish commonly seen in houses from that particular era. By carefully selecting period-appropriate coverings for your windows, you can enhance the overall appeal and ambiance of your historic home while preserving its architectural integrity.

Stay tuned for our next section on flooring and rugs where we will explore how to choose and maintain traditional flooring options for a touch of nostalgia in your historic home.

Flooring and Rugs

When it comes to decorating a historic home, choosing the right flooring and rugs is crucial for maintaining the authentic charm and nostalgia of the space. The flooring in a historic home often tells a story of its own, so it’s important to select traditional options that align with the era and style of your home.

One popular choice for historic homes is hardwood flooring. Hardwood floors have been a staple in homes for centuries and can add a touch of warmth and elegance to any space. If your historic home already has original hardwood floors, preserving them should be a top priority. Refinishing the floors can bring them back to their former glory while maintaining their historical authenticity.

If your historic home does not have original hardwood floors or if they are beyond repair, there are still plenty of options available to achieve a nostalgic look. Reclaimed wood flooring is an excellent choice as it adds character and history to your space. Antique wood salvaged from old barns, factories, or chapels can give your home a unique touch.

Another option for flooring in historic homes is vintage-inspired tile. Many older homes feature beautiful mosaic tiles in entryways or bathrooms, which can be restored or replicated using period-specific designs. Clay tiles are also common in historic homes and provide durability and natural appeal.

When choosing rugs for your historic home, consider opting for handmade rugs that evoke the style and patterns of the era you want to showcase. Oriental rugs, Persian rugs, or Aubusson carpets are all excellent choices that can add elegance and texture to your space while staying true to historical accuracy.

To maintain traditional flooring options in your historic home, regular maintenance is key. Avoid using harsh cleaning products or techniques that could damage or strip away finishes on hardwood floors. Instead, use gentle cleaners designed specifically for wood floors and avoid excessive moisture exposure.

Landscaping and Exterior Enhancements

Creating a beautiful and inviting curb appeal is essential when decorating a historic home. The exterior of your home sets the tone for what awaits inside, and by incorporating historic-inspired gardens and exterior decor, you can truly capture the essence of the time period in which your home was built.

One important aspect to consider when designing your historic-inspired garden is researching the landscaping trends of the era in which your house was constructed. Take inspiration from horticulture books, historical photographs, and even local botanical gardens that showcase gardens from that time period. Consider incorporating traditional elements such as formal boxwood hedges, paved pathways, manicured lawns, and symmetrical planting arrangements.

In addition to landscaping, selecting historically accurate exterior decor can further enhance the charm of your historic home. Look for details like ornate ironwork or stone accents that were popular during the time your house was built. Consider adding architectural elements such as trellises, pergolas, or vintage water features to create a sense of elegance and authenticity.

To complete the overall aesthetic, choose appropriate outdoor furniture that complements the style of your home. Opt for classic wrought iron benches or Adirondack chairs for a Victorian-era home or select sleek metal furniture for a mid-century modern look. Incorporate finishing touches such as antique lanterns or decorative planters alongside pathways to add character to your exterior space.

By carefully curating a historically inspired garden and selecting appropriate exterior decor, you can create an enchanting curb appeal that perfectly complements the timeless charm of your historic home. Blending historical accuracy with personal style will ensure that every aspect of your property portrays a cohesive narrative while captivating visitors with its rich history.


In conclusion, decorating a historic home requires careful consideration and attention to detail. By understanding the historical context of your home, preserving its authenticity, and selecting appropriate colors, furniture, and decor, you can capture the essence of history in your living space. Incorporating vintage artwork and historical artifacts, as well as using authentic lighting fixtures and period-appropriate window treatments, can further enhance the charm and ambiance of your historic home.

One of the key aspects of decorating a historic home is researching the era and architecture of your property. This will allow you to make informed decisions about what styles and features to preserve or restore. By paying homage to the original design elements of your home, such as crown molding or exposed brickwork, you can maintain its historical integrity.

When it comes to choosing colors for your historic home’s interior, opt for historically accurate options that were commonly used during the era in which your home was built. Consider consulting with a professional color consultant or accessing resources like historical paint color charts for guidance. The right color palette can truly transport you back in time while creating a timeless look.

Furniture and decor selection is another important aspect of decorating a historic home. Look for pieces that complement the era and style of your home and consider antique furniture or reproductions that reflect the time period in which your house was constructed. Remember that less is often more when it comes to accessorizing a historic space; choose quality over quantity to create an elegant and cohesive look.

Incorporating vintage artwork and historical objects into your decor adds another layer of authenticity to your historic home. Seek out artwork from the same time period as when your house was built or consider displaying vintage photographs or maps that relate to its history.

Lastly, consider landscaping and exterior enhancements to complete the overall aesthetic of your historic property. Choose plants, trees, and flowers that were popular during the era in which your house was constructed. Add architectural details or decorative elements on the exterior that reflect the historical style of your home and create an enchanting curb appeal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you modernize a historic home?

Modernizing a historic home involves finding the right balance between preserving its original charm and incorporating contemporary elements. One way to achieve this is by updating the home’s infrastructure while maintaining its architectural integrity. This can include rewiring the electrical system, replacing outdated plumbing, and installing modern heating and cooling systems.

Additionally, updating the kitchen and bathrooms with sleek fixtures and appliances can bring a fresh look to the home without compromising its historical character. Strategically adding modern furniture, artwork, and décor pieces that complement the existing features can also help create a cohesive blend of old and new.

How do you dress up an old house?

Dressing up an old house involves paying attention to both its interior and exterior aspects. To enhance the curb appeal of an old house, consider repainting or refinishing the front door with a bold color that stands out against the façade. Adding window boxes filled with colorful flowers or hanging floral baskets can also instantly brighten up the exterior.

Landscaping should be well-maintained and include well-trimmed hedges or distinct garden areas that add visual interest. Inside, consider restoring original features such as wood floors or exposed beams to their former glory while utilizing tasteful lighting fixtures to highlight these details. Accessorize with vintage-inspired décor items, like antique mirrors or timeless furniture pieces, to further elevate the house’s aesthetic appeal.

How to decorate a historical house?

Decorating a historic house requires careful consideration of its unique architectural features and time period. Begin by researching the historical context of your home’s era so you can select appropriate furnishings and decorative elements that reflect that particular style. Original details such as ornate crown moldings or intricate plasterwork should be highlighted rather than overshadowed, so choose paint colors that complement these features without overpowering them.

Strive for an eclectic mix of vintage finds and modern accents to strike a balance between preserving authenticity while making it functional for everyday living. Designate specific areas in each room for displaying art or antiques that emphasize the historical significance of the space. Lastly, consider integrating textiles and patterns that were popular during the home’s original time period to complete the overall décor scheme and create a sense of coherence throughout.

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