5 Ways to Bring Modern Design to Historic Homes

5 Ways to Bring Modern Design to Historic Homes

The world of luxury real estate is one that’s full of a wide variety of home designs. From 19th-century historic townhomes in Hoboken to brownstones and lofts in adapted-use buildings, you’re likely to find all sorts of historic homes on the market, no matter where you live.

But many homeowners are interested in renovating their historic properties in a way that makes them both more modern and more attractive for 21st-century-minded buyers. That’s why we’ve put together the following guide. It will help you find personalized ways to bring modern design elements into your historic property. Let’s get started!

Maintain period detailing

One of the main challenges of updating a beautiful historic home to modern style standards is deciding which architectural elements to keep in place and which ones to let go. Details in the crown molding, wainscotting, and other hand-carved woodwork are usually best to preserve, particularly in brownstones. These elements are almost always in style, especially if you live in an area with many 19th and early 20th-century homes.

The best way to bring these design features into the modern era is to layer eclectic elements in between them. Create a visually appealing contrast by painting the wall surface around these elements in a bright neutral white or eggshell shade. If the hand-carved designs are on a dark wood base (which is common in townhomes), the color contrast between the old and the new will be even more apparent. Lofts in adapted-use buildings may have a lot of exposed steel from the past, which you can contrast with warm tones on the flooring and seating arrangements.

Simplify the interior lines

One of the most striking design features that historic homes share is their complex and multilayered architectural elements. Detailed flutings in the stairway, elaborate crown moldings and runners, and voluted columns that frame doorways — these are just a few designs that you’re likely to see in any upscale brownstone or early 20th-century luxury house. Introducing a modern flair in these properties doesn’t mean you have to swap out these beautiful handmade elements.

Instead, the best plan is to create a sense of balance between the complex and the simple. Modern interior design relies on simpler spaces and colors, so consider repainting the walls and flooring in bold, unified color schemes. Swap out a few seats and sofas with matching sets that create a sense of continuity. Declutter the cabinets and counters to allow the eye to rest comfortably in certain rooms. The effect of those elaborate historical design features will be even more impressive.

Mix modern and historic furniture

On the topic of creating balance, there are many other tactics you can take to introduce a modern sensibility to your historic house. Consider removing about half of the period chairs, sofas, and settees from the parts of the home that get the most traffic. Visit a modern furniture retailer and pick out a few high-impact, bold, and colorful pieces that will stand out from the more muted tones that were already in the home. When you arrange your new furnishings, aim to create a sense of rhythm that will catch the eye and lead it around the room.

You can also shop for modern light fixtures, door and cabinet handles, and plumbing fixtures. Look for pieces that have clean lines but still reference some of the historic design features already present in the home. You can contrast a series of skylights in a loft by organizing your seating in a circular pattern. Your new design elements shouldn’t be too shocking, though. Instead, try to pick out fixtures that stand out from the backdrop of the house's history and start a conversation with it.

Experiment with texture and continuity

Another way to introduce modern styling in your historic home is to play around with the textures and colors of fabrics. Tour around the house and look at what kind of draperies, sheeting, upholstery, and wallpaper designs are already present. If you notice a theme running through the house, you’ll likely want to preserve it. Whether that theme is a color scheme, a pattern, or something more eclectic, it’s important not to lose a unique element of the home that seems like it’s part of the lifeblood of the property.

You can update those themes by mixing up the textures and colors in which they appear. If several rooms in the back of your brownstone are painted or decorated in a series of greens, consider installing a different shade of green tiles in the kitchen. A room with strong vertical lines or wallpaper can be echoed in the upholstery of the chairs or couches. The goal is to create a sense of continuity between rooms, drawing them together so that visitors and guests can take in the big picture of the home.

Make an impact with modern colorways

One of the most important features that separates modern interior design from earlier eras is the amount of ambient light and bright colors that are allowed to circulate around the home. Updating your color schemes from room to room is a relatively easy way to bring your house into the 21st century. If the back rooms of your Hoboken townhome don’t get a lot of light or are covered in darkly stained woods, consider repainting the walls in a glossy off-white or dove gray.

The more richly designed elements on the stairs, paneling, and ceilings are, however, better left untouched. It can be difficult to remove new paints from these valuable parts of the home if new owners prefer them in their historic condition. Instead, think about refinishing them to reflect more light and appear brighter. If your Hoboken home has trouble receiving as much light as you’d like, swap out old dark curtains with thinner, sheer cotton materials that allow more ambient light to enter all parts of the home.

Get in touch with a local real estate agent today

There you have it: our complete guide to bringing modern design elements into your historic home. If you have any questions or want to learn more about townhomes in Hoboken, reach out today! Contact Hudson Realty Group for more information.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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