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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Allen Design Team

Interior Design In Your Antique Historic New England Home

We love living in New England! There. We said it. We mean it too, just don't ask us again in the middle of a blizzard. On a serious note, one of the greatest things about living in New England is the history here, and the fact that a lot of our homes are packed with history as well! We at Joshua Allen Design absolutely love designing and decorating in historic interiors (with a modern twist of course) and today we want to pass along some of our favorite tips for updating, refreshing and modernizing your historic home without losing any of those lovely period-specific details that make it so unique!

First things first, scrub away the dirt! Older homes have a tendency to collect dust and dirt so it’s important to clean up all those hard to get spots where dirt accumulates to make your home shine its brightest.

Next up is repainting! Repainting can have a huge impact in any space, especially one that hasn’t been painted in a while. We love the way a good coat of new paint can completely transform a space, and this is certainly the case for historic homes as well! If you want to keep things classic, Benjamin Moore has some awesome historically accurate color palettes to choose from, and if you want to switch it up there are plenty of modern & trendy choices available as well.

Image: Google images

Let that vintage trim be! We know it’s tempting to whitewash or replace old trim work that seems damaged or tattered but if you can save it, definitely try to! Vintage or ornate trim can sometimes be one of the coolest features in an antique home, so if you can keep it without too much stress or effort, we say go for it!

Image: Google images

Take advantage of stained glass windows. If you’ve got ‘em, flaunt ‘em! Modern day builders don’t normally include stained glass windows in a home, making them an awesome feature that’s unique to homes with a history, and we’re all about highlighting the unique features of a home. Clean up the glass with some windex and let this beautiful feature shine!

Image: Google images

Invest in new & smart appliances. If you can, one of the quickest ways to update the look of an antique home is to modernize the appliances. Nothing brings a home into the 21st century more effectively than a smart range, refrigerator, or washer/dryer combo and bringing in new appliances will add a ton of modern functionality without detracting from the home’s other historic elements. Bonus points if your appliances are “green” or energy efficient!

Image: Google images

If a modern twist on classic is what you’re after, one easy way to get there is to decorate with modern pieces of art & décor. Most stores that carry home decor (not to mention almost anywhere on the web) have some awesome modern options for art, and many (if chosen right!) will easily and effortlessly tie in with the features of a historic home.

Image: Google images

Experiment with wallpaper! A historic home is one of the best spaces to do just that. We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out! Wallpaper doesn’t have to be the kind you remember from your grandma’s spare bedroom — there are many easy to install (and remove if you change your mind, hello peel and stick!) designer choices with gorgeously up-to-date patterns and textures that will keep the historic feel of a space alive while also bringing in a totally modern vibe.

While we’re on the topic of patterns, another great way to tie a modern look into a historic home is by using patterned elements, and the sky’s really the limit when it comes to choice of pattern and where to put it! Add some pattern in your furniture, on your walls, with accent pieces, throw pillows & blankets, area rugs, bedding — and the list goes on! Just make sure you’re coordinating the pattern so that it ties together with the other elements in your space and you really can’t go wrong!

Image: Joshua Allen Design

Feeling like sticking to the traditional New England historic feel? Show off the history of your home! If there’s a cool piece of architecture or furniture like built in cabinets, drawers, hardwood floors, an awesome fireplace or ornate woodworking, show that off! Rather than trying to replace, repaint, or cover up these features we believe that proudly highlighting and restoring them (when possible, of course) adds to the visual story of your home’s unique history.

Another awesome way to show off your home’s history is to pull up any carpet and expose the hardwood floors if they’re under there! Lots of antique homes have hardwood floors hiding away under outdated and worn carpets — we say pull up those carpets, do a bit of refinishing, and let the hardwoods shine!

That brings us to our next piece of advice, which is to renew your wooden surfaces. This tip is for wooden floors, cabinets, vanities, walls, etc. The construction of wooden features in historic homes is often top notch, (the phrase isn't "they don't build 'em like this anymore" for nothing!) so even if they’re slightly worn or damaged, give them a good sanding and refinish them and we promise you’ll see a whole new side of your home!

Image: Google images

Have fun with lighting! Light fixtures can truly define the feeling of a space, so why not take the opportunity to put a modern spin on the period-appropriate styles in your home? Upgrading any 80’s brass fixtures you have to matte black, brushed nickel or even soft gold can bring a whole new look and feel to your space — and don’t worry, there are plenty of options out there that tie in well with any style of home.

Our last piece of advice is one of our very favorites, and one that we recommend to almost all of our design clients: use at least one antique piece in your home! We bring an antique piece into almost every one of our designs, because we feel they bring such character to any space. An antique piece fits in beautifully with the styles of many homes in New England, they're super fun to shop for if you like searching through antique stores for the perfect treasure, and incorporating a period-specific piece into your historic or antique home brings even more of its history to light!

Remember, how you design the spaces in your home is up to you and your unique style! Adding pieces that you love will make your home feel uniquely yours, and that's really the best advice we can give when it comes to styling your spaces. That said, if you ever need a hand selecting the perfect paint colors, sourcing furnishings that match your style, or finding a specific piece for a final touch on your space, we're here and would absolutely love to help!


As always, we appreciate any ideas, input, and feedback from our community and clients. So drop us a line in the comments below, chat with us on our Facebook page or email us at! Don't forget to follow us on instagram (@joshuaallendesign) Twitter (@i_allen_design) and subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we post new design-related videos each week!

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