Old House, New Home
The UK is a really special place to live. There is such a wealth of variety in the types of homes here that no matter what your situation or preferences, you can always find something that will suit you.
From new builds with all ‘mod cons’ to listed buildings that require care and attention, we Brits love our homes. But for some of us, the dream of living in an older property doesn’t quite match up to our lifestyle. Bringing an old house into the 21st century is a challenge sometimes, especially when you are more wi-fi and less wood burning stove.
But this doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams. There are plenty of ways you can bring your own modern twist to an old property without devaluing it. Indeed, bringing your home into 2019 may even add to its value if you know what you are doing!
Old houses have a bad reputation for being inefficient and costly to run. Unfortunately, this reputation is pretty accurate for many houses but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it. Often updating or upgrading things like central heating and insulation is a sensible place to start. You should also see where it might be more cost-effective to switch to electric systems.
Some old houses do put up a bit of a fuss when it comes to electric, however. Our standards for electrical wiring are now much higher than they have ever been so it is worth asking an electrician to come and check the wiring in any old house. Poor wiring can be extremely dangerous and could potentially cause a fire so checking before you do anything else is a really good idea.
If you are lucky enough to have an aga in the kitchen then please don’t throw it out just yet! You can get a company in to do an Aga electric conversion which will safely replace the current fuel (be that gas, oil or solid fuel) and ensure that your aga is running as efficiently as possible all the time.
In some cases, it may be prudent to strip back all the electricals in your home and rethink the design completely. Many old homes have been altered and ‘upgraded’ over the years and in many cases, the changes haven’t been all that successful. Stripping right back to the basics and starting again is sometimes the best way to get plug sockets in the right place and lights where they are really needed!
Do be aware that some listed buildings come with specific regulations and you may be limited to what you can do. Always check with your local planning officer before you start any major works.
Working With Small and Awkward Spaces
In the past, lots of smaller rooms were preferable to large open spaces as it is easier to heat a small space. This is why the layout of so many old houses is a bit weird to us now. New technologies and techniques such as steel frames and triple glazing have allowed us to build houses with large open spaces and wide views.
While you probably aren’t looking for minimalist industrial chic if you have bought an older property, it is worth considering whether you would like to change the interior layout to suit your lifestyle better. You can still keep the period character of a home without having to settle for a series of tiny rooms that don’t really fit your family and lifestyle. Often, knocking down interior walls while keeping the main features you love such as a fireplace or any decorative cornicing. You must always check with an architect or qualified builder before you knock any walls down!
If you can’t afford to build just yet, or you actually like having all these small rooms, you can still style them to suit your lifestyle. While large open spaces can be multifunctional, the best way to approach a smaller room is to designate a single function. For example, you might choose one room as a sitting room, another as a small office and yet another as a TV/ cinema room.
Giving each room a distinct function will actually help you to work out which items of furniture are best suited to each so that you aren’t trying to cram in as much as possible. Here, modern design is actually on your side as city centre homes are decreasing in square footage and millennials, in particular, are looking for smarter designs. In particular clever and hidden storage solutions are ideal so do look for sofas with hidden storage as well as side tables with drawers.
Even in a tiny room, the sense of space is essential to prevent you from feeling claustrophobic. Mirrors and cool paint colours are great tricks for creating the illusion of space and introducing light. However, if there is plenty of natural light, you could play with darker shades to give a more intimate, cosy feeling to a room. This works brilliantly in office spaces and bedrooms.
Adding an Extension
Lots of people choose to extend after buying an old home because there simply isn’t enough space for a modern family. In times gone by, lots of people would share the same bedroom but these days, you’re lucky to even get into a teenager’s bedroom to rescue some dishes that haven’t been seen in a while!
Adding an extension is a good way to add bedrooms but is also a good compromise if you are a fan of open plan living. Many people add extensions to create bright kitchen and living that connect with the garden and then use the old part of the house for bedrooms and cosy snugs. The question is how you are going to connect the new part of the house to the old.
Once again, much of the decision about adding an extension will come down to your planning officer and finding a compromise between your needs and the preservation of the house and its setting. Sometimes, the best route is to add an extension that blends in with the property, but there are occasions where a starker contrast between old and new is preferred. Consulting with an architect is a good idea as they will be able to offer a couple of solutions and then find a compromise that suits you and the planners.
Sometimes it is not possible to extend an old home at all. In this case, you might like to consider adding a garden room which is essentially a free-standing room in your garden. In other words, it’s a posh shed. A garden room is an ideal way to create extra space and you can buy them already fitted with lights and heating too.
Adding Your Personality
Once you are happy with the layout and basics of your home, you can start to think about how you are going to decorate. Here, you really do have a lot of freedom and you can do pretty much as you please.
Taking inspiration from the era of your house is a good place to start if you aren’t sure what to do. For example, if you are living in an Edwardian building, you might like to look to the Edwardian sense of luxury with William Morris style wallpaper and contrast deeper colours with more modern brights. If you are lucky, you might even find some original wallpaper hidden behind fitted cupboards or under layers of wallpaper still on the walls.
While taking inspiration is a good idea, don’t feel that you have to stick to these old fashioned styles too religiously. You can still add your own modern flair here. At the moment, mid-century modern is being revitalised for modern living and pretty much everyone is getting on board! But, the key difference this time around is that the furniture is now made for modern homes, combining the style of the mid-century modernists with the need for hidden storage and multifunction required in the 21st century.
No matter which interior design trend you love, there is always way to combine it with a period house. It’s all about introducing features and then blending or contrasting them with the rest of the room. You should feel free to experiment with your style so be brave in expressing your favourite things. Bringing a modern twist to any style is a good way to bring an old house into the 21st century.
Any house can become a cosy and comfortable home with the right treatment. Do be aware before you buy that an old house can cost a lot to bring up to scratch so you might like to ask a builder’s opinion before you buy. If you are also planning to add an extension, you should enquire with the local planning office before you buy. Many properties are now sold with planning permission already in place but you should check the drawings to see exactly what has been approved before you assume that your idea will be okay.