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7 Tips for Renovating Traditional Period Properties

DIY floorboard restoration

*This is a sponsored (paid) Post in Collaboration with Period Mouldings

Renovating a house can be a total minefield, with so many different things to consider. There are practical issues, like pipework and plumbing, and then there are design decisions and trying to figure out what's the best way to make use of your space. You'll find endless ideas and inspiration out there on the internet, covering all types of buildings and house layouts, but trying to narrow these down for your own house - well that's a whole different thing.

When it comes to period houses, people often have a design dilemma on hand. On one hand, you may want to significantly update a house in a modern way, but at the same time, you may want to keep the old original charm it offers and be sympathetic to the age of the building. It's a hard balance to achieve - and one, we struggle with ourselves.

Trying to combine old and new is something I think about in every room - attempting to keep that Victorian vibe, but with a modern twist. So I thought I would combine some of the things we do in our house, to also help you with your period property renovation if you're looking for the same old/new twist.

1 - Match New with the Old

Unfortunately, many period houses are just a shell of what they used to be - with original features long gone, however, putting some of these back though can often be much easier than you would think! One of the statement features of a period house is its high skirting boards, architraves around window/doors, cornice along the ceiling, picture rails, dado rails and even its recognisable internal doors.

Victorian Cornicing In Renovation

If any these have been lost, or even part-lost, you can easily re-instate these from Period Mouldings who tailor specifically to period designs from Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian homes! It means you know you're getting an authentic deal with designs that are true to the specific era of your house. There are several designs to choose from, so you can easily match a design that would have originally been in your home, whether it's skirting, doors, architrave or other mouldings. If you're not sure, you can always ask neighbours to see theirs - or even better, look on Rightmove for photos of houses for sale or that have recently sold on your street!

If you have sections of any of these features that needs replacing, you can also get these bespoke matched by Period Mouldings to the exact dimensions/mouldings, so your new pieces will fit seamlessly against the old. So much so, that you'd almost never know!

2 - Restore Original Features

I absolutely hate seeing period houses have original features ripped out of them. Whether it's doors, fireplaces, cornice or even floorboards - if any of them are in salvageable condition, then it just feels wrong to me. Restoring original features doesn't have to be costly, in fact, there are many DIY solutions you can take yourself to bring items back to their former glory!

Restoring a Period Fireplace

This fireplace was originally covered under thick cream paint - one tub of the paint remover 'peel away' later, and it's now fully restored looking good as new!

You can also use similar methods on hinges, doorknobs and other metalwork too. I have a detailed post about my restoration techniques, so do check that out if you're interested!

Restoring Period Rim Locks

For cornicing, period skirtings and period architrave, you can often fill in sections rather than placing the entire length. Just send a sample to Period Mouldings and they can recreate an exact match! Cut out your damaged piece and slot the new piece in - simple and will save you a ton of money/time rather than ripping it all out.

Floorboards in poor condition can often be sanded back to look good as new as well. If you have the odd spot of woodworm, you can treat this and fill in any holes too. I always like to think - where there's a will, there's a way!

3 - Use Lime Plaster and Breathable Paint

Not many people know this, but period houses need to be able to breathe. It sounds kinda bonkers, but it's true! They're built differently and have a very different damp proofing method. Unlike modern houses, period properties were constructed with lime mortar, lime renders and limewashes. This all allows solid walls to absorb water and then evaporate. When modern materials are used in their place (such as cement mortar, cement render or "plastic paints", water is breathability of the wall is broken and instead, water gets trapped beneath this material, causing the brickwork to decay and often damp to appear - as the water cannot escape. This website details the importance of breathability in older buildings if you want to learn more!

On external walls, you should use lime plaster internally to keep the brickwork breathable, avoid all cement-based materials (cement render, cement mortar etc) and you can also buy breathable paints, like Earthborn Paints which are clay-based to use. This will keep your walls true to their original construction and maintain the building in its best form! This is one of the reasons we haven't replastered in our house, instead choosing to simply patch the walls where required.

4 - Heritage Colours and Wallpapers

Talking about paints - have you ever thought about the colours we use? There are so many gorgeous colours on the market nowadays, but back when period houses were built, there was most definitely a more limited range available, which means many of the colours readily available now are considered quite "modern" for older properties.

To combat this, many paint companies now offer heritage colours which are colours that would have been used from the time period houses were built. They're perfect for using in older houses and keeping true to the way they were. Ceilings, for example, wouldn't have been the brilliant white they are nowadays, so why not keep the original feel by using an off-white? You can find heritage paint colours from companies like Craig & Rose, The Little Greene, Crown and Dulux Paints - and many of these companies also offer heritage approved wallpapers too if you really fancy making a feature!

little greene french grey

5 - Don't Forget the Garden!

When we talk about renovations, we never really think about the garden. But actually, the garden is pretty much an extension of the house and so, should really be treated almost like a room of its own! 

If you're going for a traditional style interior, then a garden to match is almost essential. There are lots of heritage historic gardens in the UK where you can visit to get inspiration on plants which would have been used or layouts too. A good old typical English Rose is sure to be found in most vintage gardens, along with the staple rope edging tiles!

The garden is also a great place to reuse leftover materials from your renovations! Things like bricks from removing any walls can make great edging tiles or even be useful for building raised beds. Slate roof tiles can also be used in a similar way and for a more quirky look, you can even reuse Belfast sinks, chimneypots, old galvanised pots and even bathtubs as planters too!

An example of rope edging in our garden used in a modern way:

rope edging tiles in modern garden

6 - Use Traditional Materials

So let's talk about adding new! Whether you're installing a whole new kitchen or bathroom suite, you can't always keep the old - and something new is definitely required. But even with the new and modern additions, you can still use traditional materials to combine elements of the old within your new designs.

Materials like Brass, Iron, Natural Stone, Quarry Tiles, Pine and Oak were all commonly found in houses back in the day, so why not add a touch of modern using some of those? For example, you may have a brand new kitchen, but why not consider brass hardware, an oak worktop, or even a natural stone floor to bring that traditional feel into the room?

Combining both modern and traditional can really stand the test of time when it comes to interior design, as its a classic look, not too "trendy" and will look great for many years to come! We opted for a budget limestone floor in our own kitchen - and I can confirm, it looks great!

budget limestone floor in kitchen

7 - Shop Reclamation Yards, Antique Fairs and eBay for Secondhand Gems!

Last but by no means least, make sure you look out for secondhand period items to fill your house with! A few original period items to fill a shelf will really help to bring that authentic vintage feel into the house. We have some lovely odd bits ourselves like a vintage ladder turned into a wall feature, vintage suitcases for display storage, or even just the classic vintage scales proudly on show in the kitchen! You'll be surprised what difference a few little display items can make - and personally, I think they're far more interesting and tell a greater story than shop-bought new ornaments!

Feature Vintage Wall Ladder

So I hope this was helpful if you're looking to renovate a period house. I'd love to know some of your tips too - so let me know if you have any to share, otherwise - happy house renovating! 😉

*This post was sponsored by period mouldings. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting this blog!

**Post may also contain affiliate links.

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Tips for Renovating Period Properties

1 comment

  1. I love your suggestion of matching new with old. I would really like to have authentic skirting boards to compliment a modern design. Thanks for the post!


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