7 Idea’s to beautify Historic Homes

magine this: You’ve just bought your first historic home. You go inside for the first time as the official owner, look around, and realize you don’t know what to do with this beautiful historic property. Don’t panic just yet!At Nostalgic Homes, we’re here to help guide you through the process of beautifying and keeping your historic home historic!

The First Steps to Beautifying Your Historic Home

Historically accurate paint colors

This remodeled dining room showcases colors originally found in the early 1900’s

1. A Splash of Color!One of the first things anyone looking to restore or beautify their historic home will be told is to update the paint. Fortunately for historic home owners, the National Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with paint company Valspar to create a line of historically accurate paint colors with names like Mark Twain Bark and Lincoln White Sash. Over the years, they’ve continued their color research and have now created 250 colors,all sourced from historic sites across the United States and sorted into four stylistic categories, loosely based on region and era. Since the line’s launch in 1999, the National Trust has used Valspar paint for all of their historic sites.

Energy effecient bathroom |historic

Retrofitted historic bathroom with energy effecient lighting

2. Green is Gorgeous!There has been a rapidly growing movement for making houses greener by retrofitting. Putting in new insulation, plugging air leaks, and switching to LED light bulbs are all items that fall on the to-do list, but when you own a historic home, these things taken on more significance… and difficulty. Not only do you have to spend the time and money getting the job done, you also have to adapt your efforts to your particular house—a house that might not have easily replaceable parts should something break. Do your research and get an energy audit to see what can actually be done to your home before you put a hammer through those walls. Some local governments and utility companies offer this service, so check with them before shelling out for an expensive contractor.

Historic window molding resotration

Restored Windows

3. I Can See Clearly Now!Doing a retrofit and debating whether to keep or trash your home’s original windows? Not only are the original frames more beautiful, recent studies show that repairing –not replacing– your older windows can make your home just as energy efficient as installing new windows. Afraid that the hassle of getting your windows repaired will be more expensive than simply replacing them? By the time you take into account parts, installation, and general construction, putting in new windows can cost up to double what you would pay for a repair. Don’t believe us? Check out the report for yourself!

Feeling bold? Here’s the first in a series of DIY videos for retrofitting your windows:
Insert youtube video here: (Window Sash Glazing)

Keep In Touch With Your Home’s History

Restore your home’s history

4.Get Back to Your Roots! Did your home’s previous owners do a tragic gut and remodel? Want to bring some sense of history back? Look online for an antique replacement hardware matching service or an antique reproduction hardware shop. From hinges and door knobs to tubs and toilets,there is a wide berth of websites that can help you identify what style of hardware may have been removed from your house and get it back in place. Sites like Historic Preservation have massive directories listing not only places in your area where you can see matching hardware in person, but also nearby historic property photographers, surveyors, architects, engineers, and a full list of building contractors sorted by specialty.

5.Bring out the Art! Match your wall décor to the period and area your historic home was built in. Living in an early 1800s era property in New Orleans? A large print of “Battle of New Orleans” in an antique frame from that same time period will fill up that empty wall and let visitors get a glimpse of your city’s history. Companies like Fine Art Americahave massive archives of American art and photographs that they can print on a variety of surfaces. Have more than a little bit of wall space available? Order headline reprints from newspapers like The Los Angeles TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times from their online stores. For the dedicated decorator, browse the archives at Rare & Early Newspapers to get original copies of newspapers from the year your home was built.


6. Home Is Where You Lay Your Head!Much like everything else, unless you’re theming each room in your historic property for a different era of your town, you’re going to want to match your interior to the overall gorgeousness that is the architectural style of your house. This is an expensive thing to do, as antique furniture is neither cheap nor easy to replace. First things first: check the attic, basement, and other out-of-the-way storage areas where previous owners may have hidden furniture over the years. Getting a found pair of Chippendale armchairs polished and reupholstered is going to be significantly less expensive than buying a pair at an auction house after all! Second, keep an eye on the classifieds for estate sales in your area, as well as in nearby cities that were founded around the same time your city was. Third, hop onto sites like Old House Online to explore their antique furniture reproduction company directory.

For the Finishing Touch, Get Outside Your Historic Home

7. Bloom, Baby, Bloom! So, the inside of your house is taken care of. You’ve done your insulation, plugged those pesky leaks, retrofitted your windows, matched your hardware, ordered your furniture, and hung your art. What now? There’s a whole world of possibilities in your historic home’s front and back yards! Time to do some research. You know when your home was built, but what was the gardening style for that period in your neighborhood? Greek revival? Italianate? Georgian? Something else entirely? Each of these has a particular style of landscaping that you’ll need to learn about. Pick up books like Denise Wilse Adams’ Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants for both information and inspiration. Want more of a local flavor in your landscaping? Head to your nearby library and see if you can find old photos of your house or even your neighborhood to get an idea of the gardens of the “good old days.”

Don’t forget: Owning a historic house can be a lot of work, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Make sure to do your research on maintaining your property properly, join historic preservation organizations for news and tips, and aim high!