Restoring period pieces in your home

When it comes to buying a property that isn’t a new build, you will most likely need to do a bit of home improvement and perhaps even some restoration. If you’re lucky it will just be a lick of paint, and if you’re even luckier you will find some hidden gems along the way. Period features still have their place in the modern home, even more so in 2014 with oak and brass making a comeback.

Don’t treat an original feature like any old pine

If you sand and varnish a wooden floor, you might as well just pair it with something from Ikea because you will effectively have stripped it of all its history. Before so much as washing the floor, get advice from an expert or conservator. They will most likely suggest using turpentine and delicate wire wool to clean up the floors while preserving the patination. Instead of varnish, natural waxes can be used effectively to bring out the grain. Varnish, on the other hand, will give it a cheap orange look. Once restored, be very careful about how you clean the floor and avoid sloshing water about.

Resist the urge to ‘over-restore’ – period features are desirable because they add personality and charm, if you make them look completely new they will lose that charm, so incorporate the worn, antique look into your décor.

Mind the budget

If you’ve decided to go the whole hog, keep in mind that restoration is an expensive exercise. Also if you restore every original feature in your home it might end up looking like the set of the next Downtown Abbey. Decide on which authentic features will really draw the eye on a daily basis, such as windows and shutters. You can decide to be historically accurate (for example, most windows frames and shutters were painted white from 1850 onwards) or you can give your own spin on it for greater effect. In fact, you can get really creative and use your period features in a surprising way (for example, using shutters inside rather than outside) and delight your guests.

Fake it ‘til you make it

You may find the period features in your house beyond redemption but there’s nothing stopping you from buying authentic pieces from elsewhere. In Europe we are blessed with a plethora of hidden gems. Some great additions are French marble fireplaces, spectacular oak doors or geometric tiles in the hallway. You may even want to consider reproductions but be aware that these could just as easily look cheap.

Home renovation and restoration is the stuff of many people’s dreams and although the dream location is often considered somewhere in Provence or Tuscany, the British period house is a very strong contender in the charm contest. Now you just need the right budget and a little imagination to bring those features out and create your very own dream home.

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