Painted Historic Woodwork: Naughty or Nice?

Its light, its bright, but is it all right?

It’s light, it’s bright, but is it all right?

A hot trend in home design and decor these days is clean, light interiors.  And while a bright, airy interior is certainly achievable in a historic house, our un-remodeled old homes, especially those dating from the 1870s to 1910s, can sometimes be murky and oppressive. Continue reading

Staging an Historic Home to Sell

Vintage1What’s this staging thing all about?  We spend lots of time and money to make our homes reflect our good taste, personality and sometimes, financial prowess.  Well, when getting  ready to sell, the tables turn and all of that time, energy and money has to be reassessed to appeal to an “audience.”   Staging a home to SELL is a somewhat different animal when you are dealing with a historic or vintage home. While you want it to appeal to the widest audience possible, you have to realize that many buyers interested in buying a historic or vintage home are attracted to historically decorated interiors. Most historic homes sell to a specific kind of buyer who is looking for character and architectural details that will make them fall head over heels.

Here are ways to put the focus on a historic home’s distinct architecture and appeal to the most likely buyers.

1. Choose classic or design neutral wall colors. If you need to paint the walls, choose a color from a period-inspired palette. Use fresher, cleaner historic options, such as Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue, Adams Gold or Georgian Green.

2. Less is More.  Clear out the clutter. Historic homeowners tend to be collectors and don’t always tune in to the crowded look that can create over time. Clear away clutter and create symmetry in the furniture arrangements, and buyers won’t miss your home’s good bones and architectural gravitas.

3. Emphasize the architecture. Put the focus on the architecture by toning down the patterns and ornate decor. Effective use of color keeps the attention on the architecture of the room, its millwork, cabinetry, windows, and detail.

Modern-Victorian-Kitchen4. Maintain a functional kitchen. Even a charming period kitchen needs to appeal to 21st-century buyers. Make sure your kitchen provides plenty of storage and boasts up-to-date appliances. With period charm in the mix, old house lovers will be sold after viewing a kitchen like this one.

5. Exaggerate space. A period home doesn’t often measure up to new-home room proportions. Make the most of your square footage by mixing painted finishes with traditional dark wood finishes to expand the impression of space.Stairwell

6. Keep window treatments simple. Remove fussy window sheers and heavy draperies from the windows in your historic home — gone are the days of elaborate festoons, jabots and swags. By taking down heavy window treatments, you reveal the beauty of the window trim and make the rooms appear bigger by letting in more natural light.

Keep it neutral. Keep it simple and let the house speak for itself.

Originally posted by: Kristie Barnett at

Edited for www.Ispeakvintage by Keith Goad

Victorian Color Therapy


Victorian GreenAs a long-suffering chromatophobist, I have always steered clear of vibrant, saturated colors, both inside and out.  Neutral shades of grey, beige, and  taupe, with risky splashes of “wheat” or “sage” have been my safety zone. In my house and on my back.  Time to come out of the neutral-zone closet.  As it turns out, maintaining all things old house is pretty good therapy.

A little antecedent information first. Larger homes built between 1850 and 1915, were probably, in one form or another, influenced by Victorian architecture designs. Detailed gingerbread woodwork, bold brackets and enormous shutters beg for a color scheme that will complement their detail.  In putting together a post on Victorian home colors, I discovered that natural earth-tone colors were favored, as a result of Victorian homeowners’ fascination with nature. White was rarely used and shades of green, brown, red, and mustard were the norm.

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

So how, exactly did we get to the riot of circus colors that frequently and proudly animate Victorian era homes today?  Post Civil War homeowners started the transition to bolder color.  Embracing color has long been a trend in post war eras and downturns in economies. Any fashion catalog you pick up today is testament to that.  While embracing color, I cannot cross the line to coral “manpris.” It’s just not right.   The “Painted Ladies” (tarts, as my mother would say) of San Francisco were transformed into vibrant tones of purple, pink, blue and red in the mid sixties after two world wars and drab makeovers in surplus battleship grey. The true Victorian-era homes were originally painted in much more natural tones. The San Fran tarts stand as international models of out-of-the-box palettes and celebrations of color and creativity.

I have read that color affects moods and emotions.  Why did it take me 48 years to pick up on that newsworthy tidbit?  Some therapists believe that each organ and body system has vibrational energy sensitive to corresponding vibrational energies from color. Huh?  Chromotherapy  is a pseudoscience with no basis in academia, but I  sure sound smart talking about it, don’t I?   This is not a scholarly missive or architectural critique of historical homes.  It’s not even my opinion, really.  Simply an observation of coming full circle, finding our color inspiration in nature.  If we garner some additional benefits and “energy” from the colors of our homes, all the better!

Hope you enjoy the spectrum of houses I found.  Perhaps we have not veered too far from the original intent of Victorian homeowners.