I love a house with period features. Picture rails, sash windows, working fireplaces and coving; I just can’t get enough of those decorative touches that make a house look a little special. Sadly, many of the homes I viewed while house-hunting have had these period features removed over the years when they were ‘modernised’. It seemed a shame to have just a bare hole where the fireplace used to be. I found myself wanting to put all those details back and, when I started to research this, I discovered that there are plenty of low-cost ways to update your home and add period features without spending a fortune. Here are just a few ideas…
Dado and picture rails
If you’re lucky enough to have rooms with high ceilings and Georgian proportions, you can easily add a dado rail or picture rail around the room. I think that tall walls look better with the space divided up, and it allows you to us different colours and finishes in each section of the wall. Painting with a dark colour suddenly becomes possible when you can extend the white ceiling down to the height of the picture rail. Carved wood rails can be found in most DIY stores and can easily be nailed or glued onto the walls. I added a dado rail in my hallway and it made the entrance to our home much more impressive and allowed me to use a busy wallpaper pattern below the rail.
One feature that everyone notices as soon as they walk into a room is the fireplace. If there’s ornate ironwork, or beautiful tiles, it draws attention and provides that essential focal point. And, on the other hand, when there isn’t a fireplace – just a hole – the absence of the feature is obvious too. Adding a fire back in could simply be a case of getting a chimney sweep to check that the chimney is clean and working correctly, and then adding a small burner or grate into the space.
If you want to ensure that the fireplace fits into the style of your home, you can pick a secondhand fireplace from the era that your home was built. If you want to find the exact period fireplace talk to specialist salvage and antique dealer. Installing the correct fireplace will no doubt add value to your property so it’s worth getting it right. You can search antique stores to find the period piece of your dreams and the Westland London website allows you to research by period from Renaissance to Art Deco, making it easy to find the ideal fireplace for your home.
One of the more subtle ways to add a touch of elegance to your home is to install higher-than-normal skirting boards. If you’re removing skirting boards anyway to have walls replastered or to fit new flooring, why not add skirting with a decorative carved profile? I used a very high board with a simple curved shape in all the rooms we’ve decorated and it just makes the space feel more luxurious and expensive. You don’t need to buy solid wood skirting though; I bought pre-primed MDF skirting and got the exact same look for much less money and less effort in terms of painting too.
Take a look up and imagine your room with beautiful coving around the edges of the ceiling – wouldn’t it look classy? You don’t need to buy pricey plaster coving if you want to get the look; I’ve used a light poly coving in my living room. It was so easy to put up (honestly, it’s so light and can be glued in place) and gives the same effect but for a fraction of the cost. It’s available in decorative designs and, let’s face it, no-one’s going to get that close to your ceiling that they’ll even notice the difference
A ceiling rose is something that really dresses up your pendant light fitting. They look especially decadent in bedrooms and dining rooms – and can you imagine how opulent your bathroom will seem with a roll-top bath and a ceiling rose around the light fitting? Again, you an buy inexpensive plaster or replica ceiling roses and they make a big difference to the historic feeling of the room.
Of course, doors, windows and even fitted cupboards make all the difference to your home too, so be sure to consider all the elements of your home before you start to put those feature back in. Let me know how you’ve been renovating your own house and please share any money-saving tips by leaving me a comment below.