How to Make a Historic Home Feel Modern


From Esquimalt to Oak Bay, the majority of charming, historic homes possess a distinct soul-enriching comfort that evokes the feeling of home. Whether a 1940s Tudor or a ‘60s Mid-Century Modern rancher, these spaces always hold an abundance of one easy-to-love feature: character.

However, while architectural details and charm are plentiful, older homes often lack modern-day conveniences and layouts. The solution? Renovating. Of course, the renovation process is worth careful consideration. If you’re like me, you will want to preserve the original beauty of the home while making it functional  for your everyday routine.

In fact, this thoughtful approach is my favourite part of a renovation. It requires vision, creativity, and a careful balance of marrying old with new to design something soulful, inviting, and that genuinely reflects you. Here’s how we do it…

 1. Tastefully Balance Old and New


During a home renovation, it can feel tempting to go all-out and give your space a complete overhaul. New flooring, fresh paint, modern hardware, contemporary furnishings… it’s all exciting. But the truth is, the right combination of old and new is what will give your home that unique, curated, and lived-in feeling.

One of my favourite ways to highlight the distinct architectural details of a home’s original era is to refinish existing hardwood flooring in a lighter, more matte finish, like the entryway shown above. Combined with a crisp and clean paint colour (like Benjamin Moore’s Simply White), the space instantly feels light and airy without compromising character. Speaking of…

2. Keep Colours Muted & Soft 


Paying careful attention to the colour palette is essential to preserving your home’s architectural integrity. In general, muted, soft, and neutral hues will create a calming backdrop while naturally highlighting the home’s original features. 

Additionally, these versatile shades act as the ideal canvas for infusing your mementos, colourful artwork, and other special furnishings that tell your story of home. 

3. Choose Timeless and Classic Finishes


Cabinet hardware, countertops, and plumbing fixtures offer a beautiful opportunity to modernize your space. But in an effort to keep your home from feeling disjointed from its original history, I prefer to strike a balance with a combination of modern and timeless finishes. 

For example, in our classic Craftsman Renovation, we selected a stunning Carrera marble countertop, polished chrome fixtures, and antique accents in a soft colour palette to provide the perfect balance of polished and inviting.

4. Create a Functional and Modern Kitchen


The kitchen is the heart of the home, making it an area that craves functionality. Unfortunately, closed-off spaces, lack of storage, and dated appliances are simply impractical for modern-day living. While working with historical homes, it’s essential to thoughtfully maximize the design without compromising the charm.

This means creating a functional, spacious layout but selecting modern finishes that maintain your home’s authenticity. Depending on the style of the house, I often blend wood and soft, cream-coloured cabinetry for a fresh yet traditional aesthetic. As always, I’ll help you select the best appliances (within your budget) and maximize storage and prep space. 

5. Make a Statement with Up-to-Date Lighting


Light fixtures are often referred to as the jewelry of the home, and a simple update can instantly highlight those beautiful architectural details, like ceiling medallions, mouldings, and decorative doorways. Along with brightening your space, updated fixtures will also enhance your home’s overall aesthetic. Our unique layered approach to lighting will provide an attractive visual dynamic, making your home feel instantly refreshed.

Bonus? Modern lighting fixtures offer more advanced functionality than traditional ones. For example, LED lights provide energy efficiency and last much longer than conventional incandescent bulbs. This will improve your home’s overall functionality… and your electricity bill. Win-win.

6. With Furniture & Decor, Less is More


Nothing says “grandma’s house” more than clutter, tchotchkes, and sofa armrest covers. I am all for displaying meaningful treasures and collections in our homes, but they must be kept to a minimum for us to genuinely appreciate them. Additionally, selecting oversized area rugs and appropriately sized furniture with clean lines is essential for maximizing visual space.

Lastly, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re decorating a historic home — it’s so beautiful you want to ensure every inch of it is taken care of! But remember, less is more. When designed thoughtfully and appropriately, the result will be an elegant and sophisticated space that feels like coming home to yourself.


Final Words of Advice for Historic Homes

When purchasing your historic home, I suggest walking through and taking notes of each feature that evokes an emotional reaction. Whether it’s beautiful wainscoting, coved ceilings, the coziness of a particular room, or perhaps the warmth of the natural wood, these are the special details that should be preserved during your renovation.

Share these details with us, and we’ll make sure to revive and incorporate them naturally into an updated space that supports and uplifts you each and every day. 

Ready to take the next step? I’d love to help. Reach out to me here, and let’s create a home you’ll never want to leave.


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