The Right Furniture, Decor and Landscape for Your Historic Home - A Complete Guide

Packed with character, charm, and a rich history, owning a historic home is a rewarding experience. Whether you've just purchased one or have owned one for years, you may be looking for guidance on how...

Packed with character, charm, and a rich history, owning a historic home is a rewarding experience. Whether you've just purchased one or have owned one for years, you may be looking for guidance on how to make both the interior and exterior of your home consistent, authentic, and beautiful.

Styling your Victorian Home

Victorian homes, popular during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), are known for their impressive and ornate architectural style. These houses have defining characteristics both on the exterior and interior.

Exterior:

  • Steep, gabled roofs
  • Rounded angles
  • Towers, turrets, and dormers
  • Shapely windows (especially bay windows)
  • Stained glass
  • Bright colors
  • Intricately decorated woodwork

Interior:

  • 2-3 stories
  • Added nooks
  • High ceilings
  • Ornate staircases
  • Decorative wood trim

Victorian Home Caption: A beautiful example of a Victorian home with its distinctive features.

Most Common Types of Victorian Homes:

  • Gothic Revival (1830-1860): Inspired by medieval churches in Europe, featuring steep, pitched roofs, pointed arches, and elaborate trim.
  • Italianate (1840-1870): Modeled after Italian Renaissance villas, characterized by low or flat roofs, wide eaves, and ornamental brackets.
  • Second Empire (1852-1870): French-influenced during the time of Napoleon III, with a rectangular or square base, mansard roof, and elaborate millwork.
  • Stick-Eastlake (1860-1890): Primarily made of wood, originating in Chicago, featuring decorative wood trim called "stick work" and a wrap-around porch.
  • Folk Victorian (1870-1910): Smaller and square with a simple floor plan, representing the transition from Victorian opulence to the simpler Arts & Crafts period.
  • Queen Anne (1875-1905): The most famous type of Victorian home, characterized by heavily ornamented exteriors, steep roofs, rounded towers, and large windows.

How to Choose a Color Scheme for Your Victorian Home

To bring out the ornate and opulent details in Victorian architecture, consider a color palette that complements the architecture and highlights the home's features.

Exterior Colors:

Traditionally, pre-1885 Victorian homes were painted in muted colors such as ochre, russet, beige, taupe, brown, and ecru. However, the popularity of brightly colored Victorian homes emerged in the late 1800s, paving the way for vibrant color schemes seen today.

Victorian Color Scheme Caption: A vibrant Victorian home showcasing the use of bold colors.

Interior Colors:

Traditionally, Victorian interiors featured earth tones such as deep red, amber, emerald, and dark brown. Today, homeowners may choose brighter complementary colors to create a lighter, more modern Victorian look.

How to Decorate and Furnish Your Victorian Home

Decorating and furnishing a Victorian home can range from strictly traditional to a more modern blend. Here are some tips to consider:

Tips for Furnishing a Victorian Style Home

  • Choose weighty, oversized furniture that can be placed close together.
  • Strike a balance between overcrowded and cozy.
  • Opt for comfortable chairs and couches with overstuffed cushions.
  • Use white-painted wicker furniture to complement heavily carved Victorian antiques.

Tips for Decorating a Victorian Style Home

  • Embrace ornate, rich, and expensive-looking decor.
  • Use linens with lace, embroidery, and ribbons.
  • Incorporate fabrics in velvet or damask.
  • Use ornate frames and consider mixing in modern artwork.
  • Embrace marble flooring.
  • Use rugs, tapestries, window coverings, and wallpapers with heavy patterns and details.
  • Accessorize with statues, lamps, ornaments, and more.

Victorian Furniture Caption: Victorian-style furniture and decor create a timeless and opulent look.

How to Garden/Landscape Your Victorian Home

If you want to truly embrace the Victorian style, don't forget about your outdoor space. Here are some do's and don'ts for landscaping your Victorian home:

Do's:

  • Use flowers or plants in one color placed in oval or kidney-shaped planting beds.
  • Surround planting beds with green grass.
  • Consider using Coleus plants, ferns, African violets, hybrid tea roses, and wisteria.
  • Create curvilinear paths with gravel, and incorporate ornamentation such as pergolas, gazebos, and trellises with vines.
  • Experiment beyond pastels and traditional English garden plants.
  • Be mindful of the climate and choose low water plants for areas with low water/humidity.

Don'ts:

  • Don't let the garden space look messy.
  • Avoid using earth tones or leaving wood unfinished.
  • Avoid mixing contemporary or modern elements.

Victorian Garden Caption: A beautifully landscaped Victorian garden with lush flowers and curvilinear paths.

Known for its simplicity and accessibility, the American Foursquare style emerged as a reaction against the ornate Victorian Queen Anne style. These houses are characterized by their boxy shape, multiple levels, and roomy interiors.

Characteristics of an American Foursquare Home

Exterior:

  • Simple box shape
  • 2 ½ stories
  • Low-pitched roof with a deep overhang
  • Large central dormer
  • Full-width porch with wide stairs
  • Made from brick, stone, stucco, concrete block, or wood

Interior:

  • 4 large rooms on each floor
  • Bathroom on the second floor (when originally built)
  • Large foyer
  • Popular enhancements included built-in bookcases and window seats

American Foursquare Caption: An example of an American Foursquare home with its distinct boxy shape.

How to Choose a Color Scheme for Your Foursquare Home

For the exterior of your Foursquare home, consider a color scheme that features a contrasting body and trim. Historically, the trim color was lighter than the body and matched the shade of the asphalt roof.

For the interior, choose colors that complement the natural light and highlight the finely crafted woodwork found throughout the house. Neutrals and shaded pastels work well for Foursquare interiors, avoiding high-contrast color schemes.

How to Decorate and Furnish Your Foursquare Home

When decorating a Foursquare home, consider the following tips:

Tips for Furnishing a Foursquare Home

  • Choose simple lines and furniture made of oak or other fine woods.
  • Showcase the grain of the wood with light or dark stains.
  • Opt for clean lines and evenly spaced slats.

Tips for Decorating a Foursquare Home

  • Use warm earth tones to complement the richness of the woodwork.
  • Incorporate patterned textiles with character and comfort.
  • Emphasize natural textures found in wood, leather, tile, and stained glass.
  • Choose lights made of art glass or leaded glass with geometric motifs.
  • Use fixtures and hardware finished with antique or distressed metal look.
  • For a more modern approach, use a lighter, cooler color palette and consider traditional or Mid-Century Modern furniture and decor.

Foursquare Furniture Caption: Craftsman-style furniture complements the simplicity and elegance of a Foursquare home.

How to Garden/Landscape Your Foursquare Home

For landscaping a Foursquare home, focus on diversity and harmonizing with nature. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Create a look of maturity by maintaining or planting trees that provide shade.
  • Add Japanese-style gardens for a touch of tranquility and natural elements.
  • Highlight foliage with interesting textures and colors that complement the home's exterior.
  • Layer plants in your yard from ground covers to perennials and small ornamental trees.

Craftsman homes, born out of the Arts & Crafts Movement, embraced simplicity and natural elements. This style of home features open floor plans, beamed ceilings, and plenty of interior woodwork.

Craftsman Bungalow Caption: The iconic Craftsman Bungalow exemplifies the simplicity and beauty of Craftsman-style architecture.

Characteristics of a Craftsman Home

Exterior:

  • Wood, stone, or stucco siding
  • Low-pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves
  • Exposed roof rafters
  • Large porch with round or tapered square columns
  • Dormer windows
  • Stained glass

Interior:

  • Open floor plans with few hallways
  • Plentiful interior woodwork
  • Built-in shelves, cabinets, and window seats

How to Choose a Color Scheme for Your Craftsman Home

When choosing a color scheme for your Craftsman home, consider warm, natural, and inviting colors. Earthy browns, muted greens, and cool blues are commonly found in Craftsman color palettes. The use of color should complement the beautifully crafted wood trim found throughout the home.

How to Decorate and Furnish Your Craftsman Home

Craftsman-style furniture and decor embody simple design executed to perfection. Here are some tips for furnishing and decorating your Craftsman home:

Tips for Furnishing a Craftsman Home

  • Opt for simple lines and furniture made of oak or other fine woods with visible grain.
  • Choose stains that highlight the natural beauty of the wood.
  • Avoid excessive decorative elements and focus on clean lines and evenly spaced slats.

Tips for Decorating a Craftsman Home

  • Use warm earth tones to showcase the richness of the woodwork.
  • Embrace natural textures found in wood, leather, tile, and stained glass.
  • Consider lighting fixtures made of art glass or leaded glass with geometric motifs.
  • Use fixtures and hardware with antique or distressed metal finishes.
  • For a modern twist, go for a lighter and cooler color palette, and mix in traditional or Mid-Century Modern furniture and decor.

Craftsman Decor Caption: Craftsman-style decor incorporates natural textures and warm earth tones.

How to Garden/Landscape Your Craftsman Home

While there is no specific garden or landscape design for Craftsman homes, you can create a look that harmonizes with nature and embraces diversity. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Maintain or plant trees that provide a sizable canopy of shade.
  • Add Japanese-style gardens to complement the Craftsman style.
  • Highlight foliage with interesting textures and colors.
  • Layer plants in your yard, starting with ground covers and moving up to perennials and small, ornamental trees.

Shotgun houses, known as the original tiny homes, were built for efficiency and affordability. These colorful dwellings, thought to have originated from Haiti and the West Indies, are most common in the South, notably New Orleans.

Shotgun Home Caption: A vibrant and colorful Shotgun home with its distinct architectural style.

Characteristics of a Shotgun Home

Exterior:

  • One story
  • Spacious, gabled front porches
  • Tall doors and windows in the front and back
  • Historic versions had no windows on the sides due to lack of space and light

Interior:

  • Front door opens into the living room, followed by bedrooms and kitchen in the back
  • Originally built without plumbing, but bathrooms were later added
  • No hallways
  • All doors line up to allow for a breeze to flow through
  • High ceilings for adequate ventilation

How to Choose a Color Scheme for Your Shotgun Home

For the exterior of your Shotgun home, feel free to choose any color scheme that resonates with you. Historically, these homes were painted in bright colors, reflecting their African and Caribbean roots.

Internally, keeping the space light and airy is recommended, especially if windows are limited. Trim should be painted white, while walls kept light to create the illusion of a larger space.

How to Decorate and Furnish Your Shotgun Home

Decorating and furnishing a Shotgun home can be as fun and eclectic as the house itself. Here are some techniques to keep in mind when working with a smaller space:

  • Less is more: Choose smaller furniture pieces and get creative with the layout to maximize space.
  • Pick a point: Design each room around a focal point and make each room unique.
  • Let there be light: Use sheer or no curtains, keep doors open, and add mirrors to reflect light.
  • Multitask: Choose furniture and rooms that serve dual purposes.

How to Garden/Landscape Your Shotgun Home

Shotgun houses historically had tiny yards or no yard at all, with the porch serving as the primary gathering space. However, if you have yard space, you can get creative:

  • Create a look of maturity by planting or maintaining trees that provide shade.
  • Add Japanese-style gardens for tranquility.
  • Highlight foliage with interesting textures and colors.
  • If space is limited, consider a container garden or vertical garden to maximize greenery.

Conclusion

Whether you own a Victorian, Foursquare, Craftsman, or Shotgun home, understanding the architecture and history of your house can guide your design choices. Incorporate color schemes, furniture, decor, and landscaping that complement the style and make your historic home truly shine.

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