Sarah Brown’s living room. Photo / Supplied

So You Want Your Home To Look Like It Has An Old Soul

In this extract from Selina Lake's new book, 'Heritage Style', mixing old with new is a stylish way to create a unique and relaxing home

Relaxing Living Rooms
Designing, decorating and styling heritage-style living rooms involves combining the grandeur of a bygone era with the informality of modern living. I recommend starting with the walls — consider heritage paint colours, raw or natural plaster finishes or smart panelling. Next think about flooring. Sanding down and/or painting an existing wooden floor is a budget-friendly idea, which will allow you to invest in rugs.

Then add some comfortable seating — a sofa, or a collection of armchairs and pouffes if the space is small. If you are renting, the sofa will be your starting point, as you can take it with you when you move.

Retro Mood
Everything old is new again, as the saying goes, and Jessie Cutts and Ivo Vos’ trendy space (pictured below) certainly echoes that sentiment. Jessie and Ivo have taken a slow and steady approach to the renovation of their Georgian mansion terrace in Ramsgate, Kent.

Most of the items in their living room are second-hand or homemade. Jessie and Ivo tend to accumulate items from various sources and then pull them together, rather than shopping for everything in one go.

Their retro sideboard, found locally at an antiques shop, provides useful storage and a surface on which to display treasured objects. The comfortable sofa, which they bought second-hand, was designed by Robin Day for Habitat in the 1960s.

Making new curtains for the floor-to-ceiling French windows would have required a huge amount of fabric, so instead Jessie tracked down two pairs of extra-long, extra-wide ochre velvet curtains from Ebay and tailored them to fit.

Jessie Cutts and Ivo Vos’ home. Photo / Supplied

Teak & Marble
Jessie and Ivo’s retro palette of fawn, teak, chocolate brown and ochre works perfectly with the impressive brown marble fireplace. Jessie’s charity/thrift-shop finds include a marble lamp base that she has teamed with a fluted paper shade. Classic furniture in teak, walnut and leather from the 1960s and 1970s adds to the retro heritage feel.

Modern Heritage
Sometimes, using antiques and traditional furnishings can give a room a stuffy, old-fashioned atmosphere, so the key to achieving the heritage-style look is to add a modern twist. Try mixing in bold modern artworks and textiles, and combining subtle tones with brighter pops of colour.

Choosing clashing and complementary hues will create a lived-in atmosphere that is ideal for a family room. In her living room, interior designer Sarah Brown has used Lilac Pink, a subtle buff pink shade from Edward Bulmer Natural Paint. It is the perfect backdrop for her collection of colourful furniture and quirky accessories.

If you struggle to combine different colours and patterns, it’s a good idea to gather paint samples, fabric swatches and inspirational images and put them together to create a workable design concept. I tend to go by instinct, but I do find that choosing a wall colour early on in the process will help bring everything together.

Sarah Brown’s home. Photo / Supplied

Old House, New Tricks
Two sofas face each other across Sarah Brown’s living room. One is upholstered in a bold herringbone fabric by Claremont and the other in a green velvet by Designers Guild. The blinds/shades feature a Nicky Haslam stripe. The mix of hues and patterns suggests a playful take on a formal drawing room.

Future Heritage
Fabrics made from sustainable natural materials and woven or block-printed in short runs will stand the test of time and may become highly sought-after cloths that will be treasured by future generations.

READ: Line Up! How To Add Pizzazz To Your Interiors With All-Season Stripes

Decorative Detailing
In Sarah Brown’s living room, an antique mahogany side table (pictured above) has been styled with a red resin lamp from Marianna Kennedy and paintings from different eras. The original plasterwork on the ceiling has been given a fresh coat of paint to reflect the natural light. Sarah has achieved a friendly look that is modern yet traditional — ideal for a family home.

Paul West’s space. Photo / Supplied

Natural Living
Sustainable materials, woods, natural textiles, stoneware ceramics and antique furniture all have a place in heritage style. This living room (pictured above) belonging to Paul West is uncluttered and inviting, and it oozes good design, showing that interiors rich in natural elements can still be cool.

This look can be achieved in properties either new or old, in the country or in the city. What makes it work is the tonal colour palette and chic design elements. In particular, Paul has a great eye for sourcing stylish furniture, which he softens with woollen blankets and velvet cushions.

To bring a natural living style to your home, consider uncovering or layering untreated floorboards, which will add warmth and texture. Choose new or vintage furniture and accessories that are built to last and have been made in harmony with the environment. House plants in terracotta pots will help to bring a sense of the outside in.

Heritage Style by Selina Lake, published by Ryland Peters & Small, photography by Rachel Whiting, distributed by

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