Design Details: Vintage Charm

Paint: In my work as a restoration contractor, I often work with local historic commissions, who are sometimes able to identify the particular colors originally used in an historic home. And in the case of houses in historic neighborhoods, exterior paint choices are usually limited to only those colors available during the time of the home’s construction. We worked with our local historical commission when selecting colors for this home, a restored 1870s Victorian Mansard. To make paint selection even easier, the National Trust for Historic Preservation now offers a line of 250 historic colors perfect for anyone who wants to give their home classic period appeal. Offered by Valspar, the collection is sold at Lowe’s.

Staircase Baluster: In stately period homes, the staircase was usually placed at the entry and was among the first interior features encountered by visitors. Balusters placed between stair treads and the banister prevented falls off the side of the staircase. But this safety function didn’t prevent elegant design, and for centuries staircases featured distinctive balusters. Traditional styles enjoyed hundreds of years ago remain popular today.

Wallpaper: By the early nineteenth century, mass production of wallpaper allowed a design feature that was once the mark of only the most affluent households to become accessible to almost everyone. It quickly became ubiquitous, and today, a well-selected pattern offers great period-style to any home.

Crown Molding: Modern design eschews crown molding. But for many, the handsome framing, which became standard circa 1850, gives the modern home tremendous appeal. Like many other decorative home features, molding was initially possible for only those who could afford the necessary craftsmanship. The industrial age changed all of that, allowing the mass production of elaborate styles and their introduction into middle-class homes across America.

Hardwood Floors: In the past, local availability and durability were the driving factors behind finding wood for flooring. In New England, heart pine and oak were used extensively because they were plentiful and both are extremely durable. (The white pine seen here is original to the house.) In an effort to save money in many New England homes, eastern white pine was used in second floor rooms and back staircases. Since these were not public spaces, a softer, less durable, and less expensive wood was used.

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