The do's and the probably shouldn'ts of living with period detail…

Thirty years ago they were being ripped out, replaced and removed, but thanks to the likes of Kirstie, Phil and Sarah Beeny, we’ve all learnt to love a good period feature in a house. Ceiling roses around pendant shades add a deco touch, original fireplaces are perfect for family photographs and coving breaks up the wall into interesting segments.


But sometimes, they can feel more of a design hindrance, than a help. In many ways, you’re stuck with them – it would be a travesty to have them taken away – and they can feel like they dominate the decorating plans. So here are a few tricks to use them in your favour, to help them work as part of your look, rather than to guide it.

DO...Paint different sections different colours: As in this picture above, the different sections of the fireplace are painted different colours, giving it a very modern feel despite its antique-style mantelpiece. Don’t be afraid to go for really bright shades – a hot pink against a white frame will pop into the room, setting the hearth on fire even when it isn’t lit. Paint two contrasting colours above and below a coving, or two different tones of the same shade if you want a subtler look.

DO....Mismatch ultra-modern accessories: The pop art canvas in this picture works because of the unlikely contrast it creates with the fireplace. If you have a ceiling rose, hang an industrial bulb fitting or a Scandi-style shade to ramp up the clash of time periods.

YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T...Forget to include storage. An unused fireplace makes the perfect place to keep books, or show off a couple of statement vases. Just group them in a cluster to create an easy art installation.

DO...Go for hi shine: Sure, you could spend many a weekend sanding down your original floorboards so they’re as nature intended, or you could just cover them in a shiny black coat of gloss paint, like in this picture. Not only does it create a fun sense of drama but it’s also perfect for parties. Instant dance floor means an instant D.I.S.C.O. in your living room.

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Pip McCormac, Guest Editor

View all posts by Pip McCormac, Guest Editor