How to mix old and new styles when designing your home

Old and new styles

Working within the confines of a period building can be challenging. This is often because you’re faced with mixing old and new styles which needs careful attention. But often out of the more challenging projects come the very best design solution. Here are 2 projects where we mixed old and new styles to create contemporary family homes with plenty of period character.

The approach when restoring or extending a period house should be to respect the original building and restore the old fabric so that the beautiful original features can be fully appreciated. Any new additions should complement and enhance the older part of the house.

This does not mean always mean strictly adhering to a period style when designing an extension – a contemporary addition can work very well.

Old and new styles

We recently completed a renovation and extension of a period house in Drumcondra. 

The clients wanted an extension that would complement the existing house which was filled with beautiful and unique period features – such as original large sash stained glass windows, fireplaces, coving and a beautiful arched alcove in the back room which was originally called ‘the stage’. Where the original owners used to host plays before the time of TV.

Respecting the period architecture was fundamental in our approach to the design of the extension. The addition was a contemporary structure with concrete floors and bespoke designed windows that created a light-filled space to the rear of the house overlooking the south facing garden. 

The layout of period homes often doesn’t work for modern families, especially on ground-floor level, which traditionally was configured as a series of rooms – the good room, a dining room, a WC, a small kitchen and possibly a pantry at the return, all of which are quite dark, separate from each other and far from the garden.

This was the case for another project in Ballsbridge, our clients had lived in the house for a number of years and now with a growing family, the layout just wasn’t working for them.

We reconfigured the ground floor to create an open plan kitchen living and dining space with plenty of storage and most importantly a connection to the garden with large floor to ceiling sliding doors.

Not only did the glazing maximise that amount of light getting into this new family space but it also created a seamless line between inside and out. This made the courtyard garden feel more spacious and also created the illusion of a larger living space.

Roof lights were used to get light into the darker areas of the house and we designed plenty of storage to ensure that the space functioned as beautifully as it looked.

The ground floor was transformed from a dark and constricted series of rooms into a bright open-plan kitchen/dining area. In the original part of the house the period features were lovingly restored whilst in the new extension contemporary finishes were chosen to carefully contrast old and new.

The same goes for choosing furniture. Just because you live in a period home doesn’t mean that you can’t buy contemporary pieces and similarly if you live in a newly built home you don’t need to banish your antiques to the auction room. The key with getting this look right is not to over-do it, harmony is what you should be aiming for.

With these kinds of projects, it’s all about balance. Old and new should sit happily together and the transition from one to the other should be a seamless experience that unites one era with the next.

Denise O'Connor

Author Denise O'Connor

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