How should you approach the design of a period interior? Sarah Latham, creative director of Etons of Bath, specialises in the design and renovation of Georgian period properties, so we asked her for some expert advice…
How does the character of a period interior structure the design?
If you live in a period property then it’s most likely that you chose it for its character and period features. So you will naturally want to enhance those features by making the most of the light, windows and high ceilings (if it’s a Georgian property), or keeping the fireplaces, architraves and flooring.
What is the most important thing to get right when designing a period interior?
Whether it’s a contemporary scheme or a classic one, you need to consider the features and proportions of a period interior. Getting this right from the outset means you can take the client’s individual style choice and make it work beautifully with the space and with their style of living.
How might a design approach to a grand Georgian interior differ from that of a small living room in a Victorian terraced house?
The main difference is the variation of scale. Victorian rooms are likely to be smaller with lower ceilings (although not as low as modern standards), so more concern will be given to space-saving design, storage solutions, using light and creating an illusion of space. A grand Georgian interior, in contrast, is about working with the larger spaces to create a well-balanced interior.
If period features have been removed, is it wise to replace them?
Period features may not always be to your taste. However, in most instances re-instating appropriate period features will add authenticity and character to a property. Many companies sell fabulous reproductions or you can scour reclamation yards for authentic pieces. It’s also generally true that period features can add value to a property. I would advise researching the history of the property and if it’s listed, then check on what’s permitted and seek consent if required.
Do you always recommend using heritage colours for a period interior?
Absolutely not. A period property can be brought to life with a contemporary scheme if that is the preferred style. However, paint companies that do heritage paint ranges are very helpful in guiding you if you want a more authentic period interior. Even mainstream paint companies, like Dulux and Crown, now offer heritage paint collections. These are inspired by authentic paint colours from the past but with modern elements, and can be just as effective. The choice is really up to the client, and with so many fantastic colours to choose from these days, the world is really your oyster.
How do you advise customers whose interiors are packed with possessions?
We realise that people have possessions, which have sentimental meaning and often work an interior around a particular heirloom or picture. This can be a great place to start and can provide inspiration and direction to a scheme. However, unless the brief is specifically to create a room to house collections, we try to get clients who have gathered excess and random possessions over the years to review and rationalise them before we start. We’ve done this with art collections, furniture, rugs and all sorts of ornaments so are well-versed in making things happen around prize pieces.
How do you work around rooms that don’t have much light?
There are several ways you can brighten up a room. Firstly using paint in lighter colours will reflect the light and help to create the illusion of space. Painted floors will work in the same way. Neatly made blinds instead of curtains will also make a difference, or consider made-to-measure shutters that can be painted in any colour. Once you’ve decorated, choose furniture and accessories in mid to light tones so the overall style is airy and not heavy on the eye.
Can you introduce bold and contemporary elements within a period interior?
We always see a space as a blank canvas. The advantage of period properties – especially Georgian ones – is that a good ceiling height and natural light suit all styles. Examples might be an eye-catching, sleek modern pendant; streamlined furniture; and colourful retro-style chairs. The minimalist look can be fantastic in a period property and there’s no reason why you can’t have high-tech elements too.
Etons of Bath, 108 Walcot Street, Bath; etonsofbath.com