Past and Present


Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Vic­to­ria Van Vlear

Learn to blend au­then­tic­ity with mod­ern liv­ing through clas­sic de­signs and color com­bi­na­tions.

There are al­ways two ques­tions that come with Vic­to­rian homes:

How do you make it look au­then­tic? How do you make it work for mod­ern liv­ing? It’s the ten­sion be­tween these two that of­ten cre­ates frus­tra­tion and leads to un­happy home­own­ers. But what if there was an an­swer that com­bined these two per­fectly?

You’re in luck—there is. In his new book Blue & White and Other Sto­ries: A Per­sonal Jour­ney Through Color, de­signer Wil­liam Yeoward tours the in­te­ri­ors he has de­signed over the years. Many are old homes with home­own­ers, who, like Vic­to­rian home­own­ers, want to main­tain the integrity of their home’s orig­i­nal de­sign while still liv­ing prac­ti­cally in the 21st cen­tury. Yeoward’s de­sign ap­proach is through color—by choos­ing a clas­sic pal­ette, it’s much eas­ier to bridge the gap be­tween past and present. “My de­sign mantra is to have one foot in the past, one foot in to­mor­row and some­where in there you will find to­day,” he writes. Here are a few of his de­sign tips that you can ap­ply to your Vic­to­rian home.

Opposite. When it comes to de­sign, con­sult au­then­tic­ity but ul­ti­mately go with your gut. “In the days be­fore the fit­ted kitchen, a dresser was a sym­bol of sta­tus,” Yeoward writes. “The dec­o­ra­tions here are un­com­pli­cated—smart but simple striped linens—as be­fit an English coun­try rec­tory, and the plate rack above the dresser is a show­case for that very Bri­tish pas­time of collecting.”


One temp­ta­tion for the his­toric homeowner is to stick a lit­tle too closely to the orig­i­nal de­sign. Don’t mis­un­der­stand— noth­ing can com­pare to au­then­tic 19th cen­tury de­sign, but watch out for when au­then­tic­ity be­comes a detri­ment to ev­ery­day liv­ing. “I al­ways work with the ar­chi­tec­ture of the house, but when it comes to the interior it would be fool­ish to be en­slaved by the orig­i­nal uses that rooms were put to,” Yeoward writes. “In town houses, for in­stance, we no longer live hud­dled around fire­places in small rooms, with a scullery maid beetling up the back­stairs with jugs of hot wa­ter. How­ever lovely the plas­ter­work and cor­nic­ing, some­times you’ve just got to let them go. In­te­ri­ors have to work for to­day’s life­styles and take full ad­van­tage of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.” While the oc­cu­pants of your home dur­ing the 1800s would not have watched tele­vi­sion or used a mi­crowave, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ei­ther.

There are ways to make your home mod­ern with­out dis­rupt­ing the au­then­tic look. For ex­am­ple, the TV is a sore spot on the eye that takes away from the ar­chi­tec­ture and interior of the room, and yet you don’t want to give up your fa­vorite cook­ing show or sports team. Be smart about the place­ment of your Tv—set it in­side an ar­moire so you can shut the doors and hide it away, or for wall-mounted TVS, build a float­ing cab­i­net with a shut­ting lid you can top with a paint­ing to make it look right on the man­tel. For ap­pli­ances such as your re­frig­er­a­tor, you can in­stall a wood front that will dis­guise the piece so it fits with the rest of the cab­i­netry.


This is eas­ier for Vic­to­rian home­own­ers who want to re­store their home to its roots, but it is tempt­ing to be caught up in the styles, pat­terns and palettes of the cur­rent trends. Re­sist this temp­ta­tion.

For ex­am­ple, when Yeoward de­signed a sit­ting room for his mother, he used a com­bi­na­tion of laven­der and li­lac stripes and flo­rals, which while beau­ti­ful, is not at the height of de­sign trend. How­ever, that doesn’t mat­ter, as the pal­ette is his mother’s fa­vorite. “It is a com­po­si­tion that has lit­tle to do with pre­vail­ing fash­ion, as the in­spi­ra­tion came di­rectly from my mother’s fa­vorite things,” he writes. “It is a time­less, clas­sic room that is com­fort­able and wel­com­ing, and it is what it is, evolv­ing over time as the best rooms do.”

One place you can stick with au­then­tic­ity is through your color pal­ette. Choose a scheme that works with the his­tory of your home, and yet is clas­sic enough that you can still find new fab­rics, rugs and pil­lows to match. Also, don’t be afraid to mix a few other shades into the scheme when you find a piece you love. Yeoward’s fa­vorite color com­bi­na­tion is blue and white, but he of­ten in­cludes red as well. “Blue and white are al­ways happy to­gether, but a dash of red is the deal maker,” he writes.


The most im­por­tant part of interior de­sign? You! Af­ter all, you’ll be the one liv­ing in the home. If your only goal is to make the in­te­ri­ors look ex­actly as they did 150 years ago, you’re cut­ting your­self out of the pic­ture. “The most suc­cess­ful rooms are those that evolve through the pas­sions and in­ter­ests of the own­ers, and de­velop and change along with the peo­ple who in­habit them,” Yeoward writes. Don’t dis­re­gard the past, but cater the de­sign to your own per­son­al­ity. For ex­am­ple, if you love collecting vin­tage cam­eras from the 1930s and ‘40s, which would not have been in an 1887 home, don’t hide them away, but dis­play them. It’s the bits of you that will make your home feel unique and spe­cial. “In the end there can be no right or wrong, but what re­mains is an im­per­a­tive to ex­press your­self through your sur­round­ings,” Yeoward writes. “That’s what gives a home its soul.”

For this table set­ting, Yeoward com­bines his fa­vorite col­ors: blue and white. “Never worry about what other peo­ple think when set­ting a table,” he writes. “If it is fit for pur­pose and look­ing right to you, then guess what, it’s right!”

A col­lec­tion of vin­tage cut­lery and gilded china adds a spe­cial touch to any table set­ting.

In this charm­ing out­door set­ting, the fab­rics match the feel of the home. “Nap­kins and cush­ion cov­ers have been made from left­over scraps of ma­te­rial,” Yeoward writes. “It is a hum­bling ex­am­ple of make do and mend in the true Bri­tish spirit that says...

Blue&white­an­dother­sto­ries: Aper­son­aljour­neythrough­color by Wil­liam Yeoward, published by CICO Books, © 2017; ry­land­

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