Past and Present
LEARN TO BLEND AUTHENTICITY WITH MODERN LIVING THROUGH CLASSIC DESIGNS AND COLOR COMBINATIONS.
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.
DISREGARD DESIGN TRENDS
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.
TAILOR HOME TO YOUR PERSONALITY
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; rylandpeters.com.