Charming white cottage with a central brick chimney and a well-manicured front yard.

4 Top Tips to Showcase Your Hip-storic Home

Bring a buzzy modern groove to the historic home you love 

By Laura Carson Miller

As you may know, my husband and I live in a 1942 cottage style house in an Atlanta neighborhood established in 1915.  When we were looking at houses in 1993 and drove by this one after work one night I was less than impressed. The brick was painted a creamy white shade with a subtle pink undertone. No. But the exterior element I was solely focused on: the pink and white striped awnings over the windows facing out to the street. I said, with a frowning face and probably a voice full of heartbreak, ‘I don’t want to live in Candy Land.’ My husband, the architect, on the other hand saw nothing but potential and calmly replied, ‘You can’t go by what it looks like now. You have to think about what it can look like.’ 

And the rest is history.

I would like to think between the two of us we have created quite the hipstoric vibe over here. Best of all we have done renovations (which include our complete kitchen renovation with my ripping out a backsplash with a crowbar, my husband building/installing the countertops, installing the cabinets and a slate floor, plus the full reno of an upstairs bathroom with required getting a cast iron bathtub down a flight of stairs with sharp right turn out to the hallway AND our attempt to repair an upstairs ceiling which involved my bench pressing sheetrock which is really heavy and involved a continual chorus of both groaning and cussing) and added cool features over the years, my fave of which is our glorious sunroom of French doors acquired from a Buckhead restaurant going out of business. 

Personally I love the charm of details like arched doorways, built in display nooks, a period fireplace header and real wood windows. I marry these with modern touches of gold such as planters and small tables with geometric stands, new school cache pots for my orchids and smaller plants and touches of black for a contemporary casual chic accent. A trio of candles in black vessels, a black vase – with or without flowers, and black dishes or flatware offer effortless cool to inject your gloriously historic dwelling with a shot of super fun new and now. Need a bit of inspo or just enjoy looking at pretty pictures? Check out my new Pinterest board Black Home Accents and follow me here.

I will never, ever consider a room or a home, done. That would be so sad to me. I see a home, be it a house, a townhome or apartment, as a living, breathing entity. It should and will evolve over time the way a person and a life evolves. When you truly find your style, and this works with clothing as well, you’ll see everything pretty well mixes and matches organically. This is a big part of how you live beautifully each day.

Here are few ideas to bring a buzzy modern groove to the historic home you love:

Play Up Historic Features with Dark Paint

Paint decorative mantles, crown molding, the inside of archways or the trim around French doors a dark shade of navy, emerald green or basic black to bring a casual chic edginess to a space. You can also paint plant pots, small furniture pieces and mirror or art frames in these shades to give them their own present day cool without buying new stuff. You know I’m all about ways we can #reuse what we already have! Rich, saturated paint shades serve to tie in other more up to date elements in a room. 

Bring in Modern Lighting

Lighting is a fast, easy and highly impactful way to create a hip-storic look and feel in your living spaces. Placed over a dining table, a modern fixture will bring the space into a new dimension no matter what style your table and/or chairs. The best part is you can find great looking, eye candy overhead fixtures in price ranges from Ikea to AERIN to Visual Comfort. Ditto lamps and sconces. These elements shake up the iconic framework you’re using as a base for your beautiful life.  I say mix it up, buttercup! 

Animal Print for the Win

Something about animal print feels timelessly modern in every space. It’s a sure winner for pillows, x-benches or rugs. Go crazy and do an animal print wall paper on one wall of a powder room or foyer or put it in a closet! Cool wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to make a postage stamp size closet more inviting each time you open the door. I love it in cottage style houses like ours and it’s equally at home, yes, I wrote that, in Tudor, Craftsman, Victorian and any and every other historic architectural style. Use of animal print is only limited to the boundaries of your imagination. 

Keep or Add Historic Touches as You Upgrade 

If you’re lucky enough to be embarking on a renovation or addition to your historic home, embrace continuity by repeating elements such as niches, arched openings and wainscoting. When we renovated our kitchen after buying this house, my husband built a niche in the wall next to the refrigerator resembling one already in the main hallway. Repeating elements throughout a living or office space, including architectural elements like double crown molding or using a beloved fabric (hello animal print!) in different ways in multiple rooms, creates a casual chic, high design vibe the likes of what a paid interior designer or decorator would create. Embrace like style elements and make them your own to elevate your casual chic atmosphere on the daily.

Why Not Live Beautifully Each Day?