A home with character

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There’s more to interior style in your home than eye-catching accessories. Consider introducing an appealing sense of charm and character with these interesting ideas, says interior designer, Katherine Sorrell

Is your home lacking in an indefinable something? Has it lost its period features? Would it benefit from a dash of gravitas, some appealing detailing or maybe a larger intervention that restores authenticity or aids functionality? While wallpaper, paint, furniture and window treatments can go a long way towards creating a beautiful interior, they can’t solve every problem. Sometimes it is worth digging a little deeper and considering some more architectural alterations – though they don’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. Here are a few suggestions.

Improve your floors
If you have original timber boards beneath your floor coverings, you are very lucky. And if they are in good condition, luckier still. Sanding them back, then staining and/or oiling them, is a relatively straightforward procedure for a competent DIYer who is willing to hire the right equipment (don’t forget lots of sandpaper and a face mask) and spend the time – or you can employ a professional. If the boards are in poor condition, renovation is possible to an extent, or you might consider replacing them with reclaimed boards that match the style of your home.

Homes built between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th often feature colourful, patterned geometric or encaustic tiles, generally along the hallway and garden path. Even if they are discoloured or damaged, chances are the tiles are repairable. Find the right specialist to sort them out, and the results will be dramatic.

Think about mouldings
From skirting to ceiling roses, door surrounds to dados, mouldings are the building blocks of a home, contributing enormously to its overall look. Getting them right is not always straightforward; it is worth researching carefully, as they should correspond in scale and design to the age and style of your architecture. Modern replicas are often available, but sometimes it is necessary to go to a specialist, and this is not cheap. How easy they are to alter will depend very much on your individual circumstances – but this is definitely a project to bear in mind if you are considering renovation work.

What about woodwork?
In many a living room that lacks storage, the answer is easy: build across the recesses either side of the fireplace, with cupboards below and display shelving above. Functional and good looking – and the same goes for alcove shelving elsewhere, window seats, wardrobes and other forms of built-in joinery (even kitchen and bathroom units). As with mouldings, however, do take the time to consider how these additions work with your home overall, so that they complement it in terms of both scale and detailing. And, naturally enough, if you are the proud owner of completely inappropriate built-in storage or seating, you might want to plan for removing and replacing them when possible.
Another element of a home that can easily be overlooked is your doors. You might never think about them from one year to the next but, in fact, replacing poor quality or badly designed interior doors with beautiful ones is a major enhancement. In a period home you might seek out reclaimed examples or find well-made reproductions; you could also decide whether it would be a good idea to paint them or, conversely, strip them (the same goes for wooden shutters, if you possess them).
While on the subject of woodwork, might panelling of some form enhance a room or hallway? It comes in a wide variety of styles, from Jacobean to contemporary, and is relatively easy to fit – especially if your walls are straight, smooth and dry.

Get the lighting right
There are two reasons for improving your built-in lighting – either the illumination within the rooms is inadequate or imbalanced, or the look of the fittings themselves could be improved. You might decide to be discreet and opt for minimal downlighters in the ceiling, choose simple wall lights or versatile LED strips, or go for full-on drama with huge, eye-catching chandeliers; either way, plan this well and you will love your new look.

All in the details
Cupboard knobs, door and window furniture, light switches, plug sockets, even the humble pull cord – such small details build up into a big picture of your home which make an enormous difference to your perception of it. If you have cheap plastic light switches, for example, you can have them swapped quite easily (and at relatively little expense) for swish, upmarket ones which are not only lovely to look at but also pleasant to touch every time you use them. The same goes for door and window furniture: think, for example, how different your front door would look with a gorgeous, matching set of letterbox, bell and numbers.

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