Interior Designers Approach while Designing the Interiors of an Old House ?


Designing an old house for the modern living or renovating an old house which has been in your family for generations now; is one of the most challenging tasks for any interior designer. He or she has to keep that rustic charm and character of the establishment, modify the furnishings and other things as per the modern living standards and render a final shape to the house that speaks elegance that has endured ages. The walls, the décor, the architectural constraints and the most difficult ones – the additions all have to be well thought of and installed with utmost care and caution. A single misplaced and ill-chosen piece can break the rustic charm the old houses.

Before an interior designer can begin with the task of renovating or designing the interiors of an old house; it is important that he or she understands its character and essence. For example, there are a number of vintage opera houses that were privately owned by famous artists in the yester era and are now owned by their family or to someone out of the family. Now, there will be some architectural elements which are characteristic to the opera houses and cannot be removed or modified completely by the designer. Hence the designer will have to design the place in such a manner that the original elements are retained and still the establishment speaks of modern day living. This is why the interior designing of the old houses is sometimes considered as more difficult than designing of contemporary spaces.

The following sections of the post will be dedicated to outline various approaches taken by the interior designers for an old house.

Light and Colours

  • The old houses have characteristic trims, borders, arches, and moldings that should be the very first thing to be worked upon. They look very classy and if coloured properly, they can produce a very charming effect on the overall décor of the whole establishment.
  • Colouring of these trims and borders can be matched with that of the walls and ceilings to produce a monochrome effect which in turn can be highlighted with dark or bold shades of doors and other wooden furnishings.
  • Though monochrome paints look classy, the designers can also experiment with the glossy shades and neutral colour combinations from the soft colour spectrum to produce a distinct effect of dark and light.
  • Painting the doors and windows that open into the rooms and are located inside the house can be painted in single bold colours or in colour combinations that stand out such as dark grey and golden.
  • The monochrome and neutral colour combinations will also help in hiding the imperfections or chippings in the wooden trims and borders etc.

Windows and Glasses

  • Stained glass windows have been a classical favourite in both India as well as abroad. There are a number of old houses that sport dainty stained glass windows which will go very well with the light coloured walls.
  • To make them stand apart, the spaces around these windows should be decorated with items that are light or neutral in colour so as to maintain the light and dark balance.
  • Colouring the borders of the stained glass windows with light colours will also make the coloured glass stand out.
  • Though the windows and doors are very frequently repeated in the old houses, sometimes, they can pose real problem for the designer as most of them are located in awkward places. Apart from that, these doors and windows are surrounded by awkwardly shaped very narrow spaces around them. There can be two basic approaches to deal with such spaces – conceal or divide. Concealment can be done with draperies such as curtains that can let the light from the windows in as well as hide their awkward location from direct sight. The other approach involves dividing the narrow place with rugs or open-sided furniture or benches etc.

Letting the Character Remain AS IS

  • Another approach for designing an old house is to let some things remain old or in an original fashion or install some antique furnishings with rustic and unpolished character.
  • For example, a wall fitted cabinet or book case can be allowed to remain in the same colour with chipped paint while the surroundings are modified. This gives a characteristic charm to the establishment and let it speak for itself.
  • Another way of preserving the originality is to opt for some modern art that looks antique or old though it is not. While choosing such items, one has to be very careful about their colour and style. Light monochrome colours or soft colour combinations will give a distinct appearance to the establishment.
  • Using open shelves and open-sided furniture will match with the vastness of the space; especially if you are dealing with an old house with huge rooms and surrounding areas.


  • Furniture plays a very important part in the designing of the spaces. While working with the old houses especially the ones located in the humid coastal areas, the colour scheme should be chosen very carefully. Light colours will stand-out in green coastal areas providing a cool and refreshing look to the establishment and bright-rich colours will impart a regal look to the old houses located in the hills.
  • Weather conditions and geographical location of the establishment also plays a crucial role in deciding the furnishings. Odd cushions thrown in a random manner on the couches that are made of wood and look rustic and old (but are not!), will keep the essence of the old house intact.
  • Ottomans with jute fabric in teal colours and its darker variations will stand out against the light back-drops.
  • Adding pieces of furnishings that look weathered and are made of materials such as wicker, cane or wood that is unpolished will certainly make for good pieces.


An old house is one of those projects that should be undertaken, studied and completed with utmost care so as to make them ready for the modern living as well as maintains their rustic old-world charm.