Cohabitation With Design

June 21, 2011

Challenges and Rewards of Historical Interior Design

Historical interior design is an interesting facet of the design world. Interior design by nature is using one’s creative skill set and style to produce beautiful interiors. Interiors that are set apart from all others through the work of the interior designers’ interpretation of their clients’ personal style. This all becomes more of a challenge when working specifically on historical interiors. I have had the privilege to work on Frank Lloyd Wright homes, along with other known historical home styles. These projects were inspiring to a point, but also limiting to a point. After all, I am the interior designer of a project whose job is to design a specific space historically accurate of what another designer/architect would have done. This seems that it would lend itself to some stifling of creativity, and in part, it does, but it also lends itself to reaching further than I had ever before reached into my creative fault and bring out something that makes the client, myself, and the original designer/architect proud.

Designing for historical residences has a couple of inherent challenges: 1) The homeowner has chosen to live in a historic home for a reason. They love the design of the home and want to keep the original concept alive. This includes the designer doing much research into the time period, designer/architect, and clients’ sense of style. How do they want their personality to show, along with the historic intent? 2) How does the designer create a historically accurate, yet fresh concept for the homeowner? How will others be able to see the designers style shine through while meeting all other criteria? 3) Are there restrictions placed by the city or village where the property is located in terms of the design of the home? Will the designer have to propose and have approved their design intentions to a committee in order to begin work?

Along with the challenges, come the rewards, of course. The designer becomes an investigator into the past. Into another time period and the intentions of past designers and architects. The designer is able to discover past inspirations that are able to be spotted throughout the home. Mouldings, casings, paint color, built-ins, radiator covers, door styles, location of rooms, etc…all have intentional designs and locations. Finding out these intentions is fun and becomes such an interesting challenge to incorporate the new designers interpretations.

I must say that I have had many intense and amazing historical design projects throughout my career that give me joy to think back on. One of the best compliments a client has given me was to say that many of their guests asked if the additions I had incorporated into the home were original. I told the client to start saying, yes, in fact they are. Why not, keep the mystery alive!

Before: fireplace addition and historic bungalow remodel

After: fireplace addition and historic bungalow remodel


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