How to Modernize Your Older Home

Older homes tend to look their age, especially because many of us tend to use design and décor styles that match our environment. If you’re living in an old Victorian, your designs are bound to reflect that era. Same with Dutch Colonials, American Craftsman, and any other home built before the 1980s.


But what if craftsman, colonial, mid-century, or traditional interior design elements aren’t exactly your “thing”? Is there wiggle room to incorporate modern elements?


When you live in an old home, you may feel bound by your space. However, you shouldn’t feel confined by your home’s history. After all, it’s YOUR space.


If you’re looking to modernize your older home, try these five modernizing tips.


1. Go ‘Monotone’

The single easiest thing you can do to modernize your home doesn’t necessarily involve purchasing anything. Instead, take a step back, look at your space, and ask yourself: How many colors do I have going on in this room?


If your answer is “more than two,” then you have some work to do.


A lot of modern interior design is monotone, using neutral colors like ivory and various shades of white. Another option is to mix all those neutral shades with dark accents. For example, you can use black appliances or dark wood furniture contrasted with ivory walls.



A few ways to go monotone include:

  • Painting your walls
  • Throwing a slipcover over your furniture
  • Removing clutter



2. Incorporate Modern Art

Although any art created since the late 1800’s until now is considered “modern,” what you should be looking for to add a modern twist to your home is artwork that dabbles in experimentation. Paint splats, abstract interpretations, and overall minimalist designs are all guaranteed to modernize your home’s aesthetic.


No one expects you to front the money for an authentic Picasso, but there are many artists out there making phenomenal creations at reasonable prices. Shop local art galleries and even thrift stores to uncover hidden gems.



3. If You Must Use Patterns, Focus on Geometric Shapes

I love damask and florals on everything from rugs and chair fabric to curtains and throw pillows because they feel regal, warm, and “old-worldly.” Unfortunately, these patterns tend to take over a room and date it, for better or for worse.


Moving away from these favored patterns may be tricky. However, you can still use patterns if you’re going modern. Look for geometric shapes and rotating patterns, such as circles, zig-zags, or herringbone.



4. Replace Hardware and Fixtures

Old hardware and fixtures aren’t always quaint and symbolic. Often, they’re in a state of disrepair, which can make your home seem even older than it’s.


If your home isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places (or a similar local entity), you can switch out your hardware and fixtures as needed. Start with kitchen and bathroom faucets and knobs and then work your way through the door knobs, cabinet knobs/handles, and hinges.



It’s definitely an undertaking, but you’ll be surprised how sparkling-new and modern your home looks afterward.


5. Choose Area Rugs Wisely

Again, it’s all about the patterns you choose. Modern design purists may go with a single-color rug in, you guessed it, a neutral shade.



But that’s not your only option.


Bold colors and geometric designs are also helpful in creating a modern look. If you’re going this route, make sure the walls and furniture border on monotone. Oh, and just make sure you stay away from all those floral Victorian prints.



Modern design isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great interior design option if you want to add a touch of “contemporary” in your older home.


A Word of Caution: Before you tackle your modernization project, be sure to look into the rules governing your home. If your home is registered on any national or local historic registry, you may be bound by specific guidelines.


Images used with permission, courtesy of Tina Jepson and

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