Houzz Tour: A Traditional 1920s House is Sensitively Revived
A designer helps her clients add their personal style while respecting their home’s traditional 1925 architecture
Interior designer Emily Borg worked closely with the couple to preserve the home’s historic details while making the layout and style functional for them. The result is a fresh and personal mix of styles that works well with the traditional home.
Who lives here? A couple and their young daughter
Location Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Size Five bedrooms and three bathrooms (279 sq m)
Design & build company Theresa and John Dorlini of Circle Design Studio
Interior designer Emily Borg of Circle Design Studio
‘After’ photos by Kip Dawkins
First a word about the condition of the house in the ‘before’ photos. One of the homeowners is an estate agent and snapped up the house before it hit the market. So the state of it in these photos reflects the organising and packing up of a lifetime’s worth of belongings that was underway when the design and build firm popped in to start its planning.
The home had undergone a few renovations and an extension over the decades, and at one point it had been a duplex. But the beautiful architectural details, such as woodwork and pocket doors, were intact. It was these kinds of details and the location in the town square that drew the homeowners to the house.
Emily’s previous work with the homeowners gave her a running start, as she already understood their style. “When I worked with these clients before, they lived in a ranch house and were more interested in midcentury modern style,” she says. “But they knew with this house they wanted to lean into the traditional style of the architecture.”
The mouldings in this room are original, including the picture rails and wainscoting. Emily added a ceiling rose around the light fixture. “A ceiling [rose] is of the period, but we kept it more modern by streamlining it,” she says.
The homeowners brought much of their existing furniture with them and Emily helped them to incorporate new pieces to tie everything together. For example, they already had the living room sofa and Emily helped them find the right coffee table and channel-tufted leather armchairs to complement it.
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“We wanted to take advantage of the picture rail in here,” she says. “I knew they liked artwork that reminded them of places they’d lived and loved, so we found some art that reflected Roanoke and Washington, DC, as well as a map of Nova Scotia – they had fond memories of a vacation there.”
Wainscoting and pocket door painted in Knitting Needle; ground floor walls painted in Gossamer Veil, both Sherwin-Williams.
The red oak floors are original. The team used an oil-based sealant on them to help enhance the contrast between the tones of the floors and doors.
She found the landscape painting that serves as a focal point. An oriental rug with lots of red tones warms the room and plays nicely off the chartreuse cushions.
The faceted light fixture is mercury glass. “They’d ordered a light they found online that looked nothing like they thought it would, so I found this one for them,” Emily says. “It turned out to be one of their favourite things in the whole house. It looks so good at night that neighbours who’ve seen it while walking by ask them about it.”
The original wide moulding around the windows and on the skirting boards is another traditional asset. And check out the beautiful original picture window with diamond-pane sidelights on the right.
After adding the new bar on the right, Emily connected it to the original built-in cupboards on the left by repeating the columnar posts and wainscoting.
The wall cabinets and splashback are white. “The [metro] tiles are elongated, which updated this traditional element,” Emily says. “They’re almost pearlescent, which helps to make this such a light and airy kitchen.” The tiles also have a handmade, tumbled look that adds character. The worktops are quartzite, a natural stone with a marble-like look that’s more durable than marble.
“I knew we couldn’t do deep floating shelves here because of the sink placement,” Emily says. “I found a source for these brass railings in Pennsylvania and we all thought they were really neat. I drew up a quick sketch of how they could work with the maple wood and the art, plants and knick-knacks my clients love and the result is unique.”
The long lower shelf provides a natural edge for the splashback, and Emily topped off the wall with an art light centred between the windows.
This was a challenge, but it paid off. Because these are bricks and not a thin veneer, the wall behind the range had to be notched out so the bricks could line up with the rest of the splashback. “This detail makes the kitchen feel very personal and connected to Roanoke,” Emily says.
“They also wanted to mix the traditional style of the home with some modern touches,” she continues. “So while a console basin is of the home’s historic period, its clean lines are more modern.” The aged brass on the mirror and vintage print’s frame add some patina and age to the space.
Because this is a guest bathroom and there’s a cupboard right outside the door, they didn’t need much storage in here. The area around the basin’s edge and the ledge on the mirror provide spots for toothpaste and other travel-size toiletries.
Walls and ceiling painted in Naval, Sherwin-Williams.
“In their old house, the whole family shared one bathroom, so that made them want as much storage as possible,” Emily says. “And while I first suggested a trough sink, they knew they didn’t want to share!” She gave them two basins, maximised drawer space and added two recessed mirrored medicine cabinets for additional storage. The worktop is quartz.
The flooring is a through-body porcelain with a slate-like look. “This is highly durable, but through-body means it’s the same colour all the way through, so any chips or other damage won’t really show,” Emily says. “We chose [30cm x 60cm] tiles that require less grout, which means less to clean.”
There’s a rain shower head, a fixed shower head and a handheld wand. Emily placed the thermal controls on the left, so the bather can reach in and turn on the water without getting wet.
The shower floor is from the same line as the main bathroom floor, but in a smaller mosaic version. Emily gave the niche clean contrasting edges with dark-coloured Schluter strips.
The mirror’s reflection reveals Emily’s use of another ceiling rose around the light fixture.
After finding this cute chandelier, Emily knew painting the ceiling blue, too, would help it to stand out. She added more colours to the space through fun curtains, tassels on the duvet and a rug. This photo also shows the beauty of the original honey-toned wood doors.
Walls and ceiling painted in Blue Whirlpool, Sherwin-Williams.
From there, Emily set out to find a floor tile that would have a degree of playfulness for the young girl. “My clients loved the geometric tiles I found and they provided a nice juxtaposition to the traditional and timeless marble look around the tub,” she says.
What do you love about this home makeover? Share your thoughts in the Comments.