A Modern Victorian Home Makeover: Living History Without Sacrificing Style

Although many of us would love to live in a historic home, few of us want to live in a time capsule. Step inside this gorgeous Victorian home, recently remodeled to marry traditional design and architecture with a fresh palette and modern furnishings that work for today's family.

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The living room boasted original lighting fixtures and a supurb fireplace mantel.


The Victorian Home: Before


Although many of us dream of living in a classic Victorian home, few of us want to live in a dusty time capsule. The trick is finding the right balance between old and new. Here is one home that recently underwent a transformation that carefully preserved the craftsmanship of the past while embracing the contemporary tastes of its new owners. This six-bedroom, four-bath home in Minnesota is a perfect example of how to blend old with new when renovating an older home. Is there a way to mix the visually heavy style of the past with the lightness of the present to create a universally pleasing look? To address this question, the homeowners reached out to the design team at Martha O'Hara Interiors, whose members have a wealth of experience revitalizing older homes throughout the world.


"The homeowners were somewhat torn in what kind of aesthetic they wanted. The husband loved old homes and traditional design, whereas the wife was drawn to more modern and mid-century design with bright, fresh colors," says the designers at Martha O'Hara Interiors.


Several significant architectural gems needed to remain in order to preserve this home's Victorian history. For instance, the massive mantle and mirror above the fireplace acts as a natural focal point in the living room. The design team at Martha O'Hara Interiors kept the original stained glass windows in tact and also helped preserve all the original lighting fixtures throughout the interior – which, of course, lend credibility and authenticity to the home." While the original woodwork and lighting fixtures stayed," the designers added, "the room felt completely updated with fresh colors and furniture."


Read More: Before & After: A Kitchen Remodel with Martha Stewart Living


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The Victorian Home: After


With updated furnishings and just the right punches of color, the living room looks and feels instantly refreshed.


So what was the key to this successful transformation? It's all about finding the right designer, who is not only experienced but can communicate ideas and find an acceptable middle ground when needed. Martha O'Hara Interiors puts it this way: "Since both homeowners had differing styles, they found a mediator to help compose a succinct design that showcased both styles beautifully."


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The new dining room paired the original mural with modern textiles.

In the dining room the debate between old and new continued. The room had plenty of gorgeous wood paneling, some stained glass, a beautiful built-in cabinet, and an incredibly well preserved, hand-painted mural on the wall. "The designers decided to keep the original mural on the dining room walls but freshen it up with bright green and charcoal to appease the husband and wife," said Martha O'Hara Interiors. The design team carefully listened to their clients and struck a balance that pleased everyone.


Read More: Modern Meets Midcentury: A Living Room Makeover

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The newly remodeled staircase balances the dark wood with a light color scheme.

A fresh, light-filled palette was just what this gorgeous staircase needed. The dark-wood railing and Victorian stained glass windows feel more modern against a light wall.


Unlike some 100-year-old homes that come with problems like bad plumbing and code violations, this home fortunately had very few structural issues. But there were challenges, which is why it's important to find an experienced professional with the right vision. For instance, the low ceilings in the kitchen made it difficult for the designers to find appropriate light fixtures. Getting electrical outputs to the ceiling proved to be difficult, too. Luckily the design team had experience in these areas.


If you're renovating a historic home, here are a few more tips from the Martha O'Hara team. Utilize historic references that are available on the market today. For instance, many wallpaper companies have historically archived papers and patterns that can help your vintage home look fresh and new while staying true to what would have been in the original home. You can also source newly made – but historically accurate – light fixtures, door knobs, and fireplace mantels in the event that you need to replace these pieces in your renovation.


Want more? Click here to see more photos of this Victorian home renovation.


All images courtesy of Martha O'Hara Interiors, photography by Corey Gaffer.

About the Author

Madison Dahlstrom

Mady Dahlstrom is the Senior Editor for Porch.com, a Seattle-based home services platform that helps homeowners maintain their home and get projects done by connecting them with quality home improvement professionals. With a passion for all things home, Mady writes about interior design and decorating, home remodeling and loves scouring Pinterest for the best DIY projects. In her free...


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