How do we modernise an art deco room without losing its charm?

Lu D
April 22, 2019
last modified: April 25, 2019

hi everyone. we are looking to do some renovations and not quite sure what to do with this room. we want to keep the original features but just update it. Im particularly wondering about the wooden window frames and the wooden bits that run on the walls (not even sure what its called) id like to keep it but update it as the colour contrast is very stark. not sure about the brown basically. let me know if anyone has any ideas.

Comments (23)

  • me me
    I think that any type of update will ruin the room. Perhaps you could try a different wall colour, but keep all the original features.
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  • bigreader
    The wood bits that run on the wall are picture rails. In your case I’d keep all the wood as is. They just don’t make it like that anymore. I’d freshen the wall paint colour above and below the picture rails to white. And then update the light fittings. You can then add your personality with furnishings, rugs and art.
    Lu D thanked bigreader
  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    The issue I see is not the rooms themselves. Floor, walls, ceilings and fire places are perfect!

    The window dressings, 2 air conditioners and furniture doesn't work for me.

    I would spend some money with an interior designer and have them choose furniture and soft furnishings.

    Lu D thanked MB Design & Drafting
  • genkii
    Those rooms are gorgeous and typical of the period. All I would do is remove the wall air conditioner and repair and repaint the wall but leave the split system. Then new furniture.
    I wouldn’t touch any of the period features. They add charm and character to the room.
    Lu D thanked genkii
  • Lu D

    Thanks everyone! Sounds like consensus is to leave the picture rails as is! The furniture is not mine thankfully! Will be doing all new furniture in that room. Also thinkin of swapping dining and living areas.

  • genkii
    Personally, I think it makes sense to locate the dining room close to the kitchen.
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  • Lu D

    Haha yep totally makes sense!

    TV placement is an issue i think as there isnt a seperate room for it at the moment. Future plans include extending to create one.

  • PRO
    Pleased to Bijou Design

    Hi there!

    I pretty much agree with everyone so far re. woodwork. There are some lovely details on the picture rails. Having purchased a house like this, it would be a shame to suffocate it's history completely! I think it would help to "settle" the colour of the woodwork if you investigated the brickwork underneath those white fireplace surrounds. Exposing the original finish would reinstate the fireplaces as focal points of the living/dining area instead of that timberwork shouting for attention ;) It would also give some hints on colour ways for the furniture. Some low hanging period pendants would further add to the magic. I am so jealous, I wish I had such a lovely room to decorate in my own house!

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  • PRO
    Pleased to Bijou Design

    PS: that oversized mirror above the fireplace doesnt help matters either! but dont a TV there - between the fireplace and window would be better, IMHO :)

    Lu D thanked Pleased to Bijou Design
  • Lu D

    Hi Bijou Design! Thats a great idea to check out the brick underneath the white paint on the fireplace. I wasn't planning on removing the picture rails just muting the colour a bit.. as you said its just screaming for attention! I was thinking of putting the TV exactly where you have suggested! Im a bit overwhelmed with the decor! really want to work with the existing features. we only just bought and moving in July! m just super excited

  • PRO
    Pleased to Bijou Design

    Once you move in you will get a feel for the place better. Some leather club sofas would look great in there one day! If you follow through with a warm colour palette, you can even paint the walls under the picture rails in a latte type colour which will further anchor the picture rails. I have black picture rails in a few rooms at home, with strong colours underneath. Still loving it after 10 years! Happy nesting !!

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  • me me
    I grew up with houses like this. There was usually a darker colour below the picture rails and white or lighter above and the same colour on the ceiling.
    Lu D thanked me me
  • dreamer
    Hi lu d, can I suggest that you do not make any firm plans on renovating bathrooms, as per your other post, or ideas in changing colours, extending, until you have actually moved in to your wonderful home. You need to live in a home and get to know it before renovating. Get to know what is really special in your home, and what can be changed without losing that 'feel'. We can all give you suggestions, but these are not looking at the home with you actually living in it. So scenarios may be completely different once you move in. I know the excitement of purchasing a new home, and waiting patiently for settlement day. It will be a great day. All the best.
    Lu D thanked dreamer
  • Littlethommo

    I live in an art deco era house but dont have the beautiful exposed timber trims you do, what a fantastic purchase you made! I totally agree with everyone else, please dont paint them. The 70s furniture just doesnt work so lucky this isnt yours as replacing this will really make a huge difference. My suggestions would be:

    1. Chocolate and white is a neutral canvas and would look charming if you kept it neutral with black & white prints, linen colour fabrics and dark timber furniture in more modern designs. Add a little gold metal and sparkling clear class/crystal for a touch of decadence.

    2. Personally I love the classic deco scheme of chocolate/white/black/gold but with a modern twist adding a bold colour by way of a feature piece/s such as a statement single chair, sumptuous velvet sofa, bold artwork or bold lamp shades. Colours that work really well with chocolate/white are emerald green, blues and mustard.

    Add some deco inspired pendant lights and art deco shape mirrors above the mantles for the final touch

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  • PRO

    I agree with Dreamer, wait until you move in and have a 'clean palette'. Then go with sofas that 'speak to you' or make do until you find what you like. Buying sofas and chairs with good bones from auction or ebay and then having them re upholstered in your own time is a good option. You can get good loose covers for the meantime. Once you have your furnishings in, then decide on your wall colour .Reflection from furnishings does have impact on your wall colour.

    Buy what you love, (not what is trendy) they will always 'go together' and have meaning for you.

    The bones in your rooms are beautifully strong, take your time to make it your own! Hope this helps! All the best!

    Lu D thanked Helenscolour
  • Lu D

    Wow thank you all for the amazing tips!!! Love the idea of a color below the timber rails! just collecting information at this stage. All your comments have been so useful!

  • pottsy99

    I'd echo most others views -- personally , I could live with the aircon and the lights , but the furniture and the mirrors would go ! Again , just personally , I don't have a problem with the mirrors sizes , it's the silver that doesn't suit . I'd go approx 20% smaller mirrors , BUT with really nice wide sculpted dark wooden frames , and lift them a bit -- they almost look like they are sitting on the mantlepieces at present -- lifting them would show more balance IMO .

    Lounge suite I'd go big , boxy , good quality bright red leather . A modern corner suite would probably suit , or one with a moden interpretation of a chaise , but in big boxy red leather . Or maybe a more classic looking buttoned leather suite , just not in brown -- that would be too much brown . Red or white would work well .

    The dining suite could be a large 8 seater wooden table in darker brown ( that mahogony one clashes to me ) , or glass top and stainless if you want to be more modern , and modern red chairs -- several styles would work , depending on what table you choose , and how modern you want to be .

    And for a more modern twist on the windows -- wooden slat blinds -- I have done very similar in my own 95 year old place , and it works well ! My place is similar , although it doesn't have those higher picture rails -- my place has carved rails approx 1.2mtr above the floor level , and Rimu panelling ( a NZ wood ) below that -- has that 'gentlemans club' feel . I did the walls above that in a mid steel blue in some rooms , a grape colour in others , english cream in a couple , and an earthy orangey-brown with white gloss tiles in the kitchen ! And in most rooms , I did a feature wall , wallpapered in complimentary colours to the other 3 walls in that room ! Strange sounding I know , but it works ! In the larger rooms and entrance foyer , I have large gold waterfall chandaliers , the other rooms I have gold curved light bars with 4 to 6 led spotlights -- all with crisp white ceilings similar to yours , and art deco inspired ceiling roses and architraves .

    I love the mix of classic and modern , with a twist of class

  • lyndagoulden

    Some good ideas. Definitely leave the timber picture rails and windows, because for practical reasons, they would be a lot of hard work painting over and once you change one room, you will be committed to changing the rest of the house, to keep the flow going.

    Without seeing the room 'in the flesh' so to speak, I'd opt for a strong colour on the walls with a much lighter [almost white] shade of that colour above the picture rail.

    Rather than the suggested lattes and chocolates I'd opt for a strong teal, aqua or sage green colour.

    Coloured walls are very on trend for 2020 -21 and beyond and this trend will work well with your dark timber rails and will help to tie in the different colour of your timber floor.

    I'd keep the white Roman Blinds and if you are brave and can handle it, I'd have white couches with some colourful Tropical themed cushions or throws. I would have one tan leather lounge chair.

    If you weren't so brave, go for tan couches and one white leather chair with colourful cushions.

  • siriuskey

    Hopefully you will restore rather than modernize, you can do that with your furniture

  • PRO
    Gem'Appelle Designs

    Hi Lu D

    I agree with the others in keeping the timber plate rails, window and door trims and skirts. Along with investigating what is under the paint on the fireplaces. Bring these back to brick. A lovely feature to your hone. If you were looking for something a little more modern feeling, try a soft grey, Taubmans Thin ice, for the main sections of the walls and an espresso stain to the timber trim work. Between the top trims and ceilings, use a 1/4 strength of the wall colour and then white for the ceiling and cornices,

    For a little more drama, why not use a wallpaper between the skirts and plate rails? Think of a subtle art deco influenced patterned paper.

    Then add some glamour with full length sheers at both windows and the other furnishings throughout both rooms.

    Be warned, the darker stain on the trims will make you think about the floor throughout and the trims in the other rooms as well....

    Good luck and looking forward to seeing the finished result.

    Grant Hiscock

    ARTIS PURA Design

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  • siriuskey

    An excellent tip from a painter decorator friend when using colour do it below the picture rail and paint above the picture rail including the ceiling white. This helps to keep the interior simple, olive green or black would work beautifully with the timber. Grey has been done to death and can't wait to see a change, wall paper is a personnel choice which I would steer away from unless you have some problem walls. fabulous house

    A modern take on Art Decco Buildings

  • spmm
    The grill holes in the walls are air vents for the walls to breathe - not air conditioning vents, suggest you check with a builder before you remove or close them.
    —Just removing that mirror will make a huge difference

    And you could have a sofa like this New York antique from 1stdibs or a more modern mid century modern style of course :)
  • PRO

    Love that sofa spmm !