Sentimentality: the crux of every home. Our houses have potential to shine with the style and décor of our fancies yet we hold them back because of it. It’s that sofa you constantly debate reupholstering, or that prized sideboard (a mass-produced piece from the 1940’s,) left to you by your wonderful Aunt Susan. Sure, you only knew her until you were six, but to get rid of that couch or sideboard would cause upheaval in the heavens. Which is why Annie Elliot of Bossy Color is here to ask you: “Did you like your aunt Susan?”
“If there is no emotional connection to an object then really what is the point? It becomes a burden to the client. Reupholstering pieces is expensive. People automatically think that reupholstering something is the green thing to do and that it is going to be less expensive than buying a new piece. That is absolutely not the case; it can be more expensive.”
But when the emotional connection is there she may try shaking things up. “Sometimes, if you are presented with a piece that you think is really unworkable, there are things you can do to the piece if the client is willing.” Recently she moved a sideboard from the dining room to the front hall, had it lacquered black and added new hardware to modernize it. “If they have a piece from their grandmother we may not put it in the room they thought it was going to be in, but we can use it as a foundation for a house or floor to create continuity.”
Historic homes are often treated like that old sofa. Elliot warns of allowing that nostalgia many feel over older properties to get the better of us. “Regardless of your taste you don’t want your home to look like a time capsule unless you live in Colonial Williamsburg. There are a lot of ways that you can live in an historic or traditional house where you don’t have to bow to the architecture.”
Which is good news for those less zealous about historical elements yet living in old buildings. “One of the first steps when you live in a 75 or 100 year old house is there has to be a certain level of acceptance. Your windows are not all going to be straight and to me that’s part of the charm.” Elliot suggests allowing contemporary components to become a part of that history by describing a recent home Bossy Color decorated. “We didn’t play to the architecture, so in the dining room we painted the wainscoting and the walls the same color to make it less traditional and smooth out the edges so as not to draw attention to these very traditional architectural details.”
When it comes to lighting, however, she shies away from recessed lighting, particularly in older homes. “We don’t consider ourselves to be lighting experts but I find that many contractors want to put in too many recessed lights. Your ceiling is punched full of holes when you do recessed lights, so I think you have to be judicious about it. Kitchens are the exception, of course, because you need ambient and task lighting.” Basically, don’t let renovations detract from your older home’s potential.
Elliot speaks personally of living in an old row house in Washington D.C. where the bathroom is located directly off of the dining room, which she calls “gross,” yet she embraces that awkward component for what it is: originally the home was full of separate apartments. “There are some bumps and nicks that show the history of the house and one of the things I love about homes that are older is I get to imagine all who lived there.”
As for her main ambition when taking on a new project, “We just want people to love where they live,” even if that means keeping Aunt Susan’s sofa after all.
For more information about Annie Elliott and Bossy Color click here.