Design Hints

Period-Style Decorating Ideas

Cultivate a Colonial atmosphere in your home with these history-minded hints for choosing colors and mixing antiques and reproductions.

Pennsylvania homeowner and history buff Dottie Fiedler, whose historic home is featured in the September 2008 issue, created a customized Colonial look in her nearly 270-year-old home. However, your home doesn't have to pre-date the Revolutionary War to boast the same style. Follow Dottie's hints to transform your home with period colors, authentic antiques and fool-the-eye replicas.

Historic Hues: Research period-style colors and decide what you want for your home. Remember, Dottie says, some of the earliest homes used bright colors such as yellows, reds and turquoise. She sticks with classic deep red and mossy green walls and trim, which complement the home's original stonework and its dark wood floors. To prevent the rooms from feeling cave-like, Dottie often includes a white accent wall.

True Originals and Duplicate Decor: Antique pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries certainly bring an air of authenticity to Colonial style, but furniture that old can be prohibitively expensive. Well-done replicas, on the other hand, give a primitive look without as much strain on the pocketbook. Dottie's home features several large-scale reproduction pieces, including a canopy bed and a hutch that she saw in a magazine; she tracked down the craftsman, had a similar cabinet built and now uses it to store her redware.

Research and Rescue: The best way to bring your home into the past is to learn from what others have already done, Dottie says. Look through magazines and books for historic inspiration, paying attention to furnishings and palettes that catch your eye. "I look at magazines and collect photos," Dottie says. "I rip out magazine pictures showing historical homes and look at what colors they use."

Best in Show: Dottie recommends attending folk art shows such as the American Craftsmanship Show, a showcase of reproduction goods that takes place every November in Wilton, Connecticut. When you see something that "makes your tail wag," Dottie says, study it and talk to the person who made it to determine why it appeals to you. The information will help you find other pieces that suit your taste.

Written by Lee Ann Gill
Photographed and Styled by Franklin & Esther Schmidt