Can you over-restore a home?

If you are renovating an older home it is important to remember what attracted it to you in the first place. It’s definitely possible to ‘over-restore’ a home just as a conservator can make a painting look too new by overpainting and varnishing to remove all signs of age. Ideally you retain the best features, honour the character of the house, and add modern comforts as discretely as possible.

Architectural details

As a general rule, don’t remove original features if you have them. Instead, either enhance or downplay them as you create the style you want.

However if there are things such as leadlight windows or a pendant light you just find too fussy, I think it is quite legitimate to remove them but you could also save it for a potential future owner.

If you have varnished timber mouldings – architraves, wainscoting – that you find too dominating, you might be tempted to paint them. However, if the timber is of fine quality, restoring it is the better option. You can lighten the effect with furnishings.

Floor plans

Getting the perfect flow between rooms may not be possible in your older home. How you use each room that’s available to you and the scale and positioning of your furniture becomes all the more important.

An older home can offer delightful spaces to decorate such as long hallways and deep window recesses. Make the most of these spaces with groupings of furniture and art. Consider opportunities to incorporate more storage wherever you can do it without ruining the proportions of a room.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Inserting a modern style kitchen or bathroom in to an older home can be very jarring. At the very least, I would choose cabinetry with detailing such as inset panels and period style handles. It’s easy to source period style bathroom suites as claw-foot baths, pedestal basins and toilets are still being manufactured. There is really no substitute for a modern shower enclosure though.


I think period style lighting is really hard to get right. There are many ugly fittings, both original and reproduction. This is one area where you should feel free to update the lighting with modern fittings as long as they are discrete. An elegant wrought iron chandelier over your dining table or some wall mounted brass picture lights will add character without fussiness.

Timber floors

I see some homeowners agonising over staining or painting their timber floor because they do not like the colour. But retaining or restoring the original colour and the patina (provided it’s not too damaged) is preferable in my view. Use floor rugs to tone down to overall effect.

Hopefully these points have helped you to think about your goals in bringing your older home respectfully in to the 21st Century. If you would like further advice, I’d love to be of assistance.

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