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With a world that is embracing the future of modern living, finding ways to hold on to and blend in the beautiful details of rustic or heritage homes can create a revolutionary balance within your home design. Here, Amelia Mansell speaks with Chris Harrod, the director of Harrods Building, to seek advice on how best to maintain the charm and character of existing homes while undergoing a renovation or extension that showcases the luxuries of modern living.


Written by Amelia Mansell 

There is an old-world charm about rustic, heritage-style homes. From open rafters, large cornices to architectural archways, these styles of houses never truly go out of fashion. But with so many advancements in modern architecture and designs that fit the requirements of modern living, there are all the more opportunities to create a fusion of these two styles for a unique and stunning end result.


There is an art form to creating a balanced blend of rustic, vintage aesthetics with modern, contemporary styles. Offering some wisdom, Harrod advises that moderation and consistency are key to creating a design that presents a harmonious blend of the old and new. “Don’t go overboard. Keep [your design] consistent with what you’re working with.” When renovating or extending an existing build, consider what materials can be saved and complemented with new, modern styles. From exposing the original brickwork to refurbishing the existing floorboards, the bones of your home have plenty to offer in terms of character. Giving these features new life or incorporating recycled materials into your new build or extension in combination with the clean, minimalist lines of your modern build can add a unique charm and individuality to your design.

Many renovations and extensions pose the question of either blending the two aesthetics throughout or creating a clear divide between them. Often homeowners will “rip everything out and start again, but still keep the full archways, [big cornices] and older doors, freshen the house up and give it a bit of a revamp”, Harrod explains. But once the existing home is refreshed, there is the choice of carrying these revitalised features into the new extension “or go completely modern with square-set ceilings, skylights, super-high ceilings, and modern kitchen”, Harrod says.

While this change in style presents a new and exciting home aesthetic and allows for the inclusion of many modern luxuries, it does not negate any opportunities to create cohesion throughout your home. From your choice of fittings and materials to the colour palette used throughout your renovation, there are many ways to unify your existing home with a new, ultra-modern addition. Carrying through matching raised ceilings can allow for a fusion of styles, and with architectural features such as freshly painted open rafters or panelled feature walls, you can give a nod to the history of the existing home while still maintaining the modern, airy aesthetic of the new extension.

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Materials play an integral role in how you can incorporate rustic, vintage charm into your home, renovation or extension. Including elements of timber can be one of the simplest methods; from sanding back your existing timber floors or rafters, to showcasing statement furniture, this material remains a versatile and often timeless way to bring in a rustic, heritage-inspired aesthetic into your home. There has been a particular resurgence in timber feature walls, with “V-groove wall panelling” becoming a popular trend, Harrod says. Used for feature walls or statement ceilings, this panelling is a simple way to infuse a contemporary-vintage aesthetic into your home design.

With the exterior or front-façade of your home providing the first impression of your chosen aesthetic, considering how to blend in a modern extension or renovation can be just as important – if not more – than the interior. From your brickwork or render to your choice in materials for the cosmetic details, choosing complementary colours, textures or wood-tones from your existing home and showcasing them within your renovation can serve as a subtle or meaningful nod to the historical architecture. But much like your interior design, it is important to select materials that are “going to blend into the house and [existing] brickwork”, Harrod says. Incorporating complementary pops of exposed brickwork, stone or timber cladding can be fantastic ways to honour the existing build, while considering recycled materials can bring an element of age to truly make the design stand out.

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Skylights are a gamechanger for home renovations that do not want to lose the appeal of their existing home’s exterior – but still wish to introduce the natural light that makes modern homes so inviting. Coming in all shapes, sizes and styles, these features can be worked seamlessly into your design, offering light while not detracting from the stunning architectural elements that make your classic aesthetic sing, Harrod explains. With the right inspiration and design concept, skylights can serve as the bridge between old and new. A collection of timber-framed skylights within a minimalist, contemporary design can add a touch of rustic character to enhance the design and perhaps unify it with the remainder of the house. While a sunken or black steel-framed skylight can be the modern flair an older room needs to lift it up into a brilliant fusion of traditional and modern aesthetics.


One of the simplest ways to refresh your existing home without diminishing its character, and help blend in some modern luxuries, is a fresh coat of paint. With many older homes traditionally leaning towards darker colours and timbers, as well as lacking natural light, brightening your home with a fresh, light colour palette has a transformative power. Harrod affirms that white paint is the best option to freshen up your home and give “it more volume and brightness”. “There are so many different shades of white,” he elaborates, “but I’ve been using a lot of natural white.” With a touch of cream, this colour choice veers away from the popular true white and finds the perfect middle-ground between rustic and contemporary.

From your fittings to the furniture, to your choice in appliances, the final touches of your home cannot be overlooked when considering how you can infuse character and charm into your home. A stunning farmhouse-style oven can become the focal point of your modern kitchen, while the options in “cool, old fireplaces that go into a modern finish” could be a great way to establish a vintage-contemporary aesthetic, Harrod suggests. Bringing in those small, detailed touches that distinguish a classic, heritage home through your choice in kitchen and bathroom fittings and light fixtures is also a powerful way to to introduce a modern farmhouse style that complements its surroundings.

From the smallest renovation to the most adventurous addition, there are endless ways to bring in or enhance the old-world rustic charm of your home, while still incorporating the luxuries of modern living. Whether it is achieved through cosmetic changes, recycled materials, or by taking your home back to the bones and building it up for a cohesive blend, finding a consistent, balanced middle ground between these aesthetics can allow your personal taste, style and requirements to all be achieved. And with a world of bespoke products and builders at your disposal, there is nothing stopping you from finding the best of both worlds.

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Images courtesy of Harrods Building