Modern heritage style – 5 ways to get the look

There’s a nostalgic mood in interiors now – stylist Selina Lake talks us through rooms that have this timeless look

Heritage Style book
(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small)

Modern heritage style is having a moment, offering reassuring, traditional comfort in living spaces, bedrooms and beyond. 

Modern heritage style is characterized by floral wallpapers and fabrics, traditional wall paneling, and historic paint colors combined with more modern artwork, contemporary crafts and all the comforts you would expect from today's homes. 

This is sustainable interior design at its best, relying on upcycled, recycled, vintage and antique finds, rather than new furniture. Best of all, it's inviting, easy to live in and full of personality, and personal touches. 

Here, Selina Lake, stylist and expert on modern heritage style, shows us the top five elements you can employ when capturing the look.

Modern heritage style

If you are looking for interior design tips to create a welcoming, comfortable home that doesn't impact too heavily on the planet, you can't go wrong with modern heritage style. The aesthetic is relaxed and suits both period and modern homes, while the must-have upcycled elements offer a wonderful chance to create a home that's unique to you. These are stylist Selina Lake's top five tips for getting the look.

1. Take a bold approach with stripes

Heritage Style book

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small )

Decorating with stripes is a simple way to create an impactful period feel. 

'I don’t believe that stripes ever truly go out of fashion, but right now they seem to be everywhere and picking up pace as a design staple. 

'These impressive painted stripes (above), created by artist Russell Loughlan in his Georgian cottage in Kent, have been achieved with a steady hand and a few rolls of masking tape. Note the change of tone and shadow effect in the section under the picture rail, which I think softens the look and makes it more appropriate for a bedroom. If you don’t have the inclination to paint, simply choose a wallpaper.

'These classic monochrome painted on stripes sit harmoniously with the red and white quilt and modern artwork by Russell Loughlan.'

2. Play with pattern

Heritage Style book

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small )

Modern heritage style relies on room color ideas with a historic appeal.

'Rich color and pattern are key elements of heritage style and there is a huge range of historic paint colors, as well as wallpaper and fabric patterns, to choose from. Many companies have looked to the past and historical properties for inspiration for new designs, while others have reproduced classic wallpapers and relaunched historic colors for use in modern-day homes. 

'Traditional paper patterns, which were frequently inspired by nature such as here, are often block-printed in the same way now as when they were first produced. Classic motifs, such as botanicals, checks and stripes, are eternally popular, while also being particularly on trend at present. 

'This mantelpiece was painted a fresh aqua to match Cole & Son's Great Vine wallpaper.'

3. Choose custom-built beauty

Heritage Style book

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small )

'Heritage style is about creating a classic, timeless and easy-to-live-with home and hard-working storage will keep everything simple and in check. 

'Once you've found a long-term place, you may be lucky enough to come upon an antique cabinet that looks as though it was made to fit. Otherwise, commissioning a carpenter to build storage to mould the contours of your property will make the best use of the space. 

'And these additions don’t have to blend into the walls – you could paint them in a jolly tone. Genevieve Harris designed these floor-to-ceiling cupboards to create a traditional style dresser for her kitchen; she chose a happy yellow hue to keep things modern and finished the doors with brass knobs.'

4. Use considered color

Dining room with wooden table and green/blue window frames

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small )

'What feels especially contemporary about this combination is the mix of a classic French-style kitchen/dining table with 20th-century chairs and a jaunty oversized woven pendant. The resulting mix is both casual and chic.'

Green room ideas work well for modern heritage style, too.

'If in doubt, when choosing to bring color into a room, go for green, the color of nature. Fresh greens work especially well when used in conjunction with untreated woods, natural fiber rugs and washed linens. Green Verditer by Little Greene has been used here to add blocks of color on the door and woodwork. '

5. Use reclaimed and salvaged pieces

Heritage Style book

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small )

'Reclaimed wood and vintage pieces are key to the modern heritage look. Wood and stoneware, two of the oldest and most sustainable materials, are used in harmony in Paul West’s kitchen. Paul has created a modern space with a period feel, in keeping with the age of his Victorian property. 

'Warm, natural materials, antique pieces and a balance of neutral tones have been brought together to create a timeless look. Reclaimed materials have a great sense of history – for instance, display shelves made from reclaimed wood might have grooves, stamp markings or nail marks, which will add character to your kitchen. 

'Salvaged and vintage items are key to bringing the heritage look together, as these finds show signs of age and patina that will ground your interiors schemes. You can source reclaimed accessories at antiques markets, junk shops and online. Heritage items to look out for as you decorate your kitchen include painterly artwork, wooden chopping boards, stoneware pots and jugs.'

What is modern heritage style?

Modern heritage styles is a British or early Colonnial look that combines classic furniture, patterns and designs from that period with more contemporary furniture in rustic finishes. So, you may see a traditional patchwork bedspread on a period-style bed, combined with more modern bedside lighting, perhaps in wicker.

Heritage Style by Selina Lake, photography by Rachel Whiting (Ryland Peters & Small) (opens in new tab)

Heritage Style by Selina Lake, photography by Rachel Whiting (Ryland Peters & Small)

Style Editor

Emma Thomas is the Style Editor at Homes & Gardens and Livingetc magazines, looking after the decorating features. Before joining Homes & Gardens in 2014, Emma worked for over 25 years mainly as a freelance interior stylist and art director producing photo shoots for many editorial titles and commercial clients, including Elle Decoration, Livingetc (she worked on the launch issue back in 1998!), Habitat and The White Company, to name but a few. As well as overseeing and art directing the original photography we produce, Emma also leads on many of the decorating and design ideas and features you see in print and online.