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Decorating historic homes requires a special touch


Walk inside a new home and it's like a clean slate -- an open invitation to create whatever style matches the homeowner's tastes.

But decor for historic homes often comes with a roadmap predetermined by the home's character.

"A lot of people who love old houses really love to decorate, too," said Susan Gulde, who lives in the historic Irvington neighborhood and has followed her passion for interior design.

Her focus is on homes built from the late 1800s to 1920s. Her creativity has brightened assorted Craftsman bungalows and stately Victorians.

As with many older homes, compact kitchens and tiny closets are part of the trade-off for the charm.

"Usually people who buy those homes know what they are getting, so it's not an issue," said Gulde, owner of House Dressing by Susan (www.housedressingbysusan.com). "I've learned that when you honor what the house is giving you, you get a lot back in return."

Her clients focus on making the best use of structural space.

"I work with a lot of baby boomers who repurpose rooms. If the room that's intended as a master suite is too small, then we create a TV room or den."

The goal for Gulde is to help the rooms flow together -- even with eclectic furnishings -- and maintain the historic integrity of the home.

James Kienle, director of historic preservation with Moody Nolan Architects, recommends homeowners gather as much information about their house as possible by looking through photographs and home records.

"You want to have as much information as you can about the period of the house," said Kienle.

Most owners of historic homes want to mix modern comforts with historic charm.


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