6 tips to furnish old buildings in a modern style

Sunita Vellapally Sunita Vellapally
A Spacious Apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, lifelife GmbH lifelife GmbH Scandinavian style living room
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Making plans to furnish old buildings modern is a challenge that many city-dwellers face. Old buildings are an integral part of a city’s heritage and are very popular due to their distinguished architecture. Often, the design traditions of classicism and art nouveau are seen in the facades of these buildings and are also present within the interior spaces. Above all, in a metropolitan area, old buildings are a historical testimony of demographic change and are a part of the city’s history and culture. However, these buildings often have unusual floor plans, thin walls and poor insulation. So, when it’s time to redesign old apartments into beautiful living homes, it’s useful to be aware of a few furnishing tips. See for yourself how our experts use modern concepts to highlight the traditional architecture of old buildings. The result is charming!!

Furnish old building classily: tradition and modernity in harmony

This apartment not only looks like modernity and tradition met here, in terms of its design style, but also as if tradition will meet the future! This is what can be achieved by evaluating the details of the surrounding architecture of the old building. Let us take a closer look at how our expert deals with the old masonry. 


The design is less futuristic but still very modern in this old apartment. A checkerboard pattern stretches over the floor, with its uniform geometry providing a pleasant contrast to the round arch in the recessed wall that is the highlight of the kitchen. The arch could once have been a door or a passage in this old building. However, now, it has been bricked up without being entirely filled in. It creates a wall section with a spacious niche for storage. The original floor plan is elegantly integrated into the contemporary ambience of the kitchen. At the beginning, we mentioned that the original floor plans could make it difficult to modernize old housing estates. However, living spaces can benefit from removing and moving one or more walls or a passage within the original apartment layout.


A typical tube-like room of an old apartment was given a modern touch to furnish the old apartment classily. The charming arch, which is visible above the window, was a characteristic feature during the construction year of this bedroom. Additionally, fine stucco can be seen on the ceiling of the room, which is hardly more than 2.70 m wide. To prevent making the small space even more cumbersome, colours should be used sparingly. As can be seen in this photo, our interior expert makes it possible by using the most powerful colour that is suitable for the room. A dark grey weave in the curtains not only looks strong and bold, but is also above all pleasantly warm on the senses. Dark colours at one end of the room lend an optical depth to the narrow rooms, which helps to enlarge our perception of the space. In this case, the characteristic high ceiling is also used to advantage to furnish the old building modern. In the photo, the curtains are hung from the top of the wall, covering the entire wall height and therefore, emphasizing the high ceiling and attracting the viewer's attention. Once again, this detail creates an optical illusion in this narrow room, adding a modern look to the old apartment.

Sliding doors

Old buildings are particularly stylish and authentic when their historical elements are preserved. This includes the wooden parquet floor, the stucco-covered ceiling and the finely crafted wooden doors. Classically, doorways occupy a generous section of the wall and have two wing doors. Often, when these doors are closed, a spacious living area is given privacy or a passage comes into view when they are opened. Owners, who are planning to furnish old buildings with historic characteristics, should make use of these particularly striking doorways. For this purpose, non-load-bearing inner walls can be opened to accommodate large doors. Several manufacturers provide an assortment of door models, which perfectly correspond to the image of classic wing doors. Alternatively, it is possible to modernize old buildings by using old barn doors, which also consist of two wings or a single wide sliding door. This innovative design not only breaks away from the old-fashioned style of the old building, but also creates a charming highlight in the apartment.


It is rare nowadays to come across an old housing estate, which bears all the characteristic elements of historical architecture. In the past, these classical buildings and components were not always popular, so stucco rosettes may have become unrecognizable due to multiple layers of paint used by other owners to freshen up the room ceilings. Similarly, wooden floors may have been covered with carpets. Kitchens and bathrooms, which are renovated by changing tiles, usually have no traces of the original design of the old building. However, this flair can be reconstructed if one knows how. When attempting to furnish old buildings modern, one can allow the bathroom design to retain traditional characteristics. It may sound like a contradiction. However, on closer evaluation, the traditional bathroom doesn't need to correspond with our perception of it. 

The traditional look includes a parquet floor and room ceilings decorated with opulent stucco. However, laying real wooden floorboards in a wet room is not recommended. Nowadays, bathroom tiles are available in wood look-alike material, which allows historical bathrooms to be easily reproduced. The same applies to the decoration of walls and ceilings with wood panelling and stucco. These components can be purchased in specialist stores, or you can even use the toolbox to design your own stucco mouldings and rosettes. At the final stage, these non-tiled surfaces can be coated with a special lacquer to protect them against moisture and mould.

Storage space

In floor plans of old apartments, practical storage space for washing machines, dishwashers and other appliances was not planned. The reason is self-explanatory – this kind of equipment did not exist in the years that these old buildings were constructed, so these houses were later supplemented with water connections for such appliances. This is a part of the process to improve old-style apartments, not only to make them modern, but also to undertake continuous modernization through renovation projects that update the facilities and make living more comfortable. It is therefore, worthwhile to be proactive in the creation of storage space and to develop intelligent storage solutions using professional designer or carpenters when you want to furnish an old building to modern.

For more inspiration on renovating old apartments see From old to gold; an apartment change of a lifetime!

Which of these ideas will work in your apartment? Let us know in the comments.

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