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Fifty shades of historic

Bring the colours of an elegant, bygone era to your home with heritage paints.

The term ‘house of character’ is so ugly. Apart from its harsh phonetics, it’s also incorrect because all houses, from the earliest dwelling to the latest swanky pad, have character.

Of course, every house has a different character. A modern penthouse is a talking point – it is perfect for entertaining and is confident in its new clothes. A traditional Maltese farmhouse, on the other hand, is a seasonal creature – thanks to its ingenious vernacular architecture, it literally takes the weather with it. In summer, the breeze flows through the clever layout and the limestone walls take on a golden hue, offset by a climbing bougainvillea in all its scarlet glory. A townhouse, on the other hand, is full of beautiful details – behind its imposing yet simple façade is an interior with a finery of details that will take you a lifetime to discover and explore.

To bring out the best of your house’s character, you need to adapt to it. The way you decorate your house – from its furnishings to its layout and especially the colour schemes – needs to converse well with its character. Otherwise, all elements will be involved in a shouting match – it will be like watching one of those late night talk shows.

Walls are frequently underestimated – but in reality, it’s the right colours and textures on the walls that are the best showcase for your furniture and design. Moreover, they create the right mood for your rooms – a peaceful colour for your bedroom, an exciting one for your living room, and a luxurious shade for your bathroom, where you get to invest most of your pampering time.

With period houses, paint is especially tricky to choose. But in recent years, increasingly popular heritage paints have made this a less headache-inducing task. Forget the hit and miss approach – when chosen carefully, heritage paints help you retain a sense of authenticity thanks to their historic emulsions, muted elegance and forgotten shades. Imagine your hallway painted a striking blue verditer from the Regency era, or your living room a comforting shade of middle brown. And what about an orange and brown combo for a Swinging Sixties take?

The colours of heritage paints are faithful to the era which inspired them – from Georgian and Regency shades to Victorians reds and greens and 1970s colour-blocking, heritage paints are true to their roots. What have changed are the substances used in original paints, as these would include harmful substances such as lead, cadmium and arsenic. Also, modern heritage paints are more stable – in the old days, linseed oil was used to bind the paint, and this would yellow when exposed to light.

Of course, it doesn’t meant that choosing a shade that best suits a room is easy – with heritage paints, you still need to test the colour in the room in varying light and at different times of day. You also need to decide on the atmosphere you want to create and balance out the various shades.

To paint, you also need to prepare the walls well. Painting old walls is very different from painting newer homes. Often, old walls have suffered years of abuse and oil-based paint layered on them and these require the right primers and a lot of preparatory work to get them ready for a new coat of paint. Make sure that you prep well as it’s only this that guarantees a beautiful, lasting finish.

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