How to Decorate a Historic Home

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Decorating a historic home requires a delicate balance between preserving its character and updating it for modern living. In the unique desert oasis of Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert, this task is accentuated by the regions' rich architectural heritage, which includes Mid-Century Modern, Spanish Revival, and Hollywood Regency styles. This article explores how to honor and highlight the historical significance of your home while injecting contemporary flair, specific to these iconic Southern Californian neighborhoods.

Understanding Your Home’s Architectural Style

Before embarking on your decorating journey, it’s crucial to understand the architectural style and era of your home. The Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert areas are renowned for their Mid-Century Modern architecture, characterized by clean lines, large windows, and indoor-outdoor living spaces. Spanish Revival homes, with their stucco walls, red-tiled roofs, and ornate ironwork, also dot the landscape, as do the opulent and glamorous Hollywood Regency style homes.

Research the history of your home to appreciate its original features and design intent. Local archives, neighborhood associations, and even previous homeowners can provide valuable insights. This understanding will serve as a foundation for your decorating decisions, ensuring they complement and highlight the architectural style.

Preserving Character While Modernizing

The goal in decorating a historic home is to enhance its character, not overshadow it. Start by restoring and preserving key architectural elements such as original hardwood floors, crown moldings, built-in cabinetry, and period-specific fixtures. These elements are the soul of your home and should be the focal points.

However, historic does not mean antiquated. Modern conveniences and updates are necessary for contemporary living. The trick is integrating these modern elements without detracting from the historical essence. For instance, in a Mid-Century Modern home, choose furnishings that echo the era’s aesthetics, like Eames chairs or Noguchi tables, but don’t shy away from integrating smart home technology discreetly.

Color and Materials: Honoring the Past with a Modern Twist

The color palette and materials you choose should be sympathetic to the period of your home while still reflecting your personal style. In the desert landscape of Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert, earth tones and warm colors often work well, complementing both the architecture and the natural surroundings.

For Mid-Century Modern homes, consider a palette that includes both neutral and bold colors, staying true to the era’s penchant for contrasting hues. Spanish Revival homes can benefit from the warmth of terracotta, ochre, and rich blues, which echo the traditional color schemes of Mediterranean architecture. In Hollywood Regency style homes, embrace luxurious materials and bold color contrasts to reflect the glamour and opulence of the period.

Furnishing with Authenticity and Modern Comfort

Selecting furniture for a historic home is about finding a balance between authentic period pieces and contemporary comfort. Vintage stores, antique markets, and specialized dealers in Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert offer treasures that can add authenticity to your home. However, it’s essential not to create a time-capsule effect. Mix in modern pieces that complement the vintage ones to create a dynamic, lived-in feel.

For example, pair a sleek modern sofa with a vintage coffee table in a Mid-Century Modern living room, or place contemporary art in a Spanish Revival home to create a striking contrast. The juxtaposition of old and new adds depth and interest to your space.

Landscaping: Extending the Historical Aesthetic Outdoors

The outdoor space is an extension of your home, especially in the indoor-outdoor living style prevalent in desert communities. Landscaping should, therefore, respect the home’s architectural heritage while providing for modern outdoor living.

Incorporate native plants and materials that reflect the natural environment of the Coachella Valley. For Mid-Century homes, consider designing with geometric patterns and minimalist hardscaping to mirror the clean lines of the architecture. Spanish Revival homes can benefit from lush, Mediterranean-inspired gardens with fountains and shaded courtyards, enhancing the romantic, old-world feel.

Lighting: Setting the Mood with Modern Illumination

Lighting plays a crucial role in defining the ambiance of a home. In historic homes, it’s important to choose fixtures that echo the architectural style while providing the functionality of modern lighting. Opt for fixtures that have a period look but incorporate LED technology for energy efficiency.

Task lighting, accent lighting, and ambient lighting should all be considered. In a Mid-Century Modern home, for example, choose light fixtures with sleek, geometric designs. In contrast, Spanish Revival homes can be complemented with wrought iron or ceramic fixtures that cast a warm, inviting glow.

Integrating Art and Decor

Art and decor are the finishing touches that personalize your historic home. In Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, and Palm Desert, there’s no shortage of galleries featuring works by local and internationally renowned artists. Choose pieces that speak to you but also consider how they fit within the era and style of your home.

Mid-Century Modern homes can be enhanced with abstract, geometric, or pop art, while Spanish Revival interiors pair well with traditional landscapes or religious motifs. Hollywood Regency styles call for bold, statement pieces that add a touch of glamour and sophistication.


Decorating a historic home in Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, or Palm Desert is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to connect with the past while enjoying contemporary living. By understanding your home’s architectural roots, preserving its character, and thoughtfully integrating modern elements, you can create a space that is both timeless and timely. Whether it’s through color, furniture, landscaping, lighting, or art, the key is to honor the history of your home while reflecting your personal style and the unique desert landscape of these vibrant communities.

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