There are two ways to go about renovating an older home: you could take a preservationist’s approach and go for a purely historical renovation, or, you can go for a blending of the old with the new, which is what we usually find to be more desirable.
Layers of old paint, uneven floors, bad lighting, layouts that don’t work for modern families — older homes can have a lot of issues. But, there are usually some charming elements worth preserving, like custom crown moulding, fireplace surrounds, pocket doors, and other remnants of a bygone era when carpentry gems like these were more common.
Here are four rules for renovating an old house so you keep the best of the charming bits while updating your home for 21st-century living.
Rule #1 — Separate Your Assets From the Liabilities
Every old home, no matter what condition it’s in, has some redeeming qualities. Maybe it’s just a set of old windows with quaint, watery glass in them, or maybe it’s sky-high ceilings throughout. The key to a
good renovation is deciding what you like — and then not being afraid to ditch the rest.
Only you know which structural elements you’d like to keep, but lots of homeowners need help with the letting go part. Here’s an example we’ve run across: some homeowners are keen to have their home’s original floors revealed and restored. Sometimes they’ll find wide planks or intricate mosaic tile floors, and it makes sense to focus resources on restoring them.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. When original floors have been damaged beyond repair, our only choice is a replacement. That can be hard for homeowners who hadn’t banked on having new floors. Understanding a house’s features in terms of assets and liabilities can help a homeowner make these decisions with a clear head.
Rule #2 — Modernize Where it Counts the Most
Even if you plan on sticking with much of your home’s original features, there are two places where it makes sense to go for a total renovation:
- The kitchen
- The bathrooms
For the sake of comfort and practicality, both areas call for modernization. It’s rare to find an old kitchen that’s set up for 21st-century living and ditto for bathrooms. Lifestyles (and appliances) have changed too much in the past few decades — so much that even a 25-year-old house can feel all wrong.
Rule #3 — Give an Occasional Nod to the Original Design
For projects that call for a total overhaul of an old home, it’s nice to retain some of the original builder’s concepts. Even if the whole place is gutted, there are ways that your new space can recall the old. In the end, you’ll be happy that you did; the end results will be a home that feels integrated and consistent inside and out.
For example, consider old pocket doors: design-wise, they create a unifying stretch of fine wood grain along the wall. Even if the new design calls for them to be removed, you can recreate that historical, woodsy vibe with a sleek set of book-matched cabinets in your living room or kitchen. Their symmetrical, frameless front mimics the expanse of the old pocket doors. A good carpenter can do wonderful things with new construction that blends with or replaces your favourite existing features.
Rule #4 — With Design, Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Little Quirky
Unless you live in a registered historic landmark, your old house shouldn’t make you feel like you’re trapped in a museum. Grand scales and formal details can be brought down to earth with funky pieces that reflect your true style. It’s this type of levity and personality that will really make the final product sing.
Here at Jedan Brothers Contracting, we specialize in home renovations that blend your home’s unique features with all the necessities of modern living. Call us at 604-968-3076 for a free estimate for your next home project.