You bought a house from the 1870s. You love its character and architecture. It’s a steal considering that the foundations are still stable, and the house is still livable. But the real estate agent did tell you that some parts of the house will require restoration. You’re fairly confident you can do this. You already drew up a plan in your head and cannot wait to execute these plans to perfection.
But before taking out a portion of the house with a sledgehammer and installing new windows, remember that people make many mistakes when restoring an old property. This is because they are too focused on renovating rather than restoring. These are two very different concepts. You cannot renovate an old house and expect it to retain its character. You have to determine what you want: change it into a modern home or maintain that old-world charm?
Working Room by Room
The worst thing you can do as a homeowner is to let your contractor pry open walls and ceilings and replace them with new wood without consulting with you. Talk with your contractor about how you’d like to restore the architecture, woodwork, and distinctive character of the room. The easiest way to do that is to design the room as part of a cohesive whole (the house) rather than think about it as just one room.
When you think of a room as just another room in the house, you’ll end up with mismatched styles and designs. The house will lose that distinct character you have fallen in love with in the first place. Many homeowners fail to make sure that the contractor is restoring rather than renovating.
Getting Everything from One Period
Look around your current home. When was this built? If it was built in 2002, do all the furniture and things there came from 2002? Or, is your home a mix and match of things from different periods and generations? An old home doesn’t need to have all its stuff from when it was built.
You cannot decorate or restore a home with one period in mind. There are no specifics in choosing furniture and design elements that will work the way you pictured them. Get something from the period when the home was constructed but also don’t be afraid to purchase things from today.
Modernizing the Kitchen and Bathroom
Admittedly, all homeowners want is a modern kitchen and bathroom. These are the rooms where they will likely stay the most. They want the best amenities, fixtures, and equipment in these rooms. It is tempting to turn that old kitchen into a modern one, but do stop yourself if you don’t want to change the charm of the place.
You can still make the kitchen and bathroom look new to fit the design elements of when the house was built. All you need to do is research how bathrooms and kitchens look like before. Then, you can find ways to incorporate some of the conveniences that you crave in a bathroom and kitchen. Remember that this house should be reflective of the character when it was born. If you change something that big, it’ll lose its distinctiveness.
People often get stuck in the replacement mindset. When they see things that are hard to restore or repair, they think about replacing them. In the past, people needed to get things customized to their homes. There are no furniture shops where you can get the cabinet you need with the exact specifications. Things were built to last.
However, this means these things aren’t as flexible as new homeowners would like them to be. You should try to restore these than replace them with new furnishings. If these things contribute to the unique story of your home, then make sure to exhaust all measures before deciding to replace them with something from this or another era.
Thinking About the Past Too Much
Whenever you want to replace something in the house, ask this question: Is it going to be timeless? Will it attract a possible new homeowner 50 years from now? Put yourself in the shoes of those potential buyers. Will they like what they see? While you cannot figure out what architectural and design trends will be popular in the future, the unique character and classic design elements of the house will still work their magic. Restore the house with these in mind.
Restoring an old house is a commitment. It will demand research, time, money, and effort. If you are not ready for these things, put off your plans until you are.