Historic Preservation: What Are the Most Necessary Renovations & Updates?

Historic preservation is a rewarding experience that requires a love of history and an understanding of design. Before you begin the journey, it’s essential to assess what to renovate or update and what to leave alone. That largely depends on the state of the property, but there are universal rules to follow and factors to consider when you tackle a period house.

The Exterior Part of the Equation

The exterior of the house or building is one of the most important aspects of the property. Many of the exterior details likely caught your attention and drew you to the property in the first place. The last thing you want to do is update the house so much that you eliminate historic nostalgia or the details that drew your eye in the first place.

Before beginning to renovate or update the building, it’s wise to check out the rest of the neighborhood, as well. Typically, all of the buildings and homes in a historic neighborhood will have a similar aesthetic. Stucco siding or an unsightly deck could take away from the cohesiveness of the entire neighborhood. Inasmuch as you can, try to preserve the facade of the house as it applies to roofing, siding, and wood or wrought ironwork.

That being said, you can work with historic architects and designers to update features in a way that retains the structure’s authenticity. Updating a property doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to change the way it looks. You can simply upgrade certain items with modern equivalents made to look like the originals. You can also seek out authentic features from the original time period.

 

Let There Be LightThe lighting in older houses often leaves something to be desired. Owners of historic properties are then at a loss. Do you preserve the original appearance of the interior, or do you illuminate the space with modern lighting that may be too bright?

Fortunately, those aren’t the only choices any longer. Many new, modern lights resemble vintage lighting options. You can always preserve the look of the lighting by opting for antique fixtures. Failing that, you can also invest in new fixtures that are deliberately designed to have a vintage patina.

The same is true for light bulbs. You don’t necessarily want to outfit your home with old-fashioned filament bulbs, which blow out frequently and are costly to upkeep. However, it’s possible to maintain an old look while using eco-friendly light bulbs. If you enjoy the charming appearance of an authentic Edison bulb, for example, you can light up your home with LED equivalents that come in a variety of color temperatures and brightness. That goes for period-inspired outdoor lighting, as well.

Pairing Safety and Historic Accuracy

 Replacing door knobs and locks causes debate among preservationists and people who are interested in renovating historic properties. The hardware on exterior doors is often gorgeous, not to mention indicative of the period. Regrettably, it can be faulty, as well. You’re left to decide if you want to risk a malfunctioning door lock or install new, glaringly modern knobs—right?

That’s the thought, but you needn’t go to extremes. Even if it means adding an additional lock and saving the original knob, you can carefully select a style and finish that evokes the time period and matches both the existing hardware and the overall appearance of the door.

Check the Pipes

 Water damage is a disaster in historic spaces. No matter what, make sure you check the pipes. Peer up at the ceilings and tap on the walls to assess possible water damage, as well. There’s no need to stick to authentic antique pipes. Upgrade for the sake and safety of the house.

Bathroom and Kitchen Updates

Most historic homeowners and preservationists agree that the bathroom(s) and kitchen are the rooms often in need of updating, but this can be a matter of preference. Plenty of folks appreciate kitchens and bathrooms with original features and fixtures, such as farmer’s sinks or 1920s tile. In that case, you can still update your space. Search for preserved and refurbished appliances and decor to install in your home.

Otherwise, feel free to upgrade where you see fit. You may crave a glass-enclosed shower over an old clawfoot tub. The kitchen may be crying out for a dishwasher. As long as you strive to maintain the integrity of the architecture and introduce period-appropriate decor and knickknacks inside, you can embrace modern conveniences in the rooms that need them most.

What do you choose to retain and renovate when you take on a historic property? Let us know the features you try to keep and what you prefer to replace.

Author Bio: Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She enjoys writing about events, travel, decorating trends, and innovations for the home, but also covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, and finance.

Incorporating Smart Tech Into That Classic Victorian Design


The overall theme for a Victorian home is ornate and lavish with a desire for decorations, some dating back to the 1800s. Since then, builders have worked tirelessly to design fancier ways to add ornamentation and decor that is relevant to changing times. The introduction of information technology towards the end of the 20th century opened possibilities for exchanging information between people, appliances and systems, possibilities that are still under exploration.

The smart home is the latest trend in innovative home technology, and it puts the safety and control of your entire home at your fingertips. With the internet of things (IoT) concept becoming a more visible and accessible option, you can transform your house and still keep that Victorian design and theme intact. Upon installation, you would be able to remotely control common aspects such as security, lighting, doors and temperature. Making your home smart could also raise the value of your Victorian house considerably.

Wireless or wired?

“When transforming your Victorian home, it is advisable to use wireless technology,” Andy Stanford-Clark, head of IoT department at IBM told the Guardian. By so doing, you will be causing minimal disturbance and damage to your decorations. In case you encounter problems with signals, you can opt for mesh controllers such as ZigBee because they offer better coverage. In addition, smart lighting systems for the home can be mounted on the wall plates, which can then be customised to look like a traditional switch that matches the exact theme of your interior. If you have to install a wired system, it is advised that you do it when other renovations are done, such as an energy retrofit. You can also snake a wire through the floor joists, though it could be more expensive.

Old heating and smart locks

The difficulty with older homes is that rooms tend to vary in temperature, but you can overshadow that by having smart heating sensors monitoring each room’s temperature and comparing it to external weather from a weather website or an outside sensor. If your home uses storage heaters, purchase a disguise adaptor that sits between the wall socket and the plug of your appliance. When it comes to smart locks, you do not have to destroy your doors and windows. “We had a gorgeous antique door that we did not want to cut into to install the new smart locks. We got a keyless entry system that sits on the top and replaced the deadbolt on the interior, and it works perfectly.,” said Christian Roehl, owner of Incommand Systems.

That 100-year-old house with stunning decor, high ceilings and ornate chandeliers is beautiful, but if it does not feature technology that makes your life easier, then it needs some adjustments. The goal is to install smart technology while maintaining the overall Victorian look. “The good news is that everyday technology is becoming more wireless and devices are getting smaller,” claimed Dan Diclerico, a smart home strategist for HomeAdvisor. He says that internet signals, with the help of WIFI boosters, are overcoming barriers, making installation of smart devices less invasive.

Attracting Bees To A Victorian Garden

The global population of bees is in decline. In the US, striking National Agriculture Statistics show that the number of bee colonies per hectare has gone down by 90 percent in the last 50 years. We have a role to play in halting the decline in the bee population. With modern beekeeping having its roots in Victorian times, here are some gardening tips to attracts bees to your Victorian garden.

Beekeeping In Victorian Times

In early Victorian times bees were kept in straw ‘skeps’. However, in order to gain access to the honey, the skeps had to be burnt which subsequently destroyed the bee colony. The late 19th century then saw a revelation in beekeeping when a hive with removable wooden frames was invented by Philadelphian Lorenzo Langstroth, credited by many as being the father of modern beekeeping. At that time, many Victorian estates had an apiary, a collection of bee hives, because the Victorians loved the sweet taste of honey in cakes and tea.

A Victorian Apiary

Honeybees nest in beehives which can be placed, if needed in a small space in a garden. The beehive should be placed in a quiet, sunny spot which is sheltered from winds. A Langstroth hive is a modular beehive contains vertically hung frames with an entrance for the bees at the bottom of the hive. The bees build honeycomb into the frames which are easily removable to harvest the honey. After a year or so, you can expect your hive to make about 25lbs of honey per year, assuming it is disease free and the bees have plenty of flowers to forage within 3 miles of the hive.

Plants For Bees In A Victorian-style Garden

Cottage and woodland styled gardens, popular in the Victorian era were informal in design. A cottage garden is a great way to attract bees by planting plenty of pollen rich flowers providing blooms all year round. Choose several shapes and colors of blooms and plant them in clumps. Popular plants in the Victorian era which are attractive to pollinators include lavenders and geraniums. Try also including a herb garden as bees are particularly attracted to borage sage, mint, thyme and rosemary.

We all have a role to play in stopping the global decline in bee numbers. Introducing a apiary into your garden as well as planting pollen-rich plants will encourage bees to make a home in your Victorian garden.

 

Plants And Fish That Bring Life To Victorian Homes

If you own a Victorian style home, you likely want a decor that matches the period design of your home. When it comes to decorations that bring life to a home, you may wonder what clashes with the time period your home represents, and what matches. Aquariums are a classic addition to Victorian homes and match the upholstery just as much today. Wisteria and jasmine, classic climbing plant life, are also classic imagery around Victorian homes both new and old.

Cradle graves for interior design

Cradle graves, a name for potted or container-held plants, are a classic staple of Victorian design. Victorian design reached many points across the world, and in colonial America in particular, cradle graves were said to be especially numerous around Victorian styled homes. The fact that these plants are meant for planters means they’re easy to add to the interior of your home, brightening up rooms and adding new colors with a variety of different plant life.

Add vines and climbing plants to the exterior

If you’re thinking about the outside of your home, climbing plants like spreading wisteria are classic Victorian design elements. Wisteria tends to support itself with the walls and fences of Victorian homes and can be a great way to cover an otherwise bland side of your home’s exterior. Another popular vine that can match a Victorian home’s exterior is jasmine. A combination of the two can bring colorful purples and standout whites to a garden around your home.

Aquariums and Victorian design

If you’re more interested in the wildlife you can bring into your home, know that aquariums and Victorian homes have a long and storied history. Many Victorian homes had and have elaborate aquariums to show off exotic fish and aquatic pets. William Alford Lloyd was the first professional aquarist and popularized the idea of aquariums in Victorian homes across England. To him, oysters, lobsters, and exotic fish were all worthy additions to a Victorian home.

Victorian homes are rich with history, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be bustling with a variety of living things as well. Vines and climbing plants like wisteria and jasmine are classic additions to any Victorian home. Aquariums are also an idea that Victorian era noblemen made their own, and match the storied design of these homes.  And cradle graves, or potted plants, have been used to add color to Victorian home interiors for more than two centuries now.

Ways to Modernize Your Victorian Home 

The best part about older, traditional homes is their character. The aged interior and exterior characteristics often date the rooms and inspire a lovely sense of nostalgia. Victorian homes, especially, are known for their unique features, including complex and decorative interior trims, steep pitch roofing and asymmetrical architectural details. Still, there’s no reason why your Victorian home has to remain fixed in the 1850’s. Instead, there are many simple ways to modernize your old Victorian in a way that brings your rooms into the 21st century. Your new “Modern Victorian” home will look fantastic, emphasizing both the Victorian-era characteristics and some chic, contemporary designs, too.

Bring Your Fireplace into the 21st Century

Fireplaces will either instantly date or modernize a space. Victorian-era fireplaces can make a room feel heavy, dark and extremely traditional, so why not renovate it to make it look a little more contemporary? By installing a wall-hanging model that’s electric or ethanol burning, you can integrate a chic, simple design that will make the space look entirely fresh. Modern fireplaces, even in a room with other Victorian elements, will give the entire ambiance of the space a renewed feel.

Install Modern Light Fixtures 

Another way to showcase the old architecture of your Victorian home in a creative, 21st century style is to install modern lighting. While not all modern light fixtures will fit with Victorian designs, something that is more mid-century modern or Scandinavian modern will do the trick. Remember to mix old with new and new with old. Mixing the styles of lighting and eras will lead to a unique final product that flows together in a contemporary fashion.

Incorporate Cutting-Edge Artwork 

A final idea for modernizing an older home like a Victorian is to incorporate some interesting, engaging, cutting-edge art pieces. Picture this: You have a classic Victorian room that’s square and lined with dark wooden trim, and you add a colorful, abstract painting to the middle of a white wall. The artwork will instantly raise the level of your home’s aesthetic and make it more intriguing, rather than classical or predictably Victorian. Just because the architecture looks one way doesn’t mean that every detail in the interior of your home has to reflect the era.

By installing a wall-mounted fireplace, hanging some modern light fixtures and incorporating cutting-edge artwork, you can revamp your Victorian home and transport its interior design into the 21st century.