When To Modernize A Historic Home’s Interior

Older homes represent our past and have beautiful architectural features. However, outdated systems can waste energy and make the home uncomfortable to spend time in. So, when should you consider adding modern updates? Here are a few signs to pay attention to.

1. The Fixtures Are Outdated

Keeping the character and integrity of high-traffic areas intact – such as living rooms – is essential. This can mean keeping the original layout and furniture. Holding onto vintage tables and chairs gives your room a unique focal point.

However, you can spruce it up with modern fixtures, like new lighting and artwork. When upgrading lighting, consider layering. This design technique layers ambient, task, and accent lighting to create the perfect mood for different functions.

2. The Layout Isn’t Functional

The open-floor concept has become popular in many modern homes. Of course, this trend may not be as prevalent in historic homes. Builders back in the day often enclosed spaces to allow for more privacy and segmentation between rooms. Additionally, the extra interior doors made it easier to trap warmth within the room.

Today, an open floorplan allows families to maneuver around more easily. It’s also useful for parents to monitor their kids while cooking meals or entertainers to host fun social events. If you enjoy spending a lot of time at home, you might be interested in knocking down some dividers and creating a more open space.

Changing a home’s layout is a more complex renovation and requires more expert involvement. Just check with local historic preservation committees before making any changes, and make sure the contractors you work with carefully review your home’s structure to find the best places to safely open up a space.

3. It Doesn’t Have Enough Storage

Storage space is critical for the modern homeowner. You need room for all your clothes, kids’ toys, blankets, and electronics. Historic homes may have limited storage and smaller-sized cabinets, so adding shelves to unused wall space can help.

Also, use decorative baskets in bathrooms to hold toiletries. You can also place clear baskets or bins underneath your bed to keep off-season clothing in. Get drawer inserts and turntables to organize your cooking supplies for the kitchen.

4. There’s Not Enough Natural Light Coming Through

Some historic homes have smaller or fewer windows. This can make the space feel darker and dreary. However, increasing natural light can make you feel happier and is good for your body.

One way to do this is by enlarging the windows. Or, if you have enough money in the budget, install skylights. These allow plenty of light and provide a nice view on starry nights. Other strategies include hanging mirrors, using lighter colors, and decorating with reflective materials. You can also upgrade to doors with larger casements or sliding glass panels.

5. The Flooring Needs Upgrades

Original flooring like hardwood can look nice. However, sometimes it can start to warp or crack, in which case you’ll want to replace the flooring as soon as you can.

Suppose it just needs a little work done cosmetically, but not structurally? If that’s the case, you may be able to save the original material and just give it a new finish. For example, you could bleach or stain it to create a modern appearance. You can add other contemporary elements like colorful rugs for extra comfort.

6. The Plumbing or Electrical Is Outdated

Plumbing and electrical systems are often not current in historic homes. This can lead to wasting energy and may create an unsafe environment. Faulty wiring is a fire risk and can increase the harmful effects of power surges. In fact, home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires every year.

Updating these systems is an essential beginning step. If you don’t, you may have trouble passing building inspections down the line. This will make it harder to sell your home.

7. There Isn’t Enough Insulation

Many older homes don’t have the proper type or amount of insulation. This causes drafts in the winter, leading homeowners to overuse their heaters. This draw on the power grid contributes unnecessarily to climate change. Plus, it also raises the cost of utility bills.

Proper insulation keeps heat inside during the winter and releases it in the summer, thereby creating a more consistent temperature. You want to insulate the basement, crawl spaces, and walls. Remember to get under the floorboards, which tend to have larger gaps.

8. The Window Treatments Are Worn Down

Wooden sash windows are a staple in older homes. However, some can become rotten or dirty over time. This can decrease their visual appeal and even lead to mold growth. So, replace these with double-paned hardwood versions. They can emulate the look but increase energy efficiency and durability.

Also, add some lighter sheer curtains during summer to provide more natural light. Replace darker-colored drapes with whites to make the room feel airy and larger. Linen, blackout, and velvet curtains are also popular options. You can even spruce it up and find ones with patterns, like florals.

How to Upgrade a Historic Home

Historical homes have rich characters and distinctive elements. Features like staircases, fireplaces, and crown molding can make your home more unique. However, modern upgrades can increase your space’s functionality and aesthetic appeal. Consider these ideas for modernizing your house without compromising what makes it unique.

Author

 Evelyn Long is a Baltimore-based writer and the editor-in-chief of Renovated. She publishes home decor advice and product roundups for readers in spaces both big and small.

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.

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