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 However, outdated systems can waste energy and make the home uncomfortable to spend time in.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 The Fixtures Are Outdated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.
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.