Let’s say you’re whiling away an afternoon away on the veranda of your historic home. You’re rocking in your rocking chair, sipping on some lemonade. And then crack: A floorboard snaps beneath your chair. It was bound to happen. You look around. This place needs a lot of work, and it can’t be put off any longer. It’s time for that long-deferred renovation. So how do you go about it? Well, we hope your desire is to preserve the distinct historical flavor of your home, that you don’t have the urge to have at the old place with a cut-off saw and then build anew on the ruins.
Nope, that’s not you. You want to update that home without losing its charm. Well, we’re here to guide you through that process. We’ll do all we can because we’re of the opinion that homeowners have an obligation to preserve their home’s classic style, even amid large-scale renovation. Here are some tips that will help you along the way.
Appreciate the enduring appeal of classic tile patterns.
If you’re redoing tile in your kitchen or bathroom, it shouldn’t be difficult to freshen the look while preserving the historical feel of your home, whatever style that might be. Classic style patterns are hot today and easy to come by—certain things just never seem to fall out of favor.
Hunt for antique replacements.
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The market makes it easy to replicate your home’s old charm when it comes to tile. With other aspects, though, things can get a little trickier, especially if you want to remain true to the era in which your home was built. Now, we did say tricky, not impossible. Whether you’re on the hunt for an antique mantle, classic door hardware, or some other highly specific element, check with local antique dealers and even places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. You might get lucky. If not, you can take that hunt online. This wonderfully curated list from The Spruce is an excellent resource for locating vintage décor.
Hold On to original flooring.
Aspects of that historic charm may be lurking just underneath your nose—well, your feet. Over the years, lots of gorgeous hardwood floors were victimized—preserved, in this case, really—by carpeting. So if there’s some old carpet in your house that needs to go, cross your fingers and rip it up; there just might be some beautiful flooring underneath. Now if you are fortunate enough to find original wood flooring lurking underneath that nasty carpet, it might need a little bit of love. That’s no problem, even if some sections of the floor are beyond repair. Restoring an old floor, replacing segments only when absolutely necessary, is one of the finest ways to recapture historical charm. Saves money, too. Lots of it.
What do you do with that elephant in the bathroom?
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Let’s head back to the loo for a look at the bathtub. Chances are you have a tired-looking cast-iron, one-ton (this is only a bit of an exaggeration) tub staring you in the face. It’s the elephant in the loo. How are you going to get it out of there? How can you possibly replace it with something with even a semblance of the old-school charm? Well, what if we told you things might be easier than you realize? Lots of people don’t realize that old tubs (sinks, too) can simply be refinished. It’s true and, depending on the state of disrepair, it’s hardly more difficult than painting a wall. You can try it yourself, but even if you bring in a pro to do the work, you’ll end up saving money and preserving historical integrity.
Preserve original, wavy-glass windows.
There are few things lovelier on a truly historic home than the original wavy-glass windows. But they can be a problem, too. The main drawback of the original wavy glass is inefficiency. We’re talking big-time draftiness and sky-high energy bills. So if you have these windows, you might be tempted to ditch them, despite their beauty, and replace them with a modern, greener solution.
Hold up, though. These windows are a treasure, and there are measures you can take to bump up efficiency that won’t sacrifice that old-school appeal. In a passionate case for holding on to historic windows, the Nantucket Preservation Trust all-but-begs homeowners to forgo replacements and, instead, buttress the originals with “weather-stripping, sealing and caulking, and adding insulation within the casing.” Those steps, along with the inclusion of storm windows, can provide better efficiency than replacements, the Trust says. Whether that’s the case is debatable, but it’s definitely a fact that you can bump up efficiency without sacrificing the beauty of your original windows.
Find contractors with a passion for preservation.
When you’re considering renovations with big-time cosmetic consequences, be sure to go with contractors who share your desire to keep history alive. Not just any contractor will do. If you’re in a town like Nantucket, mentioned above, or Charleston, South Carolina, where historic preservation is of utmost importance, it won’t be difficult to find a contractor who can work within the era of your home’s construction.
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If preservation isn’t so critical in your community, it might be more difficult to find the ideal contractor. Do what you can. Contact the local or regional historical society for advice. They’ll steer you away from ham-handed amateurs. And, if you have to, immerse yourself in the architectural style of your home and play a hands-on role in guiding your contractor; if you can’t find a contractor with experience in historical preservation, at least do your best to pair with someone who understands your passion and is willing to do everything possible for the cause.