Home Improvements

Tips For Updating a Historic Home

Older homes can be charming, and you understandably want to keep that old-world charm intact. But sometimes you need to consider updating a historic home to keep it from falling apart. 

It’s a delicate balance to preserve the historical elements of the home while upgrading certain features to meet modern standards. Updating a historic home requires a thoughtful approach to combine preservation with modern comfort and luxury. 

If you’re looking to breathe new life into an old home, without compromising its historical integrity, keep reading this article.

Double story home that seems Victorian inspired or upgraded. Making upgrades to a historic home requires careful balance of preservation and modernisation.

Research and Understand the Era

Before starting any renovations, it’s essential to research and understand the architectural style and design elements of the era in which the home was built. This will guide you in choosing materials, colours, and finishes that align with the home’s original character.

If you choose to decorate and update your home without the era in mind, you can end up creating a clash between the elements. This can make the home feel uncomfortable, and you might not be able to figure out why. 

Consult Preservation Professionals

Enlist the help of preservation professionals, including architects and historians specialising in restoring historic homes. Their insights can help you decide which features are worth preserving or modernising. 

They can also guide you through obtaining any necessary approvals or permits for these updates.

Interior of a modern house with white walls, with a staircase of older wood. This is an example of upgrades to a historic home preserving certain features

Preserve Key Architectural Features

Identify all existing structures and features that should be preserved, repaired, or replicated. 

Try to repair and restore original features like:

  • Windows
  • Mouldings
  • Trim
  • Doors
  • Flooring
  • Metalwork

Restoring original features is an act of respect for the history and legacy of the building. It acknowledges the efforts and craftsmanship of the people who built it and the stories it holds.

It also makes the house feel more comfortable when there is a consistency across the features. 

Man standing in a stone masonry centre, looking at statues and stone mountings

Choose Sympathetic Materials

When updating or adding features, choose materials that complement the existing structure. Opt for high-quality, period-appropriate materials that mimic the look and feel of the original components. 

This can include: 

  • The use of salvaged materials of the same era to maintain authenticity.
  • Using lime mortar instead of cement-based mortar.  This was commonly used in older constructions and allows for some movement.
  • If the original building features stone, matching or similar natural stone can be more sympathetic than introducing a completely different material.
  • Replacing the roof with materials like slate, clay tiles, or wooden shingles that were commonly used during the building’s era.
  • The use of historically accurate colours and traditional paint formulations contribute to an authentic restoration.

Large brick fireplace with a vintage iron grill in front of it.

Blend Old and New Design Elements

Blending modern elements with an old building involves good planning. Here are some practical tips to achieve a harmonious blend:

  • Use built-in cabinets, false panels, or discreet enclosures to conceal televisions, audio systems, and other electronic devices. Smart thermostats, lighting systems, and security features can all be discreetly integrated.
  • Repurpose historical elements to accommodate modern needs. For example, an old fireplace could be adapted to house a modern gas or electric insert.
  • Choose luxurious finishes for surfaces like countertops, flooring, and cabinetry in a style that complements the historical context. 
  • Create a balanced lighting design by combining historic fixtures with modern options. This layered approach improves functionality and ambience.

White walls of an old home with the original wooden window and door frames painted a vibrant teal, and the door painted red. These are great upgrades to a historic home because they preserve the look of the building while modernising it through colour.

Add Thoughtful Modern Additions

Consider modern additions that complement the existing structure if additional space is needed. Architectural elements like glass extensions or sunrooms can seamlessly integrate with the historic charm while providing contemporary functionality.

If you aren’t thoughtful with your additions, you create friction between parts of your home. Moving from the well-kept historical home to a build-on that’s modern and sleek is jarring and disrupts the feel of being in the space. 

Modern take on a sun room: an alcove in a modern kitchen with large windows and a small table and chairs.

Regular Maintenance

Once the updates are complete, establish a regular maintenance routine. This may seem unnecessary and overcautious, but there are many benefits to regular maintenance: 

  • It identifies and addresses minor issues before they escalate. Timely repairs prevent deterioration and save on more extensive and costly repairs.
  • Regular maintenance protects your investment and can add to a higher resale value.
  • Maintenance includes landscaping and outdoor areas. Regular care of gardens, trees, and surrounding structures contributes to the property’s overall appearance and curb appeal.

Large old home with a cobble stone driveway and tailored landscaping to complement the style of the home's facade.

Updating A Historic Home

Old buildings contribute to architectural diversity in communities, reflecting architectural styles, craftsmanship, and the way of life of previous generations. Updating a historic home requires a balance of honouring the past while embracing current conveniences. 

If you’re looking for a high quality contractor to help you upgrade your historic home, we’ve got you covered. From handymen to builders, and everything in between, you can find the perfect contractor for your needs. 

You’re in good company