The notion of bringing historic properties into the 21C is filled with romance. What could be more delightful than utilizing the beauty of Victorian or Craftsman architecture through carefully conceived renovation?

Here are some “mistakes” to avoid when doing such renovations:

  1. Cap your enthusiasm to jump right in with researching the history of the house, the neighbor and the times in which it was built.
    1. Look at old maps available through the US Geological Survey.
    2. Educate yourself about the proper, suitable materials for the house’s specific location and climate
    3. Visit the local historical museum to research period rooms based upon the home’s era
    4. Look at historical precedence, room proportions, molding shapes and style differentiations
  2. Remember that DIY mistakes can be costly
    1. “Cosmetic improvements that do not affect systems in the house are usually safe DIY projects,” said Naomi Miroglio of Architectural Resources Group in San Francisco.
    2. Leave electrical and plumbing work to professionals
    3. “If finishes (and faucets) need to be moved or walls opened up, leave it to professionals,” advises Moroglio.
  3. Added pristine, new elements ought to retain some of the “aged or arrested decay” look.
    1. According to architect Adam Zimmerman of the Zimmerman Workshop, “The new will highlight how dilapidated the old really look.”
    2. Borrow baseboards from rooms in other parts of the house.
    3. If you have to match new elements within the same room, make sure to use similar style and scale and then break the old and new so the two styles are not in direct contact.
  4. Tiptoe around technology.
    1. The nature of tech today means there is NO NEED to rewire a house to install tech.
    2. Install high-tech devices out of eyeshot…install a thermostat in the closet and use hidden sensors, for example.
  5. Be cautious about moving/removing walls
    1. Since older floor plans can clash with modern-day living and aesthetics, make sure to work with the original spatial organization
    2. Also remember that value is directly related to square footage, kitchens and the number of bed/bathrooms
    3. Most architects agree that adding square footage when done with care to historic houses is completely acceptable.


Miraglio’s last words of advice…”It’s always more sustainable to keep something rather than replace it.”

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