Renovating an old house without losing its charm

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Renovating older homes can be a risky endeavour: is it possible to update a classic property without losing its charm?

Renovating an old house without losing its charm

Fortunately, it can be done, as long as you’re careful in your approach. The key is knowing what to keep and what to get rid of; what needs updating and what can stay.

Here are 6 tips for keeping the charm alive while bringing your old home into the modern era.

1. Keep original fixtures
You’re probably familiar with the word ‘fixtures’ but what does it actually mean? Fixtures are typically items that are attached to the property. We’re talking about doors, window trim, lighting, brackets, handles, and knobs.

When they’re in good condition, these seemingly minor fixtures contribute to the charm of an old home. If you replace them in favour of modern fixtures, you’re likely to remove some of the character as well.

Original fixtures don’t have to stay where they are, either. They can be removed and repurposed if it makes sense to do so. For example, a draughty old door can be sanded and remade into a sturdy kitchen table.

2. Don’t be afraid to update plumbing and wiring
In fact, these are two updates you might have to make. Plumbing and electrical wiring have come along by leaps and bounds, and it’s wise to bring your old house up to speed. There’s nothing charming about a leaky toilet, a cold shower, or a light fixture that sparks when you turn it on.

These updates make a big difference, but they don’t have to change the appearance of the house. Keep your chandelier and clawfoot tub (more on this in tip #5), but don’t lock yourself in to old-world plumbing!

3. Go antiquing
Find out what era the house was built in, then go hunting for materials from that time. Building materials change over time, and it’s why so many renovations look incongruous. It’s not so noticeable when all of the materials are from the same time period, but mixing old floorboards with new can stick out like a sore thumb.

If you want to keep your old home’s personality, try to pick out items that are as old as the house. These could be new-to-you fixtures or even pieces of furniture that complement the interior design.

4. Expose the bones
There’s something about exposed beams and stonework that catch your eye, isn’t there? If your home already has these elements intentionally exposed, consider keeping it where possible.

Adding wooden beams is another way to use your newfound antiquing skills. Look for material that matches your house and install non-load-bearing beams in a high ceiling to add a cosy feeling to any room. This is especially effective in kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms.

5. Consider modern imitations
Sometimes imitations are a poor approximation of the original, and an obvious attempt to retain charm. But there are many ways to re-introduce the look and feel of an old house without clinging to cracking paint or chipped tiles.

Flooring is a key feature for old homes, but much of it doesn’t stand the test of time. Look for modern replicas of mosaic tile or hardwood floors to get a convincing effect.

Modern imitations are very useful in bathrooms, where old pedestal sinks and heavy clawfoot tubs look great, but aren’t always practical. Replace a damaged clawfoot tub with a lighter acrylic version that pays homage to your home’s roots.

6. Talk to a pro about layout
Old homes are easy to romanticise in our minds, where we think about the appealing details and not the turn offs—like a boxy, closed-off layout. Today’s buyers gravitate to open-plan layouts and natural light, which aren’t always in abundance in an older home.

But changing the layout can be problematic, especially if you want to preserve elements of the original home. Talk to a builder or an architect about what can be done to give the layout or flow you’re looking for.

Professionals can help identify load-bearing walls and other foundational features that can’t be moved, and show you how you can transform your floor plan. Keep or restore elements like crown moulding, arched doorways, and bay windows, but get rid of walls that do nothing but block off rooms unnecessarily. Just remember to hang on to those doors!

The charm of an old home is often in the details. You don’t have to keep it exactly the same as it was (unless you want to), but you don’t have to transform it into a sleek 21st-century structure, either.

Keep an eye out for those features that give your home its appeal, and find a way to include them in your renovations. That way, you can get the best of both worlds in a home you’re proud to show off.

For more tips and tricks, or to compare home loans and save, visit today.

Disclaimer: while due care is taken, the viewpoints expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Your Investment Property.

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