Historic home remodels are like treasure hunts for adults: you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes, you unearth family portraits from the early 1900’s and a bunch of old newspapers used as insulation. And other times, you uncover exquisite raw materials that would cost a small fortune to replicate. The trick is to know what to preserve and what can go, and if you haven’t remodeled a historic home before, you’ll want a guide by your side to help you assess the value of each discovery.
Just as you’d approach an archaeological dig with care, so too you’ll want to respectfully consider each feature you find in your historic home remodel. Since many of these features are disguised under weathered exteriors, they may not be immediately obvious as treasures, so we’ve put together a guide listing nine features you should keep:
1. Hardwood Floors
Hardwood flooring was one of the most frequently installed original features in historic homes, yet often these floors are covered over with carpet because over the years they became weathered and looked old. When you remove your carpet, you’ll likely see that the wood has been additionally marred by staples. Yet most hardwood floors in historic homes are still in surprisingly good shape. With a little sanding and refinishing, original hardwood flooring can far outshine replacement floors or new carpeting. Since hardwood floors are one of the more expensive options on the market today, uncovering a hardwood floor in your home truly is like finding buried treasure.
2. Trim Work and Wood Built-Ins
The same can be said of any other trim work and custom carpentry built-ins. The quality of materials and craftsmanship invested in original wood features is extremely rare to find in modern homes. The temptation here would be to tear out old carpentry because the wood may be splitting or chipped in places, but an expert in custom carpentry can often restore these pieces to their original grandeur.
3. Front Doors
Have you noticed that many owners of new homes will either paint their front doors in statement colors or else hunt for a historic front door to add interest? Original doors add immense character to a home and are highly coveted, so if you have one, keep it! Here again, the custom carpentry and original designs of older doors are extremely difficult to find in newer makes. There’s no need to be concerned about losing heat through old doors, as making them energy efficient is relatively easy.
4. Original Hardware
Door knobs and drawer pulls are also unique features that you won’t find in any mainstream hardware stores. Consider cleaning tarnished hardware rather than replacing it. The good news is that refurbishing original hardware is easier than you might think.
5. Exposed Brick
As a general rule, any quality raw material should be preserved. Especially in a home design era where texture is king, raw materials like exposed brick have once again gained popularity as a key feature in an industrial and minimalist aesthetic. If your home already has exposed brick surfaces, consider redoing mortar work and making the surface a centerpiece rather than covering it over. It’s even ok to paint over brick if you’re certain you want to alter its color, but don’t tear it out, because texture adds interest.
6. French Doors on the Home’s Inside
Have you noticed that many designers are now installing French doors in home interiors to preserve an open layout while zoning spaces? If your home has these already, as many older Arts and Crafts homes do, keep them. Original French doors are another place where you may find some unique door knob hardware to refurbish and show off.
7. Wall Niches
If you don’t know what to do with your wall niche, think of it as a decorating challenge where you can have fun getting creative! Wall niches are great spaces for housing telephones, paintings, vases, or even miniature gardens. For inspiration, take a look at HGTV’s 162 photos of clever wall niche decor.
8. Butler’s Pantries
While butler’s pantries were originally used to store fine dishware and to keep prep areas invisible, they’ve now become functional food pantry replacements and also stylish ways to exhibit original hardware, countertops, tilework, etc. In fact, butler’s pantries are also the perfect places to store seasonal dishes and kitchen items that you may not use in your everyday life but that you don’t want to have to go hunting through taped up boxes in the basement to find when occasion calls for them.
9. Quirky Angles
Finally, many historic homes are built with quirky angles that create unusual niches. While these angles may challenge your creativity, they’re a great way to highlight the value of your historic home, because such angles could only have been made by hand rather than by “cookie cutter” assembly. Invite your designer in to discuss how to capitalize on these rather than trying to hide or undo them. You may just end up with a completely original, functional, and eye-catching design feature!