When Historic Homes Have Their Architectural Details Removed

What To Do When Your Remodeling a Historic Home, How Modern Design and Construction Is Embracing History And You Should Too

One thing I quickly learned with living in a historic neighborhood is the pride and knowledge of the architecture among the residents is far beyond what I expected. It’s inspiring that other owners also came looking to find a home that has the historical details and traditions in the architectural styles of 100 years ago.

What happens when a house in a historical neighborhood has some of its historic motifs removed?

Well, the neighbors are not too amused, for one. The day a truck leaves with the wood windows is not a happy day. Everyone notices! And it wasn’t just me the interior designer who was sad to see them go. Yes it became the talk of the neighborhood.

Historic Homes

Its apparent that buyers that come here, come looking for a home that are not like the new condos down the street. Not to say they don’t want a nice remodeled kitchen or bathroom - of course I'd love to see a home with an original kitchen and bathroom however not all homes still have then. What is nice, is maintaining the historical nature (at least a tip of the hat) to that style if the old needs to be removed and replaced. A strict read isn’t always possible when adapting a home to modern living needs but it’s essential to maintain that uniqueness of the architecture. One big way to do so is preserving the house elevation (the view of the exterior from the street). Things like not installing vinyl windows if they need to be replaced. For the interior, maintaining features like mouldings and interior doors with what was there in the past even if it’s new (replacing like for like whenever possible and even better if you use reclaimed materials from the same neighborhood or regional area).

Some will say “well why does it really matter?”

The value is in maintaining the historical nature and culture of the community and property values.

Architecture matters here.

Highly sought after architectural styles can pull in anywhere between 50-100k more from a house on the same street with the same sqft but without the value original architectural elements. Homes in the neighborhood go for 50-150k more than homes across the street in a different neighborhood. The value is there to preserve and protect the history for the next generation.

Some will say, “These homes are being updated, that’s all.”

Actually here is what modern construction is really saying:

Historic Preservation is Very Green, Very Hip, and Very In Style

Yes, I’m sure you’ve thought green design, sustainability (new contemporary design) is all about redoing everything with more modern materials...well not anymore.

Historical preservation projects are being certified by the International Living Future Institute (check out this case study).

Here is how the Living Building Challenge (the most aggressive green building standard) is embracing the past:

  • Reusing existing materials is a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint.

  • Place based architecture style is a back in favor as a trend involving culture, architecture that has its unique place in it region. It’s not architecture that can be anywhere it belongs here.

  • Methods of restoration laid out in the Department of Interiors Guide to Historic Preservation also advocate for IAQ (indoor air quality) with the use of heat gun instead of sanding.

  • Modern materials aren't as healthy. Many of these homes were built before the chemical revolution which has resulted in over 80,000 chemicals (that were grandfathered in) which are known to the EPA only about 200 are cataloged and only 5 have been outright banned (Page 7, 3rd Paragraph). So what’s that mean? These homes left untouched are healthy than most homes built in the last 70 years. Yes you read that correct...more healthy from not having those chemicals in them!

  • The Institute Living Future Institute is working hard to certify products and make product ingredients transparent and has created their own list of toxins called the Red List. Under Chlorinated Polymers - Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) found in vinyl windows is on the list, it contains cadmium, lead, and phthalates. Even the LBC (Living Build Challenge) discourages vinyl windows.

Keeping the architectural details is more cost effective in using reclaimed materials or restoring instead of replacing, a home will hold its valve, and with a wellness interior designer you can keep these homes healthier than more modern homes and the construction methods can promote the health of the occupants.

In short, when you have a historic home or even just an older home make sure your whole team understands and embraces wellness design, green building with LBC and of course historic preservation from designer to contractor. One of the many benefits of selecting a designer who is educated in the history of architecture is their understanding on what characteristics belong to each style. When you select a wellness interior designer, you get a designer who knows and understands the values of historic preservation under biophilic design theories and can help you meet your goals for maintaining your properties value. Not all designers will have that knowledge or credentials as the law does not regulate who can practice interior design or interior decorating. An educated designer will be the same price as an uneducated designer, so verify your designer can handle your project.