Building and designing your own home has its many benefits, from customizing everything to being in full control beginning to end. Starting from scratch with a design is a worthy challenge and brings out a homeowner’s creativity, but there’s also a lot to be said for taking an old home and making it new again. This week, I’d like to point out a few benefits of remodeling an older home.
A friend of mine lives in a 1955 ranch-style house on a double lot in the Mid-Cities. The house has its downsides, like old plumbing, which often means smaller pipes that are susceptible to roots, and some outdated cabinets in the kitchen. The upsides, though, are plenty reason for him to stick around and make some solid updates.
Let’s start with the character of the home. Older homes’ styles vary greatly, which is part of the charm and reason for keeping them. Architectural details like intricate porch awnings, stairway railings and archways give older homes that stark uniqueness. Elaborate fireplaces, cottage-style window shutters or even saloon doors from the kitchen to the dining room are quirky, stylistic elements that other homes may not have executed in the same way. When paired and matched with modern updates, these retro qualities stand out and come off intentional and trendy in a positive, lasting way.
Older homes tend to be cheaper, with more negotiable prices depending on the market, and there are generally a lot of them to choose from. Though money will be spent in renovating with some potentially unexpected costs later, you’re more likely to find more space for your money and in a more developed neighborhood, landscape-wise. Older neighborhoods have more and fuller trees, which adds a lot to the homey feel of a location, and their shade will bring coolness in the Texas summer heat. As for size, older homes come on larger lots, like my friend’s double-lot for example, so expect a nice, big yard (though that “ups” the maintenance a bit).
A well-known feature of older homes is the higher quality, trustworthy construction. Back then, building materials were stronger and more solid, like brick, hardwood, real stones and other thick, durable components. For my friend and his older home, the one thing he never worries about is the foundation; it’s in great condition and, according to his inspector, will last for a long time. Features that often need to be improved on older homes are the windows, as windows back then were mostly single-paned, meaning they only had one pane of glass. This could cause a spike in the energy bills, so it’s a good investment to repair or replace windows in older homes, with the consultation of a professional contractor.
Lastly, I’d like to expand on the benefits of combining the vintage with the modern and the meaning behind it. There’s a lot of respect when it comes to the value of antiques, originality and the past in general. Having a story behind the home you live in is a great conversation starter, an eye-opener to family and friends when they visit and a meaningful aspect to your living experience. It’s one thing to have an older home and leave it that way, allowing it to dissolve as is, and it’s another to polish and repurpose the old to be new again. Rather than destroying or decaying, the home’s special features should be repaired and displayed as they deserve.
Wooden accents, like beams and fireplace mantels, are design elements that work well with modern amenities and touches. A clean, shiny kitchen with brand new cabinets and countertops would look great with a large old sink and rustic hardware. Exposed shelves for dishes and an old-fashioned, built-in buffet would also fit in a modernly updated kitchen. Keep the hardwood floors, exposed brick and bay windows; just polish it up, throw down a modern rug and install a window seat to bring it up to date.
I’m not saying to keep every old feature — just the ones that stand out to you that would go well with the modern side of your taste. There’s value in the old, and if given some TLC by a professional, that value can sky-rocket for the homeowner, and maybe even the home seller later on.