I have always been attracted to older homes: I grew up in an older home, lived in apartments in older homes, and have completely renovated my family’s 1890s home in Hintonburg. It sounds clichéd, but I just love the stories of these homes — the mysteries that unravel as you restore them and give them new life.
I embrace the challenge of keeping the charm of an older home while infusing it with modern ways of living. Maybe that’s why most of my renovation business is centred in neighbourhoods such as Hintonburg, Wellington Village, Westboro, and Lindenlea. The key is knowing what to save.
1. Have patience with imperfections
Your older home is not going to be perfect in the same way a newer one is. Embrace it! That said, always work with a really good carpenter because nothing is completely level in an older home.
2. Be smart about what’s possible
Most older homes weren’t built with space for giant master bathrooms and kitchens or grand front entrances. If you plan to keep the footprint of your house, you need to find creative solutions. Sometimes you can combine rooms, but lots of times you can be really clever — moving things around and figuring out creative ways to add storage.
3. Save the sightlines
You want to respect the flow of an older house, but some things have to give to meet modern lifestyles. You can open up small rooms in a respectful way, keeping some nooks and crannies and using matching crown mouldings around expanded entranceways to maintain a unified look.
4. Pay attention to scale
Entranceways, kitchens, and bathrooms in older homes tend to be smaller, so keep this in mind when choosing tiles. Smaller hexagonal and pebble tiles look better on the floors of older homes.
5. Don’t be afraid to add elements
One example would be tin ceilings. Your original house might not have had them, but if it’s the right era, adding a tin ceiling in the kitchen looks great and actually makes the room look more modern.
6. Preserve the floors
I almost always try to preserve older wood floors — it’s a cost saving and they’re usually in pretty good shape once you sand them down. Even when I come across floors that aren’t in the best shape, they can look amazing if you paint them. You can infuse a more country-chic vibe into an old home by doing this.
7. Love your light fixtures
Light fixtures add so much character. I save old lights and source others at antique stores or on Kijiji. Sometimes I look for reproduction pieces or fixtures that have the feel of the era but are subtly modern. It adds so much to a home to have lights that “feel right.”
8. Accessorize with window treatments
Windows in older homes were designed to have curtains, so make the most of that. Use them to add a modern esthetic that’s true to the home, infusing texture, colour and beauty. They also keep out cold or heat depending on the season.
9. Opt for complementary hardware
I’m obsessed with hardware. You can use it to do modern takes on old things — think glass knobs and chrome pulls and latches. They’re so great.
10. Maintain a sense of authenticity
It feels good to restore a home and give it new life. Each step of the way, stop to think, look around and take stock. Know that you can be bold while still respecting the history of your home.