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Embracing the History of Your Home in Modern Renovations

Updated: Jun 5

As an interior designer, I have been really fortunate to work on a number of homes which have a unique heritage, and whilst many clients are already invested in the heritage of their homes, (often being one of the main reasons why they have purchased it), I always urge my clients to consider the history of their homes when embarking on renovation projects.

With the demands of modern living it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of modernising a space, especially where a property is set out to function for the era in which it was created.....think outside toilets! but ignoring the unique heritage of a property can lead to missed opportunities and a loss of character, and potentially devaluing the property.

I recently had the pleasure of working on a project in a property in Sydney's East. The property was a beautiful Victorian free standing home in the back streets of Sydney Harbour. The client was desperate to adapt the upper level to include an ensuite bathroom and additional storage, as a result they were prepared to remove the original fireplaces and chimney breasts which are so much part of the original character to give them the space to do this. The property itself is in a heritage area but not itself protected under a heritage listing, meaning that they would have been able to do this. Using spatial planning and 3D modeling I was able to give them a number of options which would enable to them to have what they wanted but retain these beautiful features and thus retain the history of the building.

On the flip side, I have had a number of projects where, as a result of previous renovations and additions ( predominantly in the 80's and 90's), a lot of the character has been ripped out and clients are wanting to add back these elements.

Balancing Act

Admittedly there is a fine art to this, I am in no way suggesting that you should restore a property to its former glory with every detail replicated in it's minutest form, (in fact this can end up looking a bit forced), but rather taking a few of the key details and basic features, and using these as the key to linking more modern elements to the old.

For example, when renovating a home, clients generally want a relatively modern kitchen, one that is open plan and potentially brings outdoor and indoor entertaining into one. The general layout and style of many historical properties is not conducive to this so adding more modern extensions ,and, or moving walls to accommodate this is pretty common practice. In this case it would be about bringing in subtle elements through cabinetry, hardware, colours or even furnishings and artwork to link the modern to the past and help it blend in harmoniously.

It is also important to think about the property as a whole rather than separate rooms, This includes the outside of the property. The property will come across more unified if both the exterior and interior complement each other.

Don't forget the surroundings.

The property itself may hold a story but it is always nice to think about the history and the materials of the area that the property is located. For example a suburb's in Sydney's East were originally surrounded by sand hills as a result you will see a lot of evidence of Sandstone used in the buildings as it was a local material. In much the same way Venice has the glass, and Portugal the ceramics.... It maybe that the surrounding suburbs have a cultural history whether it be horse racing or fishing communities. Don't forget the natural surroundings, some properties are close to the coast or woodland so bringing these elements in as inspiration, whether it be colour palettes, artwork or textures, add a bit of story and tie the property to it's surrounds.

Bucking the trends

Now I am not going to deny that renovating older properties is rarely smooth sailing. Whether it be heritage restrictions for planning, or a few too many unexpected surprises when you start to renovate, they are quick to eat away at a budget. However one of the great aspects of renovating a home, or even building a new home, with a focus on it's history (or the history of it's architectural inspiration), is that you immediately have an abundance of inspiration to draw from. When it comes to designing your home, it's easy to get caught up in the latest trends and modern designs. As with many trends they easily come and go, by incorporating elements of the home's history into the design, it is possible to create spaces that are not only beautiful, but also meaningful and unique and as such will stand the test of time, and preserve the history of the property for years to come.

I will leave you with a comment from Frida Ramstedt.

"It's not unlike the business of choosing clothes.....The simplest way to find what suits you is to stop worrying about what fashion dictates and concentrate instead on what works for you and your particular body type"

📷 @emma_stergoulis_design

Emma Stergoulis Design

I am an interior designer based in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

🤍Crafting designs that honour the essence of you and your home's history.I help preserve your home’s charm whilst infusing modern elegance.🏡

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