Renovating Your Older Home
Renovating a home takes a lot of thought and planning. But if you own an older home, it requires much more than this.
Let’s say your home was built in the 50’s or 60’s, which is typical of the area I serve. The layout should be the first consideration in a plan to renovate.
Because life was different back then.
And houses were designed different. Consider this…
- Living room, dining room and kitchen were all separate spaces.
- Kitchens were the “woman’s domain” and were designed specifically for one person (using the triangle design concept).
- The husband was usually relaxing in the living room reading the paper or watching the news while dinner was being prepared. He didn’t want to be disturbed.
- Kids were in their rooms doing homework or playing outside.
- Everyone shared one bathroom.
This layout worked for the lifestyle of those decades. Dad went to work, Mom stayed home and cooked, cleaned and raised the kids.
For today’s lifestyle, we would consider homes like this to be a maze of small and impractical rooms, lacking flow and appeal. Then again, the idea of open concept would have been preposterous back then.
Now, let’s consider today’s home:
- Today, the kitchen is the hub of the home. Everyone is in the kitchen – mom, dad, kids, dog, cat. Everyone. Dad is helping cook dinner.
- The living room was open and adjacent to the kitchen and people would hang out there and converse with whoever was in the kitchen.
- The kids are doing their homework at the island or kitchen table.
- There is more than one bathroom; in fact there are several.
So if you are renovating an older home, the floor plan is the most important thing to consider. In fact, it is the first item I work on with my clients when doing a Renovation Design Plan.
Now the question is what do you need to consider when creating a new floor plan?
NOW AND FOREVER?
If you’re undertaking a significant reno on a home you plan to live in for a long time, creating a floor plan that will also work well into the future is a must. I always ask my clients how long they will be living in their home. The answer is usually “as long as we can” (most of my clients are approaching retirement). So aging in place, although not a fun topic for most of my clients (me neither!), needs to be considered when drawing up the floor plan.
Then again, if you are in the stage of life where you have young kids, you will want open spaces that enable you to easily supervise them. But before you know it, they’ll be teens and wanting some slightly more private spaces to hang with their friends without mom and dad staring at them; so planning for that space in the future is a necessity (like making the basement into a family room).
MAKE AN ESCAPE
I do love opening up older homes and creating that relaxed, comfortable space where they can enjoy family time. But an open-plan floor plan can be too “open”. It is advisable to have some quieter places in your home too. Whether or not they’re for everyone in the family or specifically for the parents or kids is up to you.
PLAN FOR MOST OF THE TIME, NOT SOMETIMES
This is probably the most important aspect of creating a new floor plan – plan for how you will use the space most of the time.
Even if you love to entertain friends and family, it’s usually not worth sacrificing what you would prefer to live with every day for the sake of what looks nice when you’re entertaining. While having an 8 foot table to accommodate everyone during the holidays is great, but it really isn’t conducive to daily life. Having the space to expand your table by moving some furniture makes more sense.
My parents always hosted Christmas dinner. We would have 20-25 people for dinner which meant a big crowded table. My dad made an special insert for our dining table so it could extend the length of the dining room and INTO to adjacent den. So some of us would be eating in the den, while the majority were in the dining room. But at least we were at one table!
ADD A POWDER ROOM
Older homes usually have one main bathroom which can be awkward when you have guests. So if you have the space, incorporate a small powder room into your floor plan. As the ‘go-to’ bathroom for guests, it’s best to locate the powder room away from main living spaces, if possible.
ENLARGE YOUR MAIN BEDROOM
Older homes were very utilitarian in design which meant the bedrooms were small and meant for sleeping. Now a day’s that is not the case. In your floor plan, if you can enlarge your bedroom go for it! Space for a private bathroom and more closet space would be an added bonus.
In a recent project of mine, we reconfigured the main bedroom, an adjacent bedroom, both closets and the hallway to enlarge the master bedroom without sacrificing too much space in the adjacent bedroom.
A VIEW TO THE OUTSIDE
This is probably the most under-utilized aspect of home renovations – adding windows or replacing them with larger ones.
Older homes had much smaller windows than we see today. Replacing them for larger windows increases the natural light in your home, which essentially changes the whole feel of the space. Also consider adding windows where possible.
Older homes feature the formless hollow interior doors; upgrading these doors is usually part of a renovation. But in older homes, door way sizes were different than they are today. The standard door height used to be 84”, today it is 80”. They were also not as wide…or in some cases wider! The door way sizes need to be addressed in the floor plan if you intend to change the doors.
A MUDROOM IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA
A mudroom was once only found in country homes where muddy boots were the norm With today’s busy life, a mudroom is great for tossing school bags, hats, dirty shoes and all those items you walk through the front door carrying. It will be a godsend if you have school age children! So if you can work space for a mudroom into the floor plan, you will not regret it!