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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

How to Bring Your Historic Portland Home into the 21st Century

Posted by Lane Cooper on Jun 15, 2022 11:00:00 AM

Modernizing a historic home is a delicate dance. You must strike a balance between bespoke period-accurate details and the design features that enable twenty-first-century living. We know because, in the Portland design and build industry, historic homes are everywhere. With patience, preservation, and practice, COOPER Design Build has learned the ins and outs of how to modernize an historic home's interior — view our historic homes portfolio pictures to see for yourself! Or keep reading for our tips on bringing your historic home into the modern-day. 

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Know What You Have

Every historic home is different. They can range in style from Victorian to Italianate to Craftsman. You need to know what style and time period you’re working with to accurately update your home. You should already know the basics but take a moment to research the style of your historic home. What features or materials are common in these homes? How have other homeowners updated theirs? Once you’ve gathered this information, keep it in mind — it’ll come in handy as you create your own balance of period authenticity and contemporary living. 

Open Up Your Floor Plan

Many historic home interiors are what we call closed interiors. Closed interiors are divided by lots of rooms and walls, creating separate spaces for separate purposes. Although this type of interior was dominant for decades, a challenger arrived in the middle of the century: the open floor plan. Because open floor plans started during this time period, if you live in a historic mid-century modern home, chances are you already have a modern open layout!

Open floor plans do away with extraneous walls, creating multifunctional living spaces that flow and encourage togetherness. This type of layout is thought to be more conducive to modern lifestyles. However, likely as a result of people spending more time inside their homes, open layouts have slightly decreased in popularity as of late. People realized the importance of separation and privacy, and home layouts have followed suit. We recommend striking a balance between a closed and open floor plan. Leave communal areas of the home like your kitchen, living areas, and dining room open, but keep private areas like a bedroom or home office closed off. 

Accentuate the effects of your open floor plan by lifting the ceilings and adding more windows to create the illusion of more space through natural light. 

Try Your Take On Transitional Style

The transitional design style is a perfect fit for modernizing a historic home. It combines the best of traditional and modern interior design to create an interior that feels balanced and timeless. With transitional design, you don’t have to nail down a set look. You can be flexible with your decor and style, switching up your combination of old and new whenever you’re craving a change. 

Transitional homes are comfortable and casual, yet they have a sense of refined elegance. This is achieved through the use of classic neutral colors, natural materials, and clean lines. Usually, the transitional style includes modern furniture in an older house or vice versa. The decor is relatively minimal, but it should convey your story as well as the story of your home. Our Designers can help you achieve this look, but it won’t truly be transitional unless your personality and style are imbued in the decor — your personality matters!

Go For Quality & Durability

One principle of historic home remodeling is to choose high-quality, durable materials. Historic homes were often built to last for generations, so they tend to be made with materials and design that stands the test of time. It’s essential to match the selections you choose in your remodel as closely as you can with what was used in the original construction to preserve authenticity. High-quality craftsmanship and period details like crown molding and other elements are a tenant of traditional design, which you’ll need to emulate to achieve a transitional look. 

Don’t Lose Sight of What Makes Your Home Unique 

Historic homes are special because they have a story; generations of families have lived in your home. Caretaking of that history is your most important job as a historic homeowner. 

Take note of the details and design flourishes that give your home character. As you work with your design- build team, ask them to not only preserve but restore and emphasize these features, so they are prominent aspects of your home. This will contribute to creating your own personal brand of transitional style. Plus, it allows you to honor the heritage of your home and its past owners. 

Achieving the Modern Historic Home

The concept of modernized historic home seems a little strange. After all, the phrase itself is a contradiction. But modern-older homes exist all over the country, and they aren’t as difficult to achieve as you might think. The tips above give you a starting point for your historic home revamp. The key, however, is picking a remodeling company with the right experience, process, and values to update your historic home seamlessly.

COOPER Design Build has been that company for historic homeowners across the Portland area — and we're ready to be that partner for you too. Transform your home with us today. 

If you’re not quite ready to take the next step, but still want to learn more check out our advice on four mistakes to avoid when remodeling your historic home

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Topics: Design, Luxury Home, Whole Home Remodeling