By Candis Meredith
Since Andy and I began writing about our restoration projects in our blog and started our show on the DIY Network, Old Home Love, we’ve gotten a lot of people asking us questions about restoring old homes. There’s really nothing I love talking about more than home restorations (well, maybe our kids, but what mother doesn’t love talking about her kids?), and all of these questions and conversations have gotten me thinking about renovation, restoration, and the homework you have to do to get your project right.
First of all, a lot of people use the terms renovation and restoration interchangeably when it comes to bringing an old house back to life, but these are two completely different processes. Renovation literally means to make something new again, while restoration means to restore it to what it was before.
While the two processes are very different, they also overlap sometimes. Basically, you’re not going to do a pure restoration of a hundred-year-old house if you want to have a modern refrigerator, oven, stove, and dishwasher…not to mention modern toilets and central heating and air conditioning.
Because most of the houses we take on are meant to be lived in, not to be museums, Andy and I do a mix of renovating and restoring, and even when we’re updating certain elements, we try really hard to keep our houses’ designs as historically accurate as possible. That means doing a lot of homework on each of our projects, and that’s where a lot of new restoration enthusiasts get hung up. They want to do a great job, but they aren’t sure where to start. So, whether you’re restoring a house to be exactly as it was when it was built or you’re restoring it to live in today, I can help you with a few tips to get started on your homework.
Figure Out When the House Was Built
Finding out how old your house is should be as easy as looking up public records on the property, but some of those records aren’t as accurate or as readily available as you might like. So start there, but if you don’t get anywhere with that, it’s time to pick up a couple of architecture books and/or start Googling.
Find Your Home’s Architectural Style
If you flip through a couple of books on residential architecture around the time when you think your home was built, you should start to get an idea of its style. If you do a Google search on your home’s architectural style in your area, you should get an even better idea of when it was built and which specific style it is. Then you can start Googling websites and images for houses built at that time in your area with your home’s style.
I have to warn you that as you do this, you might feel like you’re falling down a rabbit hole. It’s easy to just keep digging deeper and deeper as you find more and more details about fixtures and décor. You can avoid wasting a lot of time by staying organized and focusing specifically on the things that you want to restore to their original glory in your home. For example, if you’re trying to find the perfect paint or wallpaper that would’ve been appropriate to your home when it was built, you don’t need to waste a lot of time on details about staircases and window treatments (until you get to those projects).
Stay organized and focused, and you’ll get a lot of wonderful ideas for the best ways to restore your home. Enjoy!