Lance Johnston’s newly-renovated, century-old home in Conway is one of the feature articles in our October issue. A certified contractor–and partner in Reform Design + Build, a new home building outfit in central Arkansas–Johnston oversaw the renovation himself. Here are his tips for renovating a historic home in a way that preserves its unique character, while creating present-day functionality.
LANCE’S TIPS FOR PRESERVING CHARACTER IN A HISTORIC HOME
1/ Pay Attention to Scale
To keep an old home’s charm intact, it’s essential to keep the scale authentic to what’s typical for that time period. Door openings were traditionally narrower, ceilings higher, and windows much more expansive. Functional elements, like fireplaces, should also adhere to traditional proportions: smaller mantels and surrounds were common, whereas fireboxes were much larger.
2/ Dig the Details
“Small” things—like window and door hardware, light fixtures, and switches—can make a big difference. Restore and use any original items you can, if you are renovating an old home, or find sources for distinctive accents. You’ll find unique, historic trim, doors, and cabinets at architectural salvage yards, and—often—it can be a budget-friendly alternative to buying new.
3/ Choose Appropriate Materials
To achieve an authentic look, when making additions or updates, pay close attention to the textures you choose. Original glass in windows, with its rippling and distortions, adds lots of charm. Shiplap, beadboard, or board-and-batten paneling add classic architectural interest. In kitchens and bathrooms, marble, soapstone, and butcher block give countertops a more traditional feel.
4/ Create Natural Additions
In older homes, you’ll usually find more—and much smaller—rooms, which aren’t necessarily very functional for the way we live today. Opening walls but leaving cased openings can give the suggestion of separate rooms yet still give a home a much larger feel. When renovating an older home, consider enclosing an existing porch rather than making a large addition; oftentimes it can add much-needed space in a way that feels more natural. Think about how your family will live in the space, how you’ll entertain, and then create spaces that will encourage togetherness.