While there’s nothing like the charm of a period home, the consequence of time means older properties eventually require renovation. The challenge is how to do this successfully so the house fulfills modern functional and design needs while honouring its original character.
Ideally, a good renovation will blend refurbished heritage details with contemporary style. Here are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to upgrading an older Mosman home.
To preserve or not to preserve?
Visit any renovated Federation or Victorian home and you’ll enter through an immaculately preserved frontage with its iron or timber fretwork, tiled verandah and possibly stained-glass door.
A key strategy for upgrading an older property is to maintain the traditional beauty of the original period style at the front as much as possible while modernising or extending at the back. Often, the most attractive part of an old house is the façade, so try to restore at least the shell and the first few rooms instead of completely overhauling them.
It’s a good idea to focus on retaining unique characteristics that have stood the test of time and will continue to weather fads and trends. These are the classic features of the house such as brick or timber-framed fireplaces, plaster cornices and ceiling roses, arches, fretwork and Victorian skirtings. In the case of Californian bungalows, it might be the colonnades at the front, while a Victorian Italianate house verandah should keep its delicate filigree.
It’s ok to modernise
An old house usually comes with old plumbing, water damage, rotting window frames and ancient electrical wiring. Then there are possible issues with the roof and maybe even poor foundations. These are the areas where it’s ok to overhaul, ideally with the help of an expert who will stick with the theme of the home.
The rest of the interior of your Mosman house can also be given a contemporary makeover, including new paint, windows, floorboards and designer lighting, without removing the appeal of the structure. You can also install mod cons such as underfloor heating or surround sound speakers in each room without impacting the overall structure.
As much as possible, look for improvements that will subtly complement the rustic, traditional aspects of the house while adding modern livability.
Add a light-filled extension
Older Victorian and Federation homes were often built with small windows and little natural light. This was mainly because glass was expensive in those days, as was heating. A long-standing trend among architects is to add an open-plan, glass-walled, high-ceiling extension or renovation at the back of a period home.
This type of combined family living and kitchen space is a great functional addition to a Mosman house while leaving traditionally walled-off, discrete rooms intact. An addition like this is almost a practical must-have in any home these days. It will ideally connect to an urban backyard oasis, extending the comfort of the interior to the outdoors.
Restore, reuse, recycle
Upgrading doesn’t always have to mean out with the old and in with the new. A subtle combination of both works well, especially when it comes to materials. Why not repurpose old wooden flooring into cabinets or cupboard faces? Or reuse old bricks to build an outdoor fireplace or BBQ pit? Embrace history in a new build extension by combining traditional materials such as wood and stone with modern ones such as steel and off-form concrete.
Heritage before hype
Anyone who wants their home to retain its value in years to come will need to consider upgrading it as time passes. The key is to do it strategically and not to forget the timeless appeal of an elegantly refreshed piece of history.
By all means add luxury, comfort and your personal touch through furnishings and art. Just be careful not to make changes that sacrifice the long-term appeal of heritage architecture for short-term fashions.
Be aware of Heritage Overlays and planning considerations when renovating your Mosman house. Certain council regulations require the preservation of the front of heritage-listed houses. The good news is that Mosman Council also provides grants in the form of a Heritage Assistance Fund.
There is a certain satisfaction in conserving and living in a building steeped in 200 year-old history. If you’re feeling inspired to upgrade your period home, start by contacting a local architectural firm that specialises in heritage sensitivity, or speak to your real estate agent about who they would recommend.