And so it begins….
Designing a renovation of an old house is one of my favorite kinds of projects. When I start, I feel like I’m solving a three-dimensional puzzle. Space needs to be added, mass and volume need to worked out, floor plans need to circulate, existing space needs to be tweaked. All of this needs to be done with a sense and sensibility that respects and charms the old house into a new century. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air, and I love it.
Before all of that is the beginning, and the homeowner’s love of something about their particular old house. That something that they fell in love with in the first place. For me and my old house, it was a sense of spaciousness, the flow of rooms, and the big windows set low on the walls that did it. Those windows let in streams of sunshine which bounce off the floor and flood the south facing rooms with light. I love the kitchen fireplace with the beehive oven, and wood floors, the wainscot and beaded corner boards, too; but it was the sense of space, not the details, that hooked me. The day we moved in, I walked through the house feeling an expansiveness and sense of belonging that I still have nineteen years later.
My first working meeting with homeowners is usually the programming meeting. We discuss their needs and wants for the new design. I always encourage them to dream big and keep an open mind about what the house may end up being. For my part, I am listening to hear the unspoken desires of the owners. I want to figure out what made them fall in love with this house, and why they want to stay, when new construction would be easier to live in. If I nail this, I can end up designing a home that is more than the sum of its parts.
Old house are a labor of love. If you’re reading this, you probably know that, and I’m preaching to the choir. I feel about old houses that way some people feel about cute puppy dogs: they just need someone to love them. Five years and tens of thousands of dollars later, the charm of the old house may be thinner. But if you’re still there, chances are the magic is still there, too. Good design respects that magic, and if we’re lucky, clarifies it and makes it shine.