Five Tips for Renovating a Victorian Home

Remodeling any home can be a big project that takes a lot of planning and creativity. But, when you’re dealing with a historic Victorian home, the complexity may feel like it doubles.

So, if you’re facing this herculean task, how can you help ensure a smooth renovation and the most successful outcome? Here are five tips to think about before you pick up a hammer.

1. Know the Structure

Victorian era houses were products of their time, and that often means small rooms with small windows and cramped layouts. Modern homeowners rarely want to live like their century-old counterparts; however, before you begin changing the interior layout, consider two things:

First, you’ll need to work with a contractor and perhaps an engineer or architect to determine which walls are load-bearing. Many Victorian houses have interior walls that help keep the structure solid due to architectural design limitations of the day.

In addition, making too many alterations to open up the layout may sacrifice the historic integrity of the home.

Remodeling a historic home to turn it into a modern house on the inside can affect the value and ruin part of the reason you bought that beautiful Victorian home to begin with.

2. Add Storage

Because you can’t always add much space in an old home, look for ways to add storage. Creative use of interior closets may allow you to fit more in the same area. Using nooks like the space under staircases will allow you to hide things in plain sight.
Even original features like bay windows can be retrofitted with additional storage. Built-in shelves and cabinets may also add space without jutting into cramped rooms.

3. Open and Let Light In

If you can’t—or don’t want to—open up the entire layout, you don’t have to be stuck with small, dark rooms. Another trick is to add openings between rooms. Widening a doorway or turning it into an archway makes two rooms feel more like one.

Windows can be another way to open the space without altering it. Enlarge windows on the main floor, keeping the design and style of the original ones. Add additional windows to smaller rooms, particularly on the upper floors or on the less-visible sides of the home.

Lightening the color scheme can also make spaces feel larger. While many Victorian homes used a bold, jewel-tone color palette, you can adjust this to a more neutral palette that will open up spaces visually.

4. Add-On

If you need even more space, consider building an addition that matches the home’s architecture rather than altering its historical layout. An addition can always be removed by future homeowners if they choose, so it helps preserve the house’s historic nature and value.

An addition may even be cheaper than trying to update some features of a house that is 100 years old or more. This could save money versus updating the kitchen, bathrooms, or entertainment spaces.

5. Preserve the History

Renovating a historical building should involve finding ways to embrace its past and highlight what makes it unique. Victorian homes have a plethora of fine details that give them character. From moldings and period hardware to the remnants of what passed for modern technology in earlier days, these details should be preserved and enjoyed.

Even as you update house features, you can often reuse original materials, repurpose things that no longer serve the same purpose (such as spindle columns or original light fixtures), and show off fine craftsmanship by earlier owners. Try to fix things rather than replace them.

By embracing the style of the Victorian era and making the modern world fit into your home, rather than changing too much, you can achieve a remodel that would please your house’s entire line of owners.

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