Blending modern Seamlessly within a historical traditional home

With my love of modern design and respect for historical styles, nothing can be more satisfying then giving a fresh look and contemporary update to a traditional historical home. I recently had the opportunity when long time clients bought a newly renovated traditional home dating from the early 20th century. Being that the home had recently been renovated anyone would be surprised that the new owners planned to spend the money to gut and re-do most of it. However, designing your forever home is as much an emotional investment as a financial one. This project was about respecting the 100-year history and traditional architectural details of this beautiful home while giving it a fresh look and finding a more practical way for how this young family wants to live today.

Our efforts were met with challenges at every turn - how to create enough storage for the occupants (where did people at the turn of the last century store all of there clothing? How did those voluminous flowing gowns fit in the tiny closets of the day?), where to create additional or larger bathrooms for multiple occupants at one time, how to blend the clients love of mid-century modern furniture that they had begun collecting into the traditional envelope along with their antiques from such varied places as China and Japan, and even where to add a yoga studio?

In the master suite we had a fairly limited space to work with but met the clients needs by adding a 2nd sink and generous shower for 2 in the bath, adding more storage space in general and creating a walk-in closet by stealing unused space from under the 3rd floor staircase and a window bump out.

Each wish list item was similarly addressed – where could we steal a little space, making sure each and every design detail maximized usable area and function and flow. Where could we push out a little higher or wider on a lot already maxed out on its allowable footprint? Unused attic space being an obvious answer was transformed into a spacious suite for the soon to be teenage son, including 2 walk-in closets and an office that doubles as a guest suite when visitors arrive.

It would have been too wasteful to remove all of the brand new kitchen cabinetry but the dark heavy wood was visually lightened by removing some of cabinet doors raised panels and replacing with glass, replacing the backsplash in a custom oversized glass tile, updating the traditional subway pattern with a more generous modern line, substituting gloomy dark bronze hardware with E.R. Butler & Co. hardware in polished nickel, and subdued granite was replaced with beautiful +3” thick concrete in a light taupe. With some creative reimagining and clever reworking of space a laundry room was created off the kitchen along with a new powder room and mudroom space where there had once been dark barely usable closets and a dreary laundry space in the basement. Ceilings were opened up where possible to expand the feeling of space and allow for fun oversized modern light fixtures to be used, and floors where refinished throughout in a dark ebony stain to make the newly brightened interiors really pop.

The house had been somewhat dark and somber in its tone, not at all how the new owners were looking to live with their 3 children and scores of visitors and guests who they are always entertaining. The house still retains its classic lines, and period details but the overall tone was lightened with a soft palette of pale blues and greens with taupe accents that are all so ubiquitous you can not categorize what color they are, and in fact they change each day with the weather and light. The new color palette brings the outdoors in and references the beach the clients are so fond of. There is a new breeziness and brightness that makes the whole home feel much larger then its actual dimensions. Somehow, it all works beautifully, treating the old in a new way allows the overall design to blend seamlessly.

Ultimately, the renovation was so successful, upon completion the clients decided to embark on an exterior project that addressed outdoor spaces as carefully and methodically as we did the interior. Look for Creating outdoor spaces” in a future blog….