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Old Meets New: How to Breathe New Life into a Heritage Home

Loved for their character and old-world charm, heritage homes are in a league of their own. From picture rails to leadlight windows, traditional fireplaces, ornate ceilings and decorative cornices, heritage homes are filled with striking details you simply don’t find in modern homes.

While we would never question their beauty, heritage homes can’t always accommodate a contemporary lifestyle.

If you’re lucky enough to own a heritage home and are considering a restoration project, we’ve pulled together some key things that we know work well if you want to breathe new life into your home while retaining the things you love most about period architecture.

Restore existing features

Heritage home restorations require careful planning and attention to detail. It’s integral that the renovations not only focus on creating a home that suits your current lifestyle, but that any changes are sympathetic to the original building.

Preserve and refurbish original fittings, fretwork and features wherever possible. This will allow you to enhance the functionality and liveability of the home while ensuring you retain its unique personality.

Keeping features like original stained-glass windows or exposing an existing brick wall (like we did during this restoration project in Port Melbourne) will allow you to create a contemporary residence that’s still loaded with heritage appeal.

Harness natural light

While heritage architecture is often praised for its charm and character, one thing it is rarely praised for is its effective use of natural light. Typically favouring poky rooms, confusing floorplans and small windows, interiors are often dark or dim, lacking the light and airy atmosphere most families prefer.

Welcome light into the home wherever possible by incorporating a strategically positioned light well, extended skylights or expansive areas of glazing. What you’ll end up with is a more inviting and comfortable light-filled abode, just like we created in this South Melbourne home

Incorporate bespoke joinery

A common theme you’ll find in every heritage home is an air of quality—a theme that should also flow through to any contemporary revisions. A simple way to do this is by incorporating bespoke joinery in carefully selected locations around the home.

Take this project we did in Toorak for example—working in collaboration with a talented interior design team, we were able to reimagine the existing roof space and transform it into a breathtaking attic which housed two new bedrooms, complete with ensuites, walk-in robes and study areas. The bespoke joinery incorporated in each room provided some much-needed functionality while highlighting the attention to detail and superior quality of the renovation.

Adopt traditional building techniques

Modern construction techniques aren’t always suitable for a heritage home. While you may assume your builder is well-equipped to manage your renovation, they may find themselves out of their depth if they don’t have the required knowledge, skills and experience working in a heritage context.

Heritage homes present unique challenges, like the ones we faced during this project in Toorak where we were required to perform feats like creating openings through the heritage stone facade to install replica steel windows, or replacing the existing slate roof in the heart of winter while the owners continued to live in the home. Without our intimate knowledge of traditional building techniques and expert ability to execute the build to the highest standard, the flawless end-result would not have been possible.

Play with colour

Finally, don’t be afraid to have some fun with colour. While it can be tempting to adopt a safe all-white approach, heritage homes can usually handle a bit of colour.

Not only will colour help to accentuate traditional details like an ornate mantel or intricate fretwork, but the right colour selections can add some extra personality by making a bold statement—just take a look at what this client in South Melbourne was able to do by adding some colour to their heritage-listed home.

We’re experts in heritage restorations

At APC Build, we’re well-versed in heritage restorations, extensions and renovations. With superior craftsmanship and a wealth of experience working on various heritage projects across Melbourne, we know how to breathe new life into your period home while retaining the traditional charm and character you love so much.

Take a look at what we’ve been able to achieve for some of our clients, or contact us to discuss your heritage restoration project.

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