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How to balance renovation with restoration

If you're planning to renovate an old home, you can still preserve its original features while creating a functional home. 

Older homes with period features are rich in history and character, but sooner or later you'll need to renovate the home to fit your needs - and that doesn't mean tearing out the original features you love. Here, renovators Bonnie Hindmarsh, Erin Cayless and Lana Taylor behind Three Birds Renovations teamed up with Electrolux to explain how you can balance restoring period features whilst making a functional space.

Set the vision

"You’ll need to have a solid vision board in place so that you have a clear plan of how to achieve a cohesive design that combines new and old," the renovators explain.

"We’d encourage you to choose a vision for your renovation that’s sympathetic to the style of the home. Which new light fittings will suit your traditional fireplaces? Which roof and trim colours will work with your federation brick exterior?

"A traditional brick federation house probably isn’t going to pull off a retro, Palm Springs vibe too well. But you definitely don’t need your interior style to reflect the period it was built. We love nothing more than seeing an old girl given a new, modern, lease of life."

Think about space

"The layout is usually the first thing we look at," they say. "Older houses can present more of a challenge as they traditionally have smaller kitchens and living spaces positioned away from the outdoor area.

"We love to combine these spaces and, wherever possible, make them the hub of the home, flowing onto the outdoor entertaining zone. This seamless flow is always a winner when you’re rejigging a floorplan," the experts add. 

Know what to restore and replace

"While you may really want to keep and restore as much of an original home as possible, sometimes it can't always work," the experts reveal. If a structural part of the house is falling apart from termite damage or another issue, you may have to reconsider what you can restore and what you need to replace.

"Weighing up the cost of restoring original items versus replacing them with new to makes the decision a bit easier," the renovators say. "We’d definitely recommend replicating an original feature with a bespoke piece, if it fits in with your vision."

Orignial brick fireplaces are a great example of what to restore - as they're illegal to be built new now, making them a rare and beautiful find. They're also usually well-structured; but if you need to do a bit of work then they're definitely worth it - as they'll suit almost any interior style.

Beware of the money trap

"Renovating old homes can come with added complications that you had no idea about when you set out on the journey," the renovators explain. "They often need rewiring and new plumbing which are big expenses that you’ve likely not budgeted for. Sometimes the sad reality is that a renovation will actually cost you more than a knock-down rebuild."

And the final word of advice? "Do your homework. Check that your budget covers all additional restoration costs that might pop up when renovating a period home." 

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