How to Preserve Character During a Home Remodel

How to Preserve Character During a Home Remodel

We’ve all seen it: that person who pours a ton of time and energy into completely gutting and renovating an old home, and in the end, it all turns out a bit…vanilla. Sure, they have the fanciest kitchen gadgets and everything looks crisp and clean, but when there’s nothing to capture your eye and attention it all turns out a bit boring! Our modern-day society tends to be all about the latest and greatest, but there’s something to be said for also prioritizing and preserving character during a remodel. By highlighting your home’s distinctive features, you’ll end up with a unique home design that’s sure to capture your guests’ attention and feels more like “home”! 

chicago kitchen remodel with character

Refinish original hardwood floors

It’s the highlight of any HGTV show: when the new owners find hardwood floors hidden underneath decades-old carpet. And for good reason! Hardwood flooring has been the pinnacle of flooring materials for a long time now, dating back to the 1600s when it began being sought out for use in wealthy homes. During the Baroque era, builders began hand-cutting, scraping, staining, and assembling small wood panels into unique patterns, and due to the meticulous and detailed nature of the work, things like parquetry and marquetry floors were only available to the wealthy and the royalty. Hardwood is one of the more durable natural materials, and when maintained properly, can far last for generations. If you’re one of the lucky ones who happen upon hardwood floors in your home, absolutely try to preserve them if they are in good enough condition! Keeping and refinishing original floors not only saves money in your remodel but also adds warmth to your space and tells a story about your home’s history.

adding character with crown moulding

Draw attention upward with crown moulding

Crown moulding, cased openings, and trim details are small additions that create a BIG difference in your home’s aesthetic! The details of your home are what transform it from just “nice” to stunning. Trim details along the ceiling draw peoples’ attention upward and make the ceilings seem higher, creating a more open feeling to your home. Even if the home you’re renovating doesn’t have original crown moulding to work with, it’s an easy addition that will add character and value if your current space is a little lackluster. We love to pair moulding with more intricate ceiling details like the one pictured above to create what’s essentially a small art installation within your own home that you can enjoy every day!

chicago original home exterior renovation

Make a design highlight out of unique features

Older homes can sometimes have some *quirky* features – for better or for worse! When you come across an out-of-the-box feature in your home, it’s worthwhile to consider if you can take what might seem odd at first and turn it into something special. 

  • Old wood-burning stove? Add a high-quality tile beneath it & restore it to its former glory! 
  • Non-conventional doorways? Refinish or get new custom doors made to highlight its uniqueness (see photo above where we did just that)!
  • Phone niche set into the wall? Track down an old-school phone to place inside and make it a design piece! 

Chances are you can repurpose or highlight almost any original feature your home has to offer if you get creative. Not to mention, it’ll add a unique element to your design that only your home has and is the ultimate conversation piece when hosting guests!

chicago kitchen renovation with natural materials

Use natural materials & textures

We have a feeling that you’re the type of person who would opt for finishes like stone countertops without us having to tell you, but it’s worth mentioning that natural materials (like stone, wood, clay, etc.) have a distinct way of adding warmth and charm to your home. Cutting corners with materials like linoleum, laminate, and MDF might seem convenient in the short term, but the long-term durability and final look of your home will have you wishing you’d splurged for the better option from the beginning! Natural materials are more labor-intensive to use inside the home, and that extra time and care shows in how the finishes come together; see in the photo above the beautiful edge carved into the stone countertops, the light bouncing off the natural texture of the stone floor tiles, the bold look of the two-toned, solid wood cabinets. The sum of those small details adds up to a home that’s full of life and character!

georgian-era finishes in chicago custom home

Prioritize era-consistent new finishes & styling

Homes that were built in different eras have distinct design styles that are worth preserving and celebrating in your home! We like to help new owners find a balance of old and new, combining modern-day conveniences with classic design elements that preserve your home’s character during a remodel. Particularly when we’re renovating a landmarked home, we prioritize incorporating era-consistent finishes that fit the home’s original design style but still feel contemporary. Take this Georgian-style home pictured above for example; we created a classic Georgian feeling by using thick cased openings, pillars, and a more formal interior style while also adding a bold elliptical staircase with custom railing and cutting-edge features throughout the home.


Chicago is full of gorgeous historic homes and we’re honored to get to bring them back to life for our clients! If you’re looking to renovate an older home in the Chicago area or build a new one that fits the aesthetic of Chicago’s charming neighborhoods, we are the builder for you! We will work with you to ensure we preserve your home’s character in a way that still feels like you. Reach out to our team to start dreaming up your remodel!

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