New Old Homes Combine Charm and Convenience

The era of pretentious McMansions is so over. One of this year’s most important trends is the move towards traditional residential design – homes with the charm of a bygone era but with a twist.

For a variety of reasons, it’s unlikely most home buyers want – or can find – an authentic historic property that works as a family home. Historic homes are often inconveniently located or dilapidated beyond repair. If they are in liveable condition, they more than likely have obsolete structural elements, such as low ceilings, tiny kitchens, and miniscule closets – not particularly conducive to our twenty-first-century century lifestyle.

Consequently, some home buyers are turning to “New Old” homes, which, as the name implies, combine the charm of the past with the convenience of the present. New Old houses are rationally proportioned structures that are historically accurate on the outside, but comfortable, functional, and contemporary on the inside: Think Greek Revival farmhouses with spacious island kitchens; Craftsman-style bungalows with open floor plans; Cape Cods with roomy, walk-in closets.

Boomers are drawn to the concept, as traditional homes generate memories of happier, less disposable times when the family home was warm and inviting. Millennials, who make up nearly a third of today’s home buyers, see the New Olds as authentic, reflecting their principles and values. Both groups embrace charm that doesn’t sacrifice the convenience that is so much a part of our lifestyle.

Responding to the demand, several architectural firms are now specializing in traditional design with a focus on historical accuracy; they study builder’s guides from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to get the scale, proportion and architectural elements exactly right.

Luckily for those who can’t afford custom design but who value historical character and the charm of yesteryear, there is a twenty-first-century solution: customize a prefab or buy a plan online and hire a contractor to build it.

Watch Your Thumbs and Other Rules of Remodeling

Today’s renewed interest in home remodeling has a dark side. Prevent problems with these “rules of thumb.”

Rule 1: Safety first

DIY projects can lead to mistakes and injuries. Remember the oldies but goodies: Wear safety goggles; don’t cut electrical lines before shutting off breakers; hammer carefully…

Rule 2: Measure twice and have a Plan B

Take careful measurements and cut once. When you’re re-modeling, you need to be prepared to make changes on the fly. So develop a Plan B. For example, adding new appliances or fixtures may necessitate reconfiguring wiring or plumbing – not something you want to find out at the last minute. Be prepared.

Rule 3: Get a home inspection

Find out in advance about potential pitfalls, so you can plan ahead to avoid them whenever possible. Inspections validate (or not) previous DIY or work done when your home was built. Plus, your home may not be sound enough to undergo some big projects, such as modifying fireplaces, removing walls, or repairing foundations, without professional help. Don’t find out the hard way.

Rule 4: Call the pros

Television and online videos make remodeling projects look easy, but that isn’t always the case. Doing it yourself can save money, but doing it incorrectly may cost more. Don’t be afraid to call in the pros.

Rule 5: Budget first

Don’t start tearing down walls before you come up with a budget. And budget for everything – even the cost of screws and nails – then add 30 percent for unexpected expenses.