5 ways to update a historic home

Give your historic home a makeover, without losing any of the house's natural charm.

5 ways to update a historic home
Photo courtesy of Grant Gilvesy
Over the years, repairs and modifications can rob a home of its charm. To turn back the clock, take cues from this designer's inspired reno.

1. Lay your hands on the plans
Before going forward with an exterior face-lift, it pays to consider a home's past. Having purchased this classic Cape Cod–style home from the family of its original owners, designer Grant Gilvesy gained access to the blueprints and worked from there. "The bay window was a replacement that was far too small for the original opening, so I used the blueprints to restore it to its proper scale," he says.
2. Update the roof
The shingle roof was in desperate need of repair, but Gilvesy had a different material in mind. "I didn't want to put shingles on the roof because I felt they would fight with the cedar that I'd used on the body of the house," he says. "Instead, I went with a streamlined metal that complemented it." The added bonus? A 50-year warranty means he won't have to think about it again.
3. Invest in authenticity 
The distinctive muntin bars in each window were a pricey detail, but they paid dividends in period accuracy. "The grill pattern is identical to the originals," Gilvesy says. "When you're dealing with an older home, using authentic-looking windows and doors can make all the difference."
The angel stone surrounding the bay window was the only part of the façade that Gilvesy preserved. As a result, it was a natural jumping-off point for the semitransparent stain on the cedar siding, as well as the colour of the prefinished metal roof and downspouts. "I took one of the downspouts to the paint store and they colour-matched it for the front door paint," says Gilvesy.
5. All-seasons plants
The landscaping—a row of Hill's yews, patches of blue fescue and Hidcote blue lavender—shows elegant restraint. "When it comes to the front yard, I like to choose plants that look good 12 months of the year," says Gilvesy. The Heartleaf Bergenia (under the paperbark maple), for instance, is a perennial with leaves that turn purple in winter. "It's my go-to specimen plant, because it provides interest year-round."

Check out property expert, Scott McGillivray's tips to enhance your home's curb appeal.


This story was originally titled "History Lesson" in the June 2014 issue.
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