Owners of older homes are remodeling again

  • In older homes, space often must be repurposed. This front parlor was made into a music room.

    In older homes, space often must be repurposed. This front parlor was made into a music room.

By Christine Brun
Posted2/1/2015 6:00 AM

According to my own community, remodeling is making a bit of a comeback. Some of this could be due to a long period of deferred maintenance during the Great Recession and some is likely due to a welcome change in the economic climate for the housing industry.

Joyfully, the National Association of Home Builders' Remodeling Market Index posted a record-high result of 60 in the final quarter of 2014. A reading of 60 indicates remodelers' confidence in the quarter-over-quarter improvement in their industry.


"The recent pace and volume of business has been a boon to our remodeler members' confidence in the recovery of the housing market," said NAHB Remodelers chairman Paul Sullivan of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. "The upward trajectory of the RMI results over the past year has shown that homeowners are ready, willing and deciding to remodel."

Homeowners are ready to embrace improvements that range from basic to extensive.

Home improvement emphasis traditionally has been on kitchen and bathroom remodels because they are the most used rooms in any home. The fact that both areas involve constant use of water creates the tendency for leaks and water damage to cabinets, walls and floors.

Despite that fact, sometimes the rooms that improve livability in an older place involve far less glamorous spaces. Giving increased function to the typical three-bedroom home with two baths is often challenging and can require remarkable skill. You might need to examine utilitarian spaces in order to conceive of how to coax more use from the floor plan.

Take into consideration entries, hallways, mud rooms, back porches and attic spaces. Sometimes a landing might offer enough room to sneak in a little desk or bookcase with a window seat. Extra storage might be fit under the staircase or in an extra wide corridor. Look at laundry rooms, butler's pantries and basements with an eye on function.

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Older homes often present unique challenges to remodeling, but force unique solutions. Matching out-of-production finishing materials is an issue and can force your budget to expand. It may not be an easy matter to add on square footage, so think in terms of capturing space by enclosing porches.

Here we see an old space that might have once been the reception parlor, now turned into a music room.

Old, funky bathrooms might be best scrapped. Try to steal space from an adjacent room and create one fully functional modern bathroom instead of two inadequate ones.

Your best bet when considering a remodel of an old house is to seek the advice of the best consultants you can find. Invest in a couple of hours of design time from someone who has nothing to gain by selling you cabinetry, appliances or costly bathroom fixtures. Get an unbiased opinion from someone who knows your local building codes and is practical budget-wise.

It is often useful to drive your neighborhood and note homes that have been successfully redone. Inquire about the team that your neighbors used and learn if they would still recommend the lineup.


Sometimes there are simple cosmetic things that one can do to create the illusion of more space. Think about installing floor-to-ceiling sliding doors in place of a standard height assembly. You may have to invest in a new header, but the look of the room will be transformed. Consider floor-to-ceiling mirrors in certain rooms to generate the illusion of more space.

Installation of one common floor material can also serve to unite and expand existing space.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net.

2015, Creators.com

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