I’m the owner of a home nearing its 100th birthday. The old girl is still standing, relatively strong, with many of her original details still in place. When you own a heritage home, making the decision to preserve or replace original details isn’t always an easy one. Unless you’re undertaking a restoration project, chances are your home is startling the awkward line between modern functionality and traditional form (what everyone loves to call, “character”).
To help you decide what to keep and what is OK to let go, here are a few key things I consider when assessing the character pieces in my home:
- Condition – If something in your home is in really rough shape, it might not be worth saving. Baseboards that have been chopped into pieces, cracked, stained, painted and re-adhered to the wall probably aren’t going to look great even if you put hours into refinishing them. Before you launch into a restoration or salvage project, assess the condition of the piece to determine if it can even be repaired and if the investment is feasible.
- Quality – Not everything from 100 years ago has inherent quality; just like today, products and techniques had their cost and you got what you paid for. Keep the root value of a piece in mind when deciding on projects. Is your hardware made of tin or brass? Is that door hollow or solid? While it’s perfectly fine to keep lower-grade items (I restored my tin hardware), be sure to weigh the underlying quality when deciding if a piece is worth your time and money.
- Character – Moving beyond pragmatic assessments, if you love it, keep it. Don’t give up the elements of your home that make it special to you. Even for those considering resale, keeping unique features intact is still important -- buyers will remember a home with unique characteristics.
- Functionality – Does it work? A beautiful, solid, hand-crafted antique door doesn’t have much value if it doesn’t open and close. If it’s not just ornamental décor, don’t save stuff that doesn’t work.
- Lifestyle – Beyond basic operation, does it work for a modern lifestyle? That old stove may look fabulous and still operate, but you may not want to stoke a fire every time you make dinner. I’ve said it before, but your stuff shouldn’t be dictating how you live. If something in your home doesn’t work for your lifestyle (and your committed to staying in the home) don’t feel guilty about replacing it. It’s your home, your life, make sure it works for you.
Got advice, comments, strong opinions on heritage elements in a home? I’d love to hear them!