How to Renovate a Historic Home and Keep Its Character

Achieving what some see to be impossible, two Chicago designers, Kelsey Haywood and Denise Hauser, recently undertook a gut renovation of a historic 1890s Queen Anne-style home. The clients, akin to mid-century modern aesthetics and vintage furnishings, also wanted to give a nod to the home’s Victorian roots.

The two designers were able to bring their clients’ unique style and taste to the home while also keeping true to the home’s original details and character. “Original doors were repurposed, window mullions replicated (existing locations intact demanded by the Evanston Historical Society), and original millwork custom matched,” says Hauser. “Mixed materials and finishes provide a collected, gathered-through-time sentiment.”

According to Martha Stewart, You might be tempted not to live in your new-old home before you begin renovations, but Haywood suggests giving yourself at least a month of living in the home so that you can really understand how you’ll use your space. “See what makes the most sense with the way you use the space versus your intention for it,” Haywood says. “They may differ, and that’s where the best design decisions are made—when you know the purpose of the space and how to maximize it for your needs.”

[And] Guess what? Rome wasn’t completed in a day, as the saying goes, and neither will your historic home renovation. “Don’t let Instagram fool you!” says Haywood. “Most design projects are not full of instant gratification.” Using a phased approach to a project limits disruption and helps you make well-informed decisions about what the spaces will become, she says.

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