Building on the Past: Finding the Right Architect for your Historic Renovation

Restoring an historic home is a labor of love. By preserving a home that has graced the neighborhood for generations, we honor thoughtful design, quality materials and expert craftsmanship. However, embarking on such an endeavor requires the right architect. How do you know if you have the right architect for your restoration, addition or historic renovation? 

Most architectural programs in American universities do not teach the design principles or building methods of the 1900s, 20s and 30s. To work on an historic home nowadays, architects must dedicate themselves to serious independent research to learn to design in traditional house styles, and to use the materials and building practices of another time.  

As well as understanding how to design for the past, it is equally important that the architect of an historic renovation or a sympathetic addition be competent in the latest technology and advances in contemporary building design and construction. Without knowledge of both, he or she won’t be expert at integrating the old with the new, or at deciding what is worth restoring and what should be replaced.  Arriving at the perfect combination of preservation and innovation requires that the architect be judicious and boldly imaginative.

How do you search for the right architect for your project? Experience is priceless.

Look for an architect who has worked on a variety of older homes, familiar with older materials and building techniques. How does he or she approach a new restoration project? The US Secretary of Interiors has developed standards for restoration. Start with some research of your own by exploring: https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards.htm. Does your architect apply these standards?

And, most importantly, ask why your architect chooses to work on older houses. Look for someone who has a passionate curiosity for history and its place in the architecture of a community, and one who is inspired by the challenges a restorations brings.