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Home renovations: what deserves to stay

Leigh Leigh
by José Adrião Arquitectos Classic
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A home renovation is one of the most exciting, riveting, stressful and crazy experiences that a person will ever experience. The process is long, daunting and thrilling. Just when you think it's over, there will be another wall to knock down. Just when you think you've had enough, your partner will tell you that the building contractors have shifted their dates. It's going to be a roller coaster of a ride.

What is going to be amazing, however, is the beauty that will emerge throughout the process. Open plan rooms, sweeping staircases and a modern look and feel will breathe new life into a house.

While a house renovation is all about out with the old and in with the new, there are some classic parts of a house that should not be discarded. Read on for some great tips on what should survive a home renovation.

Traditional walls

Boston Light Grey Console Table and TV Unit by The Cotswold Company Country
The Cotswold Company

Boston Light Grey Console Table and TV Unit

The Cotswold Company

While the first instinct is to start knocking down walls, be careful not to lose them all. Traditional walls are sturdy and strong and have been built to last. They have also been built with an old-school thickness designed to resist the forces around it. 

If you can keep some of the traditional walls in the house, you'll have a good foundation to work with. Discuss with your architect which walls are important to get rid of and which can be kept. While open plan is modern and spacious, it's still beneficial to have walls partially separating different areas of the house.  Traditional walls also beat prefabricated walls. Not only do they look and feel better, but they will survive much longer. Art work, photographs and paintings also hang on traditional walls far better. This is due to the density and strength of these walls, which means that nails go in deeper and stay in longer.

Old floor

Digging up and removing the floor of a house is disruptive, tedious and fairly traumatic. It means stripping the house of a foundation and attempting to start right from the bottom. What's more is that many older types of floors can be incredibly beautiful when revived with a bit of tender love and care.

There are many reasons why home renovators dig up their floors including unevenness, coldness or the fact that they look awful and don't fit into the modern, trendy decor styles that we see in homes today. However, there are ways to fix these issues without removing the flooring.

When it comes to cold floors, in South Africa this is often not too much of an issue due to the moderate climate. However, in colder areas such as the Drakensberg and Gauteng, the easy solution is underfloor heating. Too expensive? Cover your floors with trendy, fluffy rugs during the cold winter months to warm the room.

If the floor is not to your taste, there are ways that you can modernize them. If the floors are old-school wood, white wash them to lighten them and make them more trendy. The other option is to carpet the floors, covering them with something soft and stylish.

If your floor is uneven, speak to your architect about possible options if you want to keep the old floor. He or she will be able to provide some easy solutions.

Century tiles & ceramics

Century tiles or ceramic tiles are often used as floor coverings in bathrooms or kitchens and refer to a tile made from ceramic. They can also make up gorgeous mosaics on floors or walls. 

Old houses often contain ceramic tiles or mosaics. In Parkhurst in Johannesburg, for example, many of the houses have mosaic numbers on their outside walls. These mosaic numbers were created by a war widow for the neighbourhood just after World War II and many of the residents have opted to keep them, years later.

The reason why many home owners choose to keep ceramic tiles or mosaics during renovations is because of the history that they represent. It's acknowledging the years and memories of a home.

Century tiles or ceramics also make for a very useful floor surface in areas prone to getting wet, such as a bathroom or a kitchen. You can see in this design by German Architects Cousin Architects, how gorgeous they look as well as how hard-wearing and resilient they are. 

High ceilings

High ceilings are a classic sign of an old-school traditional home and you'll notice that often many modern houses have low ceilings. 

There are pros to having a modern, low ceiling such as how much easier it is to clean and paint, however higher ceilings add a new dimension to a home.

Firstly, high ceilings add a lot of volume and depth to a room, making it seem much larger than it really is. They also give the sense of grandeur and elegance, giving the impression of expensive finishes. 

If the high ceilings exist in the house before the renovation, then it makes sense to keep them if they suit your taste and style. In today's property market, houses are often small, sustainable and compact so choosing features of the house—such as high ceilings—to give the impression of more space is a must.

There are also many other simple ways to make your home feel bigger.

Ceiling beams

Ceiling beams give a home the look and feel of a barn, but they can add a modern, stylish element to any room.

Similarly to a high ceiling, ceiling beams can add depth and height to a room, making it look much larger than it really is. They also provide an opportunity to break up the monotonous colour of a ceiling, adding a wooden feature to an often plain, white ceiling. Other colours work too.

Timber beams are often a firm favourite when it comes to ceiling beams. The trick is to work out how many will be needed and what size they should be. The whole look and feel of a room can become warmer and more comforting with a few ceiling beams, if done right.

While ceiling beams used to be a feature of traditional, old-school homes, today they're making a comeback as something trendy and tasteful. If they already exist in the house that is being renovated, why not keep them and convert them into a modern aspect of a room?

Design of windows and doors

Suburban Family Home - Ealing Broadway, London Classic windows & doors by Hugo Carter - SILENT WINDOWS Classic

Suburban Family Home—Ealing Broadway, London


Many home renovators like to change the design of windows and doors, opting for something more modern, stylish and open plan than the traditional. However, the design of classic windows and doors is often one to hang on to. They can add beautiful character to a home and an old-school charm that ties into a modern house.

Keeping the design of windows and/or doors of a house doesn't necessarily mean that you have to keep the actual frames or structure from the original house. Renovations can simply mean keeping the design with brand new window and door frames. However, if the charm of the old window and door frames are appealing, speak to you architect about keeping them and incorporating the into the new building.

Renovating a house is a long process, but not every part of the renovation means starting from scratch. Keep the beautiful parts of the original house that work and the end result will a masterpiece.

Have you ever renovated a property? How did it go? Let us know!
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