Old Bones, Young Soul

Old Bones, Young Soul

Anyone who has lived in an old home knows that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. One day, everything is working smoothly and you can simply enjoy the unique character and beauty of a 100+ year old building. The next, it feels as if everything that could go wrong is going wrong. As a friend of mine who grew up in a home built in the early 1920s once told me after my own move into a home built waaaay back in the mid 1800s: “Some days things just don’t work quite right in an old house, and you really have no idea why.”

So then, why do people chose to live in old houses? The truth is, it’s because there’s really no other option quite like it—from the beauty of an original hardwood floor, to the charm of exposed brick, to the knowledge that generations have lived in the space before you, with full lives played out atop that aforementioned hardwood floor. (Can you tell I really like hardwood flooring?) No matter the style of your old home, you can be sure that there is no one else out there living in a space quite like yours. So there has to be some sort of compromise, right? A way to maintain the charm of an old home alongside the comfort and convenience of modern amenities? That’s where the renovation process comes in, allowing you all the modern conveniences and technology of a brand new space without forsaking any of that unique vintage appeal.

So there has to be some sort of compromise, right? A way to maintain the charm of an old home alongside the comfort and convenience of modern amenities? That’s where the renovation process comes in, allowing you all the modern conveniences and technology of a brand new space without forsaking any of that unique vintage appeal.

The guys at ReImagine LLC have a great deal of experience in this sort of large-scale updating. Gabriel Kienzle—who owns ReImagine with Jeff Stamper—gave us some insight into the process of modernizing an old home. The key to this special sort of work is, “having an eye for design and a desire to maintain old world charm, while being knowledgeable about the latest options and moder solutions available,” Kienzle tells us.

First up, how exactly does ReImagine maintain that special “old world charm” throughout the renovation process?

By “being mindful of the existing architecture, and respecting the craftsmanship and details that are prevalent in an older home,” Kienzle explains. “For example, a lot of older places have amazing trim work, mouldings, and handmade features that you don’t see in new places.” He continues, “For one particular house, we had custom milled baseboards made to match the [home’s] elaborate profile, so that we could replace it where it was missing and damaged. Even the knives for blades were special ordered and will be saved at the lumber mill under that specific home address for any future needs!”

He continues, “For one particular house, we had custom milled baseboards made to match the [home’s] elaborate profile, so that we could replace it where it was missing and damaged. Even the knives for blades were special ordered and will be saved at the lumber mill under that specific home address for any future needs!”

By “being mindful of the existing architecture, and respecting the craftsmanship and details that are prevalent in an older home,” Kienzle explains. “For example, a lot of older places have amazing trim work, mouldings, and handmade features that you don’t see in new places.” He continues, “For one particular house, we had custom milled baseboards made to match the [home’s] elaborate profile, so that we could replace it where it was missing and damaged. Even the knives for blades were special ordered and will be saved at the lumber mill under that specific home address for any future needs!”

They also try to create as little waste as possible, recycling and reusing where they can. “Anything that can be saved or salvaged and donated to Habitat for Humanity is very important to us,” Kienzle says. “It keeps [excess waste] out of the landfills, and can take on a second life at someone else’s home.” But what about the challenges unique

But what about the challenges unique to such a project?

“The unknowns,” says Kienzle. “Like, old knob and tube wiring, plumbing, and radiator piping. Anything that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades can be a cause for concern. Updating and upgrading all of these elements are just as important as all of the finishing details and the things you see. Trying to eliminate any future safety issues and mechanical failures, and getting to a place of maximum efficiency for the customer is something we take seriously.”

And when bringing an old home into the 21st century, you can’t forget about an update in technology. That’s where RMS (which stands for Residential Media Systems) comes in. Owner and President Caleb Fetter helps clients connect their homes in whatever ways works best for their lifestyle—from home theaters and high speed wifi connections, to automated lighting controls that allow you to do everything from set an outside porch light to come on at sundown everyday, to creating customized ‘lighting scenes’ throughout your home.

So what is RMS’s favorite way to update the technology in an old home? Fetter explains that by “using various design options that allow [them] to conceal technology, the home remains as historically accurate as possible. Components such as moving artwork and mirror TVs completely hide the television when not in use, preserving the design [of the home]. Invisible speakers provide great-sounding music, while not being seen.”

He continues, “Lighting control systems also allow us to minimize the number of visible light switches, which helps to keep the home appearing period-correct, but with all of the modern convenience we’ve come to expect. We’ve utilized all of these options in projects in the past, which is very rewarding (and challenging!), especially when the clients see the final result.”

So, it seems that nowadays the owner of an older home can truly have the best of both worlds in their living space, with modern technologies and comforts built into the beauty and unique charm of an old space (especially those
hardwood floors…).

Recent GW School of Media & Public Affairs alumna. Passionate storyteller. Avid podcast listener & NYT Best Seller reader. Lover of flowery writing, sad music & strong coffee.