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5 things to consider when renovating an old house

My neighbour inherited a 1920s trans villa from her mother, and asked me whether it was worth restoring or whether should she bowl it and build new. My answer after checking out the old place was an emphatic “restore it, but take heed of these tips.” Here’s what I advised her.


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1. Keep in character with the rest of the neighbourhood

There’s no worse anachronism than a modern house stuck like a sore thumb in the middle of a street full of villas, in my opinion. People buy into older areas such as Ponsonby in Auckland because they love traditional homes.


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2. Retain the features that tell your home's story

Every older home, whether it be a villa, bungalow or even an early state home, has its own unique story. The home below is a definite case in point. It’s not a New Zealand home, but the childhood summer home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in East Hampton, New York. Built in 1917, it has some amazing stories—and the new Manhattan-based owners were determined to keep them intact. “I think we enjoy the process of bringing a house back to what it was more than the end product itself,” Delphine Krakoff says. “We were very disciplined about getting rid of whatever wasn’t house-appropriate and bringing in things that were.”


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3. Focus on the structure first

The most common difference between renovating an old home and a more modern one is that before you start slapping on a coat of paint, you’re going to have to get your local Pzazz Builder in to check the underlying structure. And often it’s more practical and economical during the renovation to replace rather than repair archaic piping and electrical wiring—after all, a flood or fire once you’ve finished could be a massively expensive and heart-breaking exercise.


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4. Look for hidden potential 

Many older homes contain hidden treasures—features such as beautiful moulded plaster ceilings or match-lined walls (see above) covered up in the “modernise at all costs” era of the sixties and seventies. Part of the fun of renovating an old property is uncovering these treasures and restoring them to their former glory. But sometimes in cases of severe neglect you need to weigh up whether it’s more cost-effective and aesthetic to repair or replace them.


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5. Open up to a whole new world

Just because a home has heritage doesn’t mean it was ever a great place to live. Many older homes had small, dark rooms because back in the day, they were easier to heat. The home you see above was like that—until the new owners told the renovators to take a sledgehammer to the walls. The result is a lighter, more open living space that still retains the home’s original character and charm.


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Thinking of buying an older home or doing up your current one? Contact us to arrange for a free no-obligation In-home Consultation from your local Pzazz Building owner. He or she will chat with you about your ideas and give you sound advice on what’s possible.



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