Because Philadelphia is a city of historical importance, and so many smaller communities within the city have received National Historic District status, most homeowners take great pride in their work.
Because Philadelphia is a city of historical importance, and so many smaller communities within the city have received National Historic District status, most homeowners take great pride in their work to preserve the character and integrity of their homes.
But maintaining a home’s historic significance takes time, patience, and often, a lot of research.
There are specific characteristics of older buildings that are extremely important to their original appearance, and play very important roles in maintaining the integrity and authenticity of a building’s significance.
Understanding a term like “true divided lights” for example, matters a lot when trying to maintain the appropriate appearance for replacement windows. Researching the differences between slate, asphalt and standing seam will help you decide what type of new roof is most appropriate.
Should deteriorating shutters be replaced, restored, or removed altogether? Are the paint colors original, or just a combination that someone liked in 1970? When restoring an historic building, these are the questions that require serious consideration and benefit greatly from serious research.
When it comes to the interior, choosing the best designs can become even more challenging.
Thankfully, the trends of decades past – which encouraged people to obscure, or even worse, remove interior architectural features – have gone the way of drop ceilings.
Today, an interior that still contains rich architectural detail, like deep moldings, paneling, plaster work, exposed beams, and original fireplace mantels, capture the interest of people who appreciate the craftsmanship and historical reference these features represent.
The owners of such buildings spend much time studying the significance of these details, and learn how to incorporate them into their interior designs.
Interior designers and architects are often versed in the various architectural styles inherent to specific time periods, and can confirm that the interior elements coincide with the architectural style of the house.
If the building has not been previously renovated, the interior trims, doors, cabinetry and architectural detail should already match the exterior architectural style. Even if a piece of trim or woodwork has been damaged, there are companies that specialize in reproducing these important design elements. This helps the owner maintain the original style, which is critical to maintaining the authentic character and integrity of the building.
There are also companies that identify paint layers or wallpapers that have been painted over, and can reproduce historic patterns and colors that were on the walls 200 years ago. They can identify and date the wood on an original random width floor. There are even businesses that can replace a missing cabinet hinge from the 1700’s.
So although owning an historic home may seem daunting, it is the care and maintenance of such buildings that create the atmosphere in which so many of us choose to live. And the desire to understand the elements that make up historic architecture is what keeps the character of our National Historic District in place.
Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her website: patriciacove.com.