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The preservation of traditional architecture is important to us and being a modern architecture firm does not exclude us from having respect for the architectures that came before us. Integrating new home updates to a traditional residence is always challenging and establishing a set of strategies is, in our opinion, key to a successful combination of historical charm with modern precision.  It helps keep the aesthetics deliberate, the team focused, the budget on target, and the result elegant.

BUILD and SPD recently completed an interior update to a 100+ year old craftsman style home on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill.  It was complicated, challenging and created unique opportunities for us to employ a set of modern strategies we’ve developed over the last decade.  In the end, the project was extremely satisfying for us to work on and is wonderful home enjoyed by a happy family.  We wanted to share the top 5 strategies with you.

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1. Draw clear physical lines between modern and traditional. Materials and methods of the current time are readily available and cost effective.  Attempting to match detailing and craftsmanship common a century ago is possible – but extremely time consuming and expensive.  In this case, we (our beloved clients and ourselves) decided that the kitchen and bathrooms were to be updated with a modern design philosophy.  The change between new and old takes place at the threshold of each space.  The modernity is intentional and unapologetic.

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2. Respect the traditional by not getting in the way of it. The greatest form of respect is simply to leave things be: clean up and repaint walls, windows and trim but let them be what they are – carpentry from a different era.  Don’t copy or imitate the traditional in other areas- this simply debases the charm from this previous era.

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3. Screen back the traditional and highlight the new. Implementing a clean, crisp modernism can easily make the original architecture seem clunky and worn.  The original architecture can be painted a crisp (but warm) white and faded back as the new updates provide new color and texture.  Restore the rich textures that are worth maintaining- fir floors, warm woodwork- but have discipline to honestly assess what is worth the effort to keep and simply fade back the rest.  Lighting can be strategically located to highlight the updates and compliment the palette that is maintained.

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4. Employ a modernism that compliments older homes. Working closely with the clients, the team chose warm textures and colors.  The oak cabinets were finished with a Trans-tint Rudd 680 conversion varnish which warmed up the cabinetry composed mainly of rift sawn oak faces.  The Caesarstone countertops and various tile textures are sophisticated but calm.  The plumbing and lighting fixtures are modern and crisp, but understated.  The goal is to NOT notice any of this when you enter a space.  The new fixtures and finishes are precise but elegant; they are not new imitations of older styles (see point 2 above), but they are unapologetically modern and function as fixtures in this century should.

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5. Plan on updating the systems. Don’t fool yourself – remodeling an older home will expose other issues within the structure and systems.  Put a little extra in the contingency to take care of that galvanized plumbing, the knob-and-tube electrical and the fact that those heat ducts have been blocked for 20 years.  These remodels are a great opportunity to exhume those ghosts and welcome a brighter future.

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[All photos by BUILD LLC]

These 5 strategies allowed the team to achieve an unmatched elegance of crisp modernism integrated with older maintained (not faked back together) bones.