General Original-charm image

Published on October 9th, 2017

Original charm: when restoration trumps renovation

We’ve heard it before: “they don’t make things like they used to”.

If you’re passionate about design from days gone by, then you may be capable of restoring, as opposed to renovating.

There’s a big difference between the two.

Restoration is when you return structure to its ‘former condition’. You’re going back, and making it seem as new again, without changing the look or feel.

Whereas, renovating is a process of “renewing”. Renewal involves change and a different appearance once completed, which can include changing materials, shape, make, and aesthetics.

Before purchase

The decision-making typically begins during the property hunting process. It could be that you’ve already decided you want to find a worn-down home from a previous era to lovingly restore and set out to find just that.

Or, you could stumble across an idiosyncratic property in need of TLC and have an epiphany that it is the property for you.

Some buyers specialise in restoration and re-selling – there’s certainly a market for restored homes ready to (re)live in.

It’s important to have a full awareness that time frames and outcomes of restorations almost certainly require more patience than a renovation.

Restorations require extensive planning, often approval (particularly if the property is heritage listed) and outsourcing to professionals who have experience in their niche field.

Such tradespeople, for example stone or granite restorers, can be booked for months at a time. But their skill and expertise is worth the wait.

Getting started

After you’ve spoken to your local Council and have a fresh awareness of any restrictions or permissions required, it’s time to go back in history. Acquiring any original plans or photographs will mean you can restore the property as closely as possible to its original glory.

Ownership history could also prove very useful and perhaps even become a selling point, should that be your end goal. Did the home belong to someone of note? Was it the site of any significant historical events?

Research is key when it comes to the planning stage – speak to experts about the era of the home, and gain a better understanding of the architecture and the individual functions of each space in the home.

An architect may be needed at this point – if so, your local selling agent, Council, or the Conservation Services Directory could help with this.

Understanding the scope

Your particular restoration project may extend to an entire home, or just parts of it. You may be just restoring a sun-room or entrance hall, or your project may be larger.

Whatever the size of your restoration, factor in costs and time frames before you commence and keep your eye on the prize.

Restorations are certainly finicky and labour-intensive, but the charm and restored glossiness of a period home will likely mean much more to you than a swiftly renovated bathroom or kitchen.

If you maintain a zest for your project, your enthusiasm will help see you through the different phases.

Don’t cut corners

It is critical to bear in mind that safety is a major consideration on any building site. Ensure you take it seriously during your own project.

You may be itching to get a claw-footed bath in your bathroom, but starting with a safe structure is key.

If you’re aware of the condition of your foundation from the beginning and any repairs needed, you’ll be starting your restoration in the best possible way.

The end result

If you think comparing before and after photographs of renovated homes is rewarding, wait until you experience it with restorations.

Not only do restored spaces and homes inspire visitors to travel back in time, but they result in enriched and rare properties for the owners to be proud of.


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