My comment to homeowners when I interview for projects is always that my goal is to bring long-term value and never put in products that will be dated quickly. My reasoning is always the same. If you buy an old house, gut it and modernize it, stripping out all the things that make it unique, in 10 years the next owner will come in and say, “Oh, they did this 10 years ago. I’ll have to redo it.” It doesn’t add value, it actually devalues the house because now all the details that made the house charming are gone.
If instead, you update the home with appropriate cabinets, if additions are in keeping with the same scale and feel of the home, then in 10 years it will still have the same feel and the work will have added value to the home. The difference is found in keeping the story of the home the same.
Understand its ideals and then carefully add to it so that other people coming along later will enjoy the same honest story. This is how you add layers to a timeless home.
A timeless home does not need to be updated every 10 years. The materials and products should be chosen because they are most appropriate to the ideals and original story of the home. They should not be chosen because they are available or popular. We date ourselves with every selection, every choice, and every decision. We must be aware of our past and present.
For example, the hallway (above left) was part of a Modern addition to a traditional home. Not only did the materials and design not fit the style of the existing home, it was dated. This hallway, along with many other rooms in the house, was transformed using traditional moldings and design that will never go out of style.
I believe this approach to building is the most sustainable type of building because it doesn’t require tearing out and starting over; instead it only requires maintenance. It is a process of caring for the home instead of wasting materials. Most of our jobs require an effort to understand the story of the home. This type of narrative is the key to building a timeless home. Every house has a story, a style; the houses with the better “story” and a more clearly communicated narrative are usually the houses that people like more. It’s a story better told.