An early 1900’s warehouse complex will have uneven concrete flooring, exposed beams and pipes, industrial finishing materials and several other unique features. The design team may choose to cooperate with those characteristics in the interest of conserving its antique character. However, it will take patience and a love of history to keep the frustration under control.
While many clients prefer the retro feeling of old structures, they must accept their design challenges as well as the costs of bringing those environments up to current codes and compliances. In recent years, the friendly trend has been more and more in favor of “saving” old, traditional structures.
A delightful bonus from working with very old structures is the frequent discovery of lost bits of history that is sometimes found when old walls and flooring are explored. Just as today we use common items such as newspaper and contemporary containers to help us manage an everyday chore, so did others years ago.
Rare newspaper editions, lost letters containing facts, statistics or materials about local events turn up all the time, stuffed to block a crack or cut off an old, chilly draft! So, if you are winging it and tearing into an old structure yourself, be a little careful! If you find some interesting old-dated items, consult the local librarian before you decide it’s junk.
The 1930’s gas station building pictured here had experienced many evolutions and business venue tenants since its old life of pumping gas and before its present personality bloomed. It was an intriguing challenge to recall the old function, and envision those contours accommodating another new use! Innovative design to the rescue!
The initial challenge with very old structures is to discover what is still there from original construction, what has been “repaired” or restored, in kind, what has been modified and what has just been added-on. Once determined, your design team can move ahead knowing what should be eliminated and what should be retained.
Many states have designations for some old buildings that are intended to guarantee they are properly preserved for future generations to enjoy and to learn from. It is important to find out if an old building you are considering falls into the “Historic Landmark” category, or if it qualifies for earthquake upgrading and other renovation disciplines. Your professional team can help you with such information.
It is surprising how many in a community can be moved from discontent with an “eyesore,” to delight in the re-emergence of an old, charming piece of the past – providing it adds appropriately to the community goals for improvement.
Robert Boccabella, B.F.A., Certified Interior Designer
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Collaboration & Writing: Ms. Zoe Tummillo