For a Successful Home Renovation, Start with Context

July 28, 2019 / Forward Design | Architecture

Home renovations come in a range of shapes and sizes and with budgets to match. Finding the right fit for your home begins with an understanding of the financial constraints and the kind of renovation that fits within the existing framework of your home. 

We find it’s helpful to think about the following questions before beginning a home renovation:

Is there an historical element or context to your home?

Perhaps your home was originally designed by a well-known architect, or it was part of a group of homes designed for a specific purpose. It could also be that your home has historically significant details, like crown moldings or elaborate millwork, or that the home’s exterior references a particular historical period. In certain communities, a home’s historical context may be rooted in its relationship to the other homes in the neighborhood (if, for example, it was the first home in the neighborhood and all others were built later in a different style). It’s important to understand this as a starting point for your renovation, because it can – and should – impact the renovation plan.


How is your life not currently served by your home’s current configuration?

As Le Corbusier so perfectly put it, “A house is a machine for living.” There’s at least one reason you’re looking to upgrade your home, and it likely stems from your “machine for living” not performing as well as it could to meet your needs. Perhaps you have a growing family, you’d like to entertain more, or you have a unique art or object collection that you’d like to integrate into your home. Clarifying what about the current home isn’t serving you will ensure that the renovation plans are actually addressing those issues. 


What home upgrades are available within my home’s historical context?

The short answer is: many. The more complete answer is: many, if you have a deep knowledge of both the context and modern designs and technologies. For example, a contemporary glass and chrome light fixture can look out of place and out of scale in a midcentury modern home, but the goals of that fixture (to deliver a specific amount of light in a specific way) can be achieved through other, more context-aware solutions, including custom-designed products. Our firm’s research-based approach means we study the historical context of your home so we can recommend well-informed design choices that give you the function you need in the design that suits your home and its history.

Are there configuration changes that will be necessary to make to the home allow the renovation work optimally?

A crucial step in the consideration of any home renovation is understanding how the new and existing spaces will be connected under the renovation plan. If there are additions, do they seem like a natural extension of the home? Will the existing part of the home need to have new electrical systems, HVAC, or even cosmetic treatments like paint or wallpaper to more fully connect with the new spaces? An architect can help you understand big-picture implications and create solutions that optimize your machine for living.


Giving some thought to these four questions will help you and your architect create a home renovation plan that brings your home into the modern era without sacrificing the historical elements that make it unique.