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    Old Meets New: How to Add a Modern Addition to an Old Home

    Homes here in New England can be anywhere from nearly new to literally hundreds of years old. When blending old and new, getting it right takes a lot of knowledge, planning, and design expertise. You are combining new building science with techniques and technology from a different era. How do you give yourself the added space you need in a way that creates a unified whole from the existing older structure into the new addition? Here is a closer look at the process done right.

    Considerations When Building an Addition on an Older Home

    The details of designing an addition to join an existing home requires specific steps especially when you are adding to an older home. With that in mind, here are the steps we take with each client to make sure the end result meets your unique needs and looks amazing.

    1. Evaluate the current status of the existing home

    Some questions you'll want to consider are, "What year was it build?" and "What is the architectural style of the home?" "What is the proportion of the roof: Pitch, configuration and height above floor levels?"

    Other factors you'll want to think about include: 

      • Historical design, materials and details
      • Special characteristic features, such as dormers or a cupola
      • Existing layout of the house, relationship of interior spaces and outdoor spaces
      • Eaves and rake details.
      • Siding details and finishes
      • Window and door styles and configuration

    2. Check zoning bylaws

    You need to determine the limits of the size of the addition, its location on the lot (setbacks), and utilities that may be in the way and constrain the size and location of the addition.

    3. Develop a scope of work

    Here’s where we get specific about what will be involved in building the addition and the renovation of adjacent rooms.

    4. Conform to current building and energy codes

    Building and energy code requirements are different (if they were in place at all) from when this home was originally built. For instance, if the proposed addition is larger than the 1,000 square feet, then the existing home must be brought up to the current energy code.

    5. Plan for blending old with new

    This might include a combination of the following strategies:

      • Design to match existing style, details and proportion.
      • Design a transitional style that is a modern translation of the existing style, details and proportion.
      • Design a transitional structure in between the existing and new addition.
      • Design a new modern style addition to contrast from existing traditional homes.

    6. Match existing roof and stay within the highest point of the ridge line

           To accomplish this, you'll want to: 
      • Align horizontal eaves, soffit, windows, doors with existing as possible
      • Extend existing details to addition, paint addition or entire home the same color and new roofing to match existing if possible
      • Match window style, grille and doors to existing
      • Match sidings, weather exposure of siding

    7. Transition interior between existing and addition space

    This might include building a new beam structure to span the new opening that supports existing and new. You’ll need to account for the transition from existing lower ceilings to higher ceilings, new cathedral ceilings or steps down to a lower floor where the addition meets the existing home. The transition could also be a mudroom, hallway, stair, bathroom, laundry room, or pantry. Adding transitional spaces should provide a seamless look between old and new.

    Once the design is completed then construction can begin. All of our home remodeling and custom home projects follow this process to ensure every detail is understood and accommodated for in the overall schedule.


    What Additions to an Older Home Done Right Can Look Like

    You may have concerns because, as you’ve traveled around greater Boston, you’ve seen some additions that look both out of place and out of proportion to the original home. How can you avoid that in your older home? Here are some examples of what a seamless and harmonious addition can look like.

    1970s Home: From Greenhouse to Wall of Windows

    It is important to think not only about what you want in the interior, but what the additional space means for the exterior. Here, the original glass and metal frame greenhouse lets in light and captures solar heat, but it’s not very attractive from outside. The client wanted more usable space both upstairs and downstairs, while retaining the light and space to tend to plants.






    To accomplish this, we did the following: 

    • Designed a new layout to naturally flow from existing home to new addition.
    • Maintained the overall proportion of sizes, shapes, wall heights, eaves and roof pitches.
    • Designed new exterior materials and details to match existing sidings, stone veneer and trims details.
    • Made space for lots of new windows to emulate the existing windows sizes, grilles and functions.
    • Added new window styles to give the house a newer look without disrupting the original house design.

    While we didn’t increase the overall footprint of the home dramatically, we worked to incorporate existing design elements while creating a more usable interior layout.

    1920s Brookline Rear Addition

    When this Colonial Revival home was originally built, this back entrance would have been used by the butcher and other service people to bring goods into the home. It was made to be kind of a natural cold storage, which is why it did not get much use from the current owners.






    Here are the highlights of our design-build plan that sought to make the exterior more attractive and the interior usable:

    • Removed existing servant structures down to foundation.  
    • Added new full one-story structure to complement the existing bump outs. 
    • Extended brick foundation above ground and tied into existing foundation.
    • Installed new windows styles and grilles to match existing bump outs. 
    • Installed new exterior wall panelings with design, proportion, details, and materials to best match existing wall material.. 
    • New flat roof with copper gutters and downspouts.

    The result was a four-season space that looked like it had always been there from the outside, but became home to a spectacular new kitchen. The space went from a barely used afterthought to the heart of the home.

    Creating Your New Addition to an Older Home

    Additions to older homes do not need to stick out as an ill-conceived afterthought. With the right planning and a design-build partner who understands how to blend new building tech with the existing structure, you will have space that meets your needs and looks like it belongs there, inside and out.

    To learn more about the important factors to consider when building an addition to an old home, download our free ebook, The Top 12 Things to Know Before Remodeling an Old Home

    remodeling an old home

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