Old Homes Look to the future

The homes we live in today weren’t designed for the world in which we live. Electrical outlets were placed to facilitate a lamp, not a home theater. Kitchens were designed with enough space for a refrigerator and a stove, not warming drawers and islands. To live in the new millennium you don’t need to build or buy a new house, just renovate your home to fit your lifestyle.

“Our homes are middle-aged or older, everything needs to be replaced,” says designer Lyn Peterson, author of “Real Life Renovating” (Clarkson Potter, 2006). “They’re obsolete functionally and obsolete electrically.”Renovating your home will add value to the investment you made in home ownership, and also give you the joy of living in your new space. The best way to do this now is in your bathroom and your kitchen. Both return at least 100 percent of the investment, Peterson says.Another popular renovation idea is what Peterson calls “the bump in the back” – a two-story addition in the back of the house, typically a kitchen/family room combo and a master bedroom suite on the upstairs.“The challenge is making it not look like the mouse with the ear growing out of its back,” she says. “You really need to respect the character and personality of the house.”

Renovating, however, is an imperfect process and can go overboard for many reasons. The first thing Peterson says to do is price your dream and then cut back to meet your budget. After that, count on about a 20 percent increase for unintended consequences. She advises keeping a running tally of any order changes, and to meet with your contractor weekly. Knowing your budget and keeping track of your project will keep it from getting out of hand. After all, she says, you don’t want to be the most expensive house on the block.

A few tips to keep in mind while renovating:• Nothing looks good if a room is not well lit. Complement ceiling light with lamplight. Dimmer switches are a cheap investment and a huge plus in the home.• A fan of rhyme, Peterson recommends keeping a “style file” and a “look book” to give you a longer view and some historic perspective of things you’ve liked.• Don’t consume what you’ve already consumed. If you have a couch and chair, go for a new lamp and table.• Forget matching. Forget favorites. Matching depends on time of day and favorites might not always work together. A professional can give you a little perspective into what works. Take the plunge. Have fun.