Reviving Old Charm: Modern Living in Bob Vila’s House

Old House Appreciation: Embracing the Charm and Challenges of Living in a Historic Home


Old houses have a way of captivating us with their timeless character and meaning. They offer a piece of history all to ourselves. However, owning a historic home is not without its challenges. In this month-long series dedicated to old house appreciation, we’ll show you the best reasons to own a historic home, ways to update for modern convenience and safety, and our favorite old house features that are making a comeback. We’ve answered common questions with Bob’s tried-and-true advice and provided our vetted shopping guides and behind-the-scenes tips to help you make the most of your cherished abode.

Addressing the Challenges of Owning an Old House

Old houses have quirks that are part of their charm, but they can also present puzzling issues. Homeowners might encounter issues when retrofitting HVAC systems into existing structures, enhancing safety measures, updating mechanical systems and old circuit breakers.

Upgrading Mechanical Systems and Wiring

The home’s mechanical systems–HVAC, electrical, and plumbing–might need upgrading. Old circuits and wiring cannot handle the amount of power required to run today’s modern appliances. Old boiler units might offer delicious radiant heat, but they’re not eco-friendly. Fortunately, many old houses have already undergone some updating. Still, more upgrades might be needed to ensure that the home is in compliance with current building codes.

Wireless networking technology can help reduce the need for extensive wiring for internet connectivity. Homeowners can also incorporate smart bulbs and switches throughout the house and choose smart appliances with remote control and automation features.

Designing Around Floor Plan Quirks

Old homes often come with eccentric floor plans and charming idiosyncrasies. You might discover a toilet tucked away in the laundry room or a minuscule nook barely spacious enough to accommodate a petite chair. A common feature in older homes is an absence of closets, which new owners can address with resourceful storage solutions involving wardrobes, armoires, or strategically placed shelving. It’s a lesson in blending the past’s charm with the owner’s unique style and vision. With some creative thinking, layout quirks can become endearing features that make the home truly one-of-a-kind.

Preserving Unique Features

Intriguing relics of the past may no longer serve their original purpose, but these features still hold tremendous potential for creative transformation. Owners can repurpose vintage elements like antique doors, windows, or reclaimed wood beams. Stained glass windows can become dazzling room dividers or backlit art pieces that infuse the space with character and color. Old fixtures like antique door knobs or ornate metal grates can find new life as charming coat hooks or unique decorative accents.

DIY Projects for Old Houses

Not all old-house projects require the assistance of professionals. Numerous satisfying and manageable DIY projects can enhance living spaces and strengthen their connection to the home’s history. These projects include refinishing original hardwood floors, adding shelving for improved storage, and replacing outdated appliances and fixtures to bring them up to modern living standards. Homeowners can also patch and paint walls, and learn rudimentary plumbing and electrical repairs to replace faucets, outlets, and fixtures. Addressing energy efficiency is also important, including adding insulation to key areas and replacing weatherstripping to prevent drafts. For older homes with single-pane windows, replacing them with new energy-efficient models is a good option.

Financing Renovations for an Old House

Owners seeking renovations might encounter various funding challenges. One common hurdle is the age and condition of the home, which can affect its appraisal value. To overcome this, consider working with lenders who are experienced in historic or older homes and provide detailed documentation of renovation plans, emphasizing the potential increase in property value. For financing options, homeowners can explore traditional mortgage refinancing, home equity loans, or lines of credit. Alternatively, renovation-specific loans, such as FHA 203(k) loans or Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle loans, offer tailored solutions for historic home renovations.

Uncovering the History and Charm of an Old House

Discovering the history of an old house and its neighborhood is a rewarding endeavor. Begin by delving into historical records and property tax documents to unearth details about the original owners and construction dates. Then, stop at the local library and historical society, where you might discover old maps, newspapers, and photographs that offer additional insights into a home’s history. By uncovering the history of your old house, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for its past and feel a deeper connection to the residents who lived there before you.


Living in an old house is like having a piece of history all to yourself, but it’s not without its challenges. Homeowners might encounter issues when upgrading mechanical systems, address design quirks, and find financing for renovations. However, with some thoughtful upgrades, homeowners can preserve the charm of their cherished abodes while enhancing their value and living modern lives. Through careful planning, thorough research, and collaboration with professionals, owners can navigate the challenges of remodeling old homes, ensuring that these treasured properties can be returned to their former glory.

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