Project Restoration: How to Restore Historic Properties and Features
This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s lifestyle blog, Luxury Defined.
The desire to own a genuine piece of history is a noble one, but navigating restorations can be a daunting task—but one that can be made easier if you have the help of an expert in the field
Buying a property with a view to renovate or refurbish can feel like an overwhelming task, especially when historic features are involved, but with careful planning and project-management, and the right craftsmanship, concerns can be mitigated. Experts and owners with experience of the restoration of historic properties—from a Parisian Art Deco landmark to a crumbling English stately home—offer their advice.
Detail and Deadlines When Nick Ashley-Cooper became the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury in 2005, he inherited the crumbling Grade 1-listed country estate, St Giles House in Dorset, as well as his title, and quickly realized that he needed to do something to restore it. “I had to sell the house to someone unconnected to the family or I had to try and do something myself,” says Ashley-Cooper. He chose the latter, and today St Giles is his main business, used as a venue for music events, weddings, festivals, and accommodation.
Ashley-Cooper suggests taking time to consider whether you see your investment as a business opportunity or as a personal indulgence. Either way, his advice is key. “First of all, be available,” he insists. “To get the best outcome you’ll need to be on site and managing the project quite closely. If you’re there making decisions as and when they arise, it becomes a lot more efficient.”
Choosing your team is also very important. “You may have to navigate between a few different people to get what you want. If it’s an old building you’ll need someone who really understands historic buildings and how to restore them, as opposed to a hip architect who’ll want to do things that don’t really work in practice. So that’s a relationship you’ll have to manage; what you want from a design perspective as opposed to what historic buildings will allow you to do. And if it’s a listed building—that’s a structure that’s historically protected in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland—you’re going to need other permissions.”
And choose your craftspeople carefully too: “If you want things to be done properly then you should use the right people,” he advises.
Equally important is paying attention to the detail of the project: “Have up front a detailed specification of what you want done, which you can price, and a contractor who’ll stick to the budget really closely and not let it spiral out of control. You can avoid a lot of horror stories and surprises by getting a detailed specification for the work up front and getting a contractor to price against those items. Therefore, you have a bit more control over what you’re getting and what it’s going to cost. And finally, and really importantly, have meaningful deadlines. Having a real deadline requires quite a lot of input from you to make people realize that it’s really important. Otherwise you’ll find projects drag on and on, and ultimately that will probably mean your costs go up as well.”
Be Realistic Many want a perfectly realized, contemporary rendition of a legacy property, but be realistic about what you want and how to achieve it. Interior designer and architect Steven Gambrel has restored and renovated a number of 18th- and 19th-century houses in and around New York, and says: “If you’re going to buy a historic house because you love the old wavy glass windows and the spirit of the floors, you must understand that you’re not going to be able to have some of the creature comforts that come with 21st-century living.”
He adds: “I would do anything on earth to maintain that wavy glass in the windows, even if it means having a drafty room. I would just put on another sweater. But, if you’re not that person, then that’s not the right house for you.”
This can be a niche market, but don’t be afraid to consult with experts who have experience and can deal with even the most surprising revelations. Atelier de Ricou in Paris, for instance, has a wealth of experience in this field. Their most recent project was to restore the historic Art Nouveau Hôtel Lutetia, built in 1910 by the architects Louis-Charles Boileau and Henri Tauzin.
It’s a commission the firm delivered with aplomb. Hôtel Lutetia is, once again, a landmark—and the only luxury grand hotel on the city’s Left Bank. When built, the hotel represented a daring move from Art Nouveau to the emerging style of Art Deco. It is now once again a Parisian icon.
For Atelier de Ricou’s co-director Stéphanie de Ricou, the biggest surprise when renovating was discovering the Salon Borghese (now renamed Bar Josephine) had since been transformed into a plain white space with no architectural or decorative ornamentation. It took the team of restorers at Atelier de Ricou more than 17,000 hours to remove the five or six layers of paint and plaster in order to restore a dazzling fresco on the room’s ceiling. “The original designers had so much imagination,” says de Ricou. “No one would have thought such a painted décor existed in Paris, to be recovered 50 years later.”
For those thinking of renovating their own private residence, she offers the following advice: “Take the time to stay there, alone if possible (walking, looking carefully, even dreaming or listening), because a building or a room has an identity that you have to try to understand. Of course, there are no rules—but if you pay attention, the place will tell you what its real beauty and poetry is. Fashions come and go, so keep your eyes wide open. You never know what might be behind a layer of paint!”
Just Listed on Lake Simcoe: 968 Degrassi Cove Pl W, Innisfil
This custom home direct waterfront home was built in 2000 by the current owner and has served as a sanctuary for family and friends. Over their 22 years of ownership, they have enjoyed the property during every season.
Degrassi Cove is a small and exclusive waterfront community and share the private road. The forested lands on the opposite side of the street provide great privacy. There is no vehicle traffic other than the neighbours, so it is very safe for kids.
Built as a 4-season home and located on the west-side of Lake Simcoe. You will enjoy north-west facing views of the lake and sunsets. There are no stairs to the water’s edge. The water table is level to the lot, which offers a beautiful beach area along the shoreline. There is great swimming and boating. The portable dock is 65 ft long with a 12’ x 12’ patio area. Boating enthusiasts can store their boat in the dry boathouse. Entertaining on the lake is so easy!
The home offers 2,700 sf on the main and upper level. The principal rooms offer generous space including a large private family room, formal dining room, large great room combined with the eat-in kitchen. In addition, there is 1,535 sf of finished space on the walk-out level. There are four generous size bedrooms. The primary bedroom is situated on the main level and overlooks the lake, and includes a five-piece ensuite, a walk-in closet and a garden door to the lakeside patio area. The three other bedrooms are located on the second floor.
The lower level includes a large recreation room with wood-burning fireplace and a walk-out to the lake. A large office with a built-in desk and bookcases can serve as a large 5th bedroom. The 3-piece bathroom is also equipped with a partially finished cedar-lined sauna. There is plenty of storage space on this level too.
Photography by @ishutterphoto
Staging by @chateau_designandstaging
This professionally designed custom-built home embodies a comfortable, vintage cottage feel built with energy efficient maintenance-free materials. This home offers a private park-like setting, with in- town conveniences. It’s a nature lover’s lot…a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. This one in in a million home was showcased in a 16-page spread in Cottages & Bungalows Magazine.
Shiplap walls and wood slat ceilings throughout impart a cabin-like coziness. The primary bedroom is secluded on the main floor overlooking a wooded area that surrounds the property. The front office duals as an additional main floor bedroom adjacent to a 3-piece bathroom. The upper level includes two additional bedrooms that provide enhanced privacy for guests. One of the bedrooms functions as a seating area with a Murphy bed and small kitchenette. It has been designed as a secure space for future rental opportunity.
Located in the charming lakeside village of Bayfield, this property is a stone-throw away from Lake Huron, a short walk to town, the fishing pier and marina, Pioneer Park and the Community playground. This spectacular property backs on to a designated environmental area and surrounded by trees makes it an ideal retreat for entertaining family and friends.
It’s no secret that green has been trending in a major way lately. Not only does the leafy shade conjure the sensation of being outdoors after two years cooped up at home, it also is a versatile (and welcome) alternative to traditional colors like white and gray.
Sweet 3 bedroom home that has a light and airy feel to the interior. Vaulted ceiling with open concept design creates a welcoming feel with plenty of natural sunlight all afternoon. Hardwood floors in bedrooms. Updated interior ready to be moved in to. It is a special place to call home or cottage.
Large wrap-around deck features West-facing views of 2-acre park of which you would be a 1/10th owner. Private dock for all park owners. Deeded Lake Simcoe access is rare to find. Very private setting with mature trees.
Message us today for more information or to book private showing.
staging by @chateau_designandstaging
photography by @ishutterphoto
20 Quiet Heights Lane, Georgina provides views of the lake from all spaces on the west side of them home, including the great room, kitchen, dining area, and primary bedroom.
You will enjoy the morning sunrise from the front covered porch and of course, sunset views from the lakeside. The natural sunlight fills the home with warmth and light all day long. It’s tranquil, serene, and welcoming.
In the design stages, the current owner had some important “must-have’s” including a Muskoka like feel, spaciousness, sun-filled rooms, and an “understated elegance“ carried throughout the home.
Some of the interior features include:
– 3 bedrooms on main level and 2 additional bedrooms on the lower level
– 3 full bathrooms plus powder room
– 10.9 ft ceiling height on the main level and 9 ft ceiling height on the lower level
– Great room includes custom millwork and 13 ft vaulted coffered ceiling
– Gourmet kitchen with upgraded appliances
– Spectacular light fixtures including ceiling fans in each bedroom
– Custom drapery and blinds
– Radiant heated floors in kitchen, primary ensuite and the entire lower level
– Surround sound system both indoors and outdoors
A full list of room features, additional images, virtual tour, and more can be found on our website (link in bio).
This listing is also available on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)
When you combine the attention to detail of a quality builder with the owner’s vision to create a sanctuary home, the result is spectacular.
This home offers a “Zen” feel immediately upon your arrival.
The landscaping is wonderfully appointed with a collection of perennial gardens, shrubs, mature trees and privacy hedges on both sides, which is home to many birds. There are several seating areas promote great conversation with family and friends or a place to enjoy some quiet time when you want to be alone and enjoy nature all around you.
This is a wonderful home to entertain in both indoors and outdoors. The raised balcony includes a covered area where you can enjoy a summer rain shower. The open area provides lots of space for your chaise loungers to get some sun and watch an array of boats on the lake.
The lower deck is covered and a perfect location for the 7-seater plus lounger hot tub along with another separate seating area to enjoy the lake views.
Listing Price: $1,935,000
DM us to book a private viewing.
The full listing can be found on our site & on realtor.ca (MLS# N5657656)