Remodeling a Historic Property:

What to Salvage, What to Change.

By Kara and Brett Phillips

In August, we had a pinch-me moment when our Fairmount Foursquare home was featured in Rue Magazine. That project, the extensive renovation of a foursquare home in the Near Southside, changed us so deeply and took us on a wonderful journey of being bold and saying yes.

As we read the article, it took us back to the beginning — dressed in our deconstruction gear with tools in hand, adamant about salvaging every item we removed. Nothing could go; we had to save it all.

Pacing back and forth on the back porch, looking at every removed baseboard, crown molding, door and window, wondering how we could put the house back together, we realized that sometimes you can’t save it all. To make sense of the situation, we quickly prioritized which items would make the biggest impact and would cost the least to restore.

Windows: If your historic property has historic windows, restore them. They are a great way to add character and depth to a new space. Our statement window over the kitchen sink was given a quick sand and stain, then relocated to fit the new kitchen reconfiguration. It required very little cost on our end and gave the new space depth and character.

Doors: Consider repurposing the existing doors as you make changes to the layout. This allows you to celebrate your home’s history as you make necessary updates. As we opened up the space and created new rooms, we made sure to repurpose the old doors. It made the new rooms feel as though they had been there all along.

Floors: Let the imperfect and well-loved hardwood floors anchor your historic home. If you need to patch, do your best to match woods. Our original floors were not ideal with large discolorations and various species of wood. Rather than stain them dark to conceal their imperfections, we decided to go lighter and let them be a story piece throughout our house. 

Remember that the biggest impact comes through small, thoughtful changes.

A version of this story originally appeared on Brett and Kara Phillips are design-obsessed serial homebuilders on a mission to master the art of timeless design. After moving to Texas, the husband-and-wife team started focusing on real estate, which included design, renovation, new construction and brokerage services. Their hobby and talent has transformed into multiple businesses, a deep passion, and in November, an online e-commerce shop.