Sometimes, if one chooses to renovate a space with some history, whether a restaurant, a residence or even a building exterior, an opportunity presents itself for reinvention, rather than completely starting over. Renovations provide the ability for designers and architects to incorporate elements into the new design from the past. Rather than ignoring what was there before, we can figure out ways to include elements such as specific pieces of furniture, light fixtures or even a material used in one way originally but transformed into another in the new design. Renovations are often inherently nostalgic and they should be treated as such. A good renovation finds the balance between old and new, but more importantly, between creating a new experience while keeping the essence of the previous design.
It is human nature to gain comfort with what was originally designed, built or installed, before a renovation. The idea of what will be designed gets outweighed by what we already liked and disliked. We may lean towards furniture that we grew up with; a bar countertop we drank at each night or even those first dollar bills the business made, put up for nostalgic reasons over the years. Our minds get caught visualizing or desiring these previous elements rather than looking forward to what a renovation can inspire.
Renovating a building or space refreshes, upgrades and even recreates the experiences patrons or residents or employees encounter once completed. Remember, there is a huge difference between renovation and preservation and we should not confuse the two. Preservation is meant to preserve what was originally built, most often associated with historic places or sometimes associated with a simple appreciation or attraction to the original design. Preservation is meant to copy or keep what was originally built.
Renovation, on the other hand, is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to make change and provide a newer, better experience than before through the use of design. Renovation can keep the essence of what was originally designed, but not exactly what was originally built.
By Jebulon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
During our trip to Colorado Springs, we had the pleasure of actually staying in the house that we were hired to redesign. After the first day and a half of preparing for and taking interior photographs, we then got a chance to slow down and relax. After slipping on my Uggs and pulling out my latest Baldacci book, I was sitting in the living room and realized something. Before this moment, I couldn’t figure out why this classic modern home with a true wood ceiling, heavy timber beams, concrete columns, eight foot tall glass windows and real concrete tile felt like such a warm, inviting space. And then it hit me. The space made you want to read a book. All of those components; the oversized fireplace, the classic modern furniture, the wonderful scenery seen through the expanse of clear glass, were simply designed to encourage one to read. And I realized that using the act of reading as a benchmark for design, forces us as architects and interior designers to create spaces that are proportioned, appropriately sized and finished in a way that provides comfort and satisfaction.
It is not often that we, as architects and interior designers, get the opportunity to renovate a classically modern structure. It is just as rare that we get the opportunity to meet the original architect of that building and even more rare that the original architect still lives in the house we are renovating. We were lucky enough to have this exact opportunity in Colorado Springs. We had two choices: 1. to design something representative of our own aesthetic to show off our own design style or 2. to respect the original design with the only goal to complement the existing aesthetic and ultimately hope for the original architect’s approval. We chose the latter and got that approval. By renovating with respect and admiration for the design, the results were both aesthetically pleasing for all involved, but more importantly, we enhanced the original architecture and space by giving it the respect it deserved.
Our website has morphed multiple times over the years, but the main purpose of any designer’s website is to express the visual success and achievements of that designer. The photography gives us the channel to express our talent and specifically, what our buildings or spaces look and feel like. Though always subjective in nature, our aesthetic and built form is our life and these photographs represent our careers. They show the evolution of our designs and they can also tell the story of a project. If photography is used properly, the photographs taken should allow the viewer to take themselves on a journey through the relationship between space, proportion, materials, the furniture and its context. The images, organized properly, can explain the thought process of the architect or interior designer, expressing how they approached the project and ultimately, the project’s success.
One thing architects strive for is to create new or updated architectural features. We look for opportunities for new shapes, materials, forms or even entire systems. The challenge is often related to modern technology, modern day desires or even the architect’s or client’s wish to simply be different. However, in a recent project, we found an ironic twist to this “new age” challenge of being beyond creative. For the renovation of the Mar Vista restaurant, an old fishing shack turned popular Florida restaurant, we chose to match the existing weathered cypress siding rather than create some new material. Those new features happen in the interior and in other ways throughout the exterior. But … in the process of determining how to go about recreating weathered wood, the contractor had an extremely creative and simple solution. Vinegar and steel wool pads. New material … old look … way simple solution. Sometimes, you just never would have guessed.
- A good refrigeration engineer with grocery store experience
- A good MEP engineer with grocery store experience
- As-builts of the existing conditions
- A good concrete saw with expensive diamond blades
- Preparation for lighting replacement throughout
- A good stainless steel vendor for hiding those things you just can’t fix
- A contractor that understands how to work during open hours and/or after hours
- A good equipment buyer to make sure new cases or fixtures are delivered on time
- A creative architect
- Patient customers
~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP
Oh…this is a fun topic. Patty and I have been saying for years, “What are people going to do when these terrible, Spanish-Med(icated) or neo(not) classical mcmansions built and designed by builders need to be renovated?”
Houses built in the ‘50s, modern and simple, stand the test of time. Though not everyone likes modern, a ’50s home, with its rectangular floor plan, simple lines, lots of glass, flat or low roofs, can be modified into almost any style desired. They are an artist’s canvas. And we are starting to see a trend towards more modern renovations whether Spanish, Colonial, Key West or ranch.
Recently, we renovated a builder grade, Spanish-Med home into a contemporary, modern house. It was not easy. Arches with foam ornamentation, a red barrel tile roof, angles and roof pitches like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, the dreaded octagonal-shaped entrance and the thickest troweled-on stucco imaginable. You could climb the wall without grappling hooks. And best of all, the house was painted pink! Yes … pink.
I always ask, “Have you ever been to the Mediterranean?”, when people ask if we design in that style. True Mediterranean architecture is simple. Arches are at entry ways only. Stucco is smooth. Columns are used properly and proportionately. Windows are rectangular without tons of ornamental bad trim.
So how did we resolve this design challenge? We purged. We simplified the building. We cleaned the house of the builder’s choices and modernized it as best we could.
We also created a very modern interior, which helps the entire house feel upgraded.
And don’t get me wrong, we’re not saying all houses need to be modern. We are saying they need to be properly and consistently styled throughout. Though typically less is more … more is ok if done properly.
~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP
By Barron Schimberg, AIA
Considering how many decisions are involved in new-building design, you might assume that it’s easier to renovate. But that’s not always the case.
Renovation and new building projects usually incorporate many of the same components; architectural design, interior design, construction, financing, etc.
While renovations are often perceived to be simpler, in many cases, improving existing conditions requires more attention than building new. An architect or engineer may reassess the site for parking issues, setbacks and/or drainage and retention. We review the condition of the interior, structural components, and Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing systems.
The time associated with renovation projects versus new building is often equal or more than starting from scratch. Clients should understand this up front with regards to time, fees, consultant involvement and ultimately the construction costs.