Renovation Reality: A Series about Transforming an Older Home

There is nothing I love more than the opportunity to breathe new life into an older home. The suburban area just north of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan, is filled with homes built in the early 1900’s. Many of these homes have architectural details and charm that are very hard to find in today’s newer homes.

One of my favorite projects was the renovation of an English Tudor style home, built in 1927. This home had wonderful “bones” and tons of hidden potential, but was in dire need of updating. Projects like these, especially those with outdated kitchens and bathrooms, can easily swallow up thousands and thousands of dollars... just in the first month! If you’re not careful, your charming home can quickly turn into your very own money pit.

With a large project like this, it was important to budget, plan and prioritize, in order to get “the biggest bang for the buck.” Our main goal was to transform this property, keeping in line with the home’s architectural style, to create a warm and welcoming home, suitable for a young family. With just over 2,400 square feet of living space, it was important that we make the most out of each room, creating spaces where both adults and children would feel comfortable. Also important was “the creative use of funds,” in other words, the budget!

Projects with tight budgets can be challenging, but they are often the most rewarding when successfully completed. In some cases, we made cosmetic changes (paint, carpet, etc.) working with materials that were original to the home. It is always amazing how a little paint can transform a room, so some of the rooms just needed a little imagination and creativity to give them a fresh look and feel without breaking the bank.

It’s always fun to compare the before and after photos of a project to get the full effect of the transformation. Rather than cram the whole home renovation into one blog post, I’ve broken up the project into volumes so that I can elaborate on all of the changes that we made.

So, what better way to introduce you to this home, then by starting our tour with the home’s exterior...

Here is a photo of the home, at the start of the project. Built of solid brick, with a cement tile roof, and copper gutters, the home had charm, even though it needed a little TLC.


My mind immediately started to race with ideas for how to convert this home into an attention grabber. Below is the home today... quite the difference!

1927 Chicago Area Home Post-Transformation

To enhance the home’s charm and character, and highlight the windows, we added dark green window shutters, to tie in with the subtle green patina of the home’s cement tile roof. The shutters help to frame the windows, and gave us the opportunity to bring a contrasting color into the home’s exterior color palette. Below the front windows, large flower boxes were added so that plants and flowers would soften the homes’s brick exterior. The plantings can be changed out seasonally to incorporate the specific colors of a season or holiday.

Landscaping is always an excellent way to give a home instant curb appeal. We replaced the scraggly bushes, tree and plants, with a symmetrical arrangement of hydrangea and boxwood bushes to frame the front door archway, and fill the space below the first floor windows. Adding a mature tree to the front yard gives the homeowners a bit of privacy from the street... and gives their children something to climb!

The small arched window at the top of the home was originally painted a dark chocolate brown, so when it was painted the same creamy white as the rest of the exterior trim, it really jumped out, and drew your eye up to the home’s peak.

Talk about curb appeal! This home went from drab to fab, with only a few additions and changes.

The tour continues next week as we move into the home, and start to tackle the bathrooms! Stay tuned!...

Filed under: carpet, home, new, old, renovation, shutters, windows
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