The Importance of Restoration Projects

To create greatness, you don’t always have to start from scratch.

New England is rife with old structures that have rich histories and strong bones. It’s why we believe in the value of restoration projects as a means to preserve the antiquities of classic New England structures. Below, we discuss the importance of restoration projects and their role in preserving the history and charm of New England while accommodating new and modern designs. 

Restorations Respect the Rich History of Old Architectural Styles

Our practice is based in New England, which naturally contains many old and historic structures. There is an abundance of potential restoration projects. Although Christopher Pagliaro generally works within his own style, he is also a huge history buff. The foundation of what we do has historic precedent. 

Even new projects can be inspired by the intricacies of styles that came before. Some of our more modern designs refer to the history of such architecture.

The terms historic restoration, historic preservation, and working on historic buildings, however, can all be interpreted differently. The terms restoration and preservation define the ways of providing new life for buildings or elements of such buildings. We utilize new products in a manner that is authentic to the historic detailing and then replicate. This means we may match window detailing, the trim, etc., and survey the existing siding or brick detailing to make it new.

This process may sound simple, but consider this example. An old window does not provide for today’s insulated glazing systems, and window sizes themselves may be challenging for today’s egress codes. 

Most of our work on historic structures has been for clients who respect and appreciate the historic meaning of the structure, but wish to breathe new life into it, which often includes restoration of the exterior, but also a completely reinvented interior planning that is more conducive to today’s lifestyle.

While restoration projects are rewarding and important, they come not without their challenges. Below, we detail three significant preservation projects that have left a mark on our firm’s practice and the zoning obstacles that the team met throughout the building process. From the Quebec countryside to the New England coast, we’ve relished in old structures and teased out their potential through thoughtful restoration processes.

Les Quatre Vents

This project included a complete restoration of what ultimately was a gutted manor house. The simplest portion of this project was replacing windows and finishing the exterior in a manner that was completely respectful to what was there. The interiors were reimagined and personal to the client’s needs.

We added several structures to the property, each designed in a way that re-imagined how the varying uses would have been complimentary, but less formal, than the original manor house. The new structures were designed to either create exterior spaces or, as is the case with Le Pigeonnier, serve as a focal point to the garden design. No matter, the exterior scale, materials, fenestrations, were all designed to respect that of the manor house.

Historically New

This project was as intense as any we have ever worked on. The original structure dated back to the early 1800s, first as the general store in its small coastal town, and then as a private residence that had never been expanded–and seemingly never updated.

Further, the existing structure was in violation of every possible zoning regulation, including a nonconforming elevation to the flood zone it sits within. In this case, we looked at renovating in-kind, for which we would have had complete architectural freedom with no historic boundaries, or tearing it down and seeing what the local zoning commissions would allow us to rebuild.

Fortunately, the project was located in a community with a land-use department that wasn’t in the business of saying “no”, but instead, “let’s see how.”  In accordance with the land use department head, the team was able to find a rarely-used regulation described as a “Protected Town Landmark” that allowed them to reinvent the structure rather than having to demolish it. We had to develop a plan that would preserve the historic scale and character of the building, which they presented to the Historical Commission, their Architectural Review Board, and finally to the Planning & Zoning Commission. Their reward for this work? The official title of “Protected Town Landmark.” 

This project required our team to roll up our sleeves and do some research. We first retained an architectural historian as a consultant. Together, we located numerous photographs that dated back to the horse and carriage days, as well as several ensuing photos that demonstrated the materials and general tone of the materials. With the consultant, we discussed the important features of the original design: specifically, the linear front porch, the scale of the gabled massing of the main structure, and how the ‘wing’ visually backed away from the main house and utilized a simpler material that allowed the main house to read somewhat independently.

Knowing we had to raise the floor elevation of the house to accommodate the flood zone, we worked to create the stone porch in a linear manner that would avoid the need for guardrails and still meet today’s code restrictions. We also elevated the ceiling heights of the second floor and moved the remainder of the additional second floor massing several feet back from the front.

We also preserved the original first-floor structure and the existing front wall. This included the historic windows, front door, and shutters, all of which were carefully restored and reinstalled. We then used much of the old framing and finish materials in the interiors, creating cabinetry, ceiling details, and stair treads out of the old wood.

The result was the Connecticut Project of the Year.

Connecticut Preservation Project

Having received approval to demolish an old farmhouse, there was a delay in getting started that proved to be the reason this structure was ultimately saved. Located in Westport, Connecticut, in seeking ways to preserve the community’s historic inventory, the zoning regulations include a special clause that permits two independent living structures to remain on one lot if certain criteria are met.

This process includes presenting not only the architectural plans for the renovation and restoration of the historic structure, but also full designs for the proposed new structure. Thus, enabling the proposal to be reviewed in the context of one another as a “campus.” 

This process includes a special approval of a joint committee comprised of Historic District Commissioner, as well as representation of the Architectural Review Board. If blessed by this joint committee, the project then goes through a full Planning & Zoning Commission review process.

In this case, we could not locate any historic photos of the old house, so we retained a State of Connecticut historic consultant for review and comment on the old structure as it currently existed.  It was obvious that an old, covered porch had been enclosed at some point – which we agreed to recreate by eliminating living space. We then pulled the outdated vinyl siding to expose an old clapboard behind it. While we completely created a whole new interior, we simply remained respectful to new exterior material that was age-appropriate.

Our team designed a new home for this same plot of land,  that is currently under construction, to serve as the homeowner’s main residence. It will be completed later this year.

Breathe New Life Into Old Structures:
Talk to a Professional Today

At Christopher Pagliaro Architects, it’s no secret that we love and respect old architecture, and we embrace the many hoops our team often has to jump through to move a project along. 

Historic structures not only preserve stories and styles of the past but have paved the way for modern architects to create something new. If your wish is to breathe life into a historic New England structure, talk to our team and learn more.

Want to Learn More About Restoration Architecture?

Hallmark of a Christopher Pagliaro Architects project is the marriage of the structure and site to create a sense of place. To get started on your waterfront home project, get in touch with our team today.

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