Ways to Modernize Your Historical Ann Arbor Home


Was your Ann Arbor home built years before the days of spa bathrooms, smart home features, and open floor plans? How can you upgrade the design to meet your modern-day needs without compromising its historical character?

It all starts by approaching your historical home remodel with the right balance of modern function and vintage charm to ensure one doesn’t cancel out the other. 

Keep reading to learn some of the best ways to pull this off.


Create opportunities for natural light


Architects rely on natural light in their designs. Large windows, strategically-placed glass doors, skylights, and open floor plans are key elements of modern home designs. Conversely, historical homes tend to be a bit more closed off, making it difficult for natural light to flow through your space. 

Updates that allow for more natural light can completely transform your home. Your design-build remodeler will evaluate the time period of your home and find the best way add more natural light without compromising the classic feeling of your home. 

Some ideas they may present include:

  • Adding more windows
  • Making current windows larger
  • Opening up walls to allow for the flow of natural light
  • Installing skylights
  • Installing light fixtures designed to give the impression of natural light
  • Installing smart home light features

One note about windows: Older homes tend to have windows with very low energy efficiency. Consider how well your windows are keeping your home cool during the summer and warm during the winter. It may be worth the investment to replace your home with brand new windows, or bring new window technology to your existing windows.


Add space or open it up

transitional rustic kitchen

Many of the older homes in the Ann Arbor area tend to be cozy but small. Even larger, older homes often have small, closed off spaces and rooms, giving the impression that the home is smaller than it really is.

This compartmentalized style isn’t as common today and doesn’t fit as well with a modern-day design or lifestyle. Homeowners today want the ability be together and easily keep an eye on the kids or the dog while they’re relaxing in the living room or making dinner in the kitchen.

With historical homes, there are many options for adding or opening up space:

  • Opening up walls between the kitchen and living space
  • Combining two bedrooms into one
  • Borrowing space from other areas of the house to create a larger or additional bathroom
  • Renovating attic or cellar space to create more room for entertaining

Accentuate unique features


Throughout your historical home remodel, stay true to what makes your home special. Embrace the quirks and draw attention to those unique, classic features.

For example, your home may have a unique built-in like a bookshelf or seating area. Making this a focal point in your home is a great way to celebrate its historical architecture.

Whatever classic features your home has, embrace and emphasize them. Your home remodeler can help you understand the best way to blend these features with your modern lifestyle. They may recommend using using paint, wood finishing, or accent decorations to draw the eye to these unique details.


Update the kitchen


If you only have the budget to update and modernize one space in your home, start with the kitchen! 

With the advancements in kitchen design and appliances, remodeling this space can make all the difference in your enjoyment of your home. After all, a modern kitchen is more than just a place to cook or eat. It's a space for gathering, entertaining, and can have an amazing impact on your quality of life.

There are so many new features to include in your historical home kitchen remodel. Our favorite ideas include:

  • Multipurpose kitchen islands
  • New countertops (marble, quartz, and concrete are all great modern options)
  • Custom spots for appliances like microwave, mixer, toaster, etc.
  • Built-in fridge
  • Walk-in pantry
  • Heated floors
  • New cabinets
  • Cabinet lighting
  • Gas range stoves and ovensFarmhouse sinks
  • Pot filler faucet
  • Wine refrigerator

Blend modern furnishings and classic pieces


Historic homes offer many unique decorating opportunities, especially when you let the home’s time period inspire you. 

Search for furniture and decorations to echo the history of your home, then refurbish these pieces to fit the updated style of your home and your personal preferences. Or, mix in simple modern items with vintage pieces for the perfect balance of old and new.

Remember: Just because a home was built in a certain era doesn’t mean you’re tied to that time period when it comes to making design and decor decisions.


Refurbish hardwood floors


Hardwood floors are one of the most-desired features in a home. Most real estate investors agree: a hardwood floor is typically something you should keep — even if it looks old and worn.

Compared to newer stock available today, a historical home’s original hardwood floor will sometimes increase the value of your home. You just can’t replicate that exact same look and feel today! But that doesn’t mean you should leave the floor completely as-is. Hardwood floors can be sanded down and refinished to bring a modern, refreshed look to your home.

All this said: if the original floor in your home has been sanded down so much in the past that the nail heads in the floor are visible, you may need to consider redoing the floor.


Work with a remodeler who has experience with historical homes


The only way to ensure you achieve the desired result is to choose a design-build remodeler who has experience working on historical homes. By working with someone who understands how to blend modern designs with timeless features, you’ll create a space you and your family will love for years to come.

At Forward Design Build Remodel, we’ve been dedicated to enhancing our client’s quality of life through design build construction for over 20 years. When it comes to historical home remodeling, our philosophy is simple: solve our clients' functional needs with creative solutions that inspire and represent their personality and stay true to a home’s classic character.

If you’re interested in learning more about our process or how we can help you achieve your dreams through a historical home remodel, contact us online or call us at (734) 761-8403.