10 clever period home renovations

Projects where contemporary updates complement the property's original character

By Anna Winston | 4 March 2021

These period home renovations demonstrate that an older building can be transformed into a unique space for modern living. Overcoming issues such as listed features, previous alterations and dilapidated structures can be tricky, but these examples provide a diverse source of inspiration and prove that the charm of a period home can be retained and even enhanced.

1. Merging space and time

Spread over the drawing room level of two Georgian townhouses in Edinburgh, this period home renovations is by architects Luke and Joanne McClelland. The couple spent years living in London and wanted more space. They saw potential in the generous proportions of the property. So, they reconfigured the interior to create an open plan kitchen-diner and a large living room. They set to stripping back the three bedrooms to reveal original features. A previous owner replaced the living room fireplace with an orange brick fire surround. Luke and Joanne painted it black to create a bridge between the Georgian architecture and their mid century furniture.

Spread over the two Georgian Townshouses, Architects Luke and Joanne McClelland renovated this flat in Edinburgh

Luke McClelland Design cleverly adapted Ikea cabinets in the kitchen. Photo: Zac and Zac

2. Made flexible

A two-bedroom flat in a north London Victorian house is a live-work space for a young couple. Architecture practice Morales Finch were able to salvage what was left of its original bones and reorganise the layout. The practice focused on creating flexible spaces, preserving the generous proportions as well as the natural light. New openings allow for easier movement through the flat. Retaining and refurbishing original features was important. But where unrecoverable, modern versions at the same scale make great substitutes. This creates visual links between the rooms without completely glossing over all evidence of the previous alterations.

period home renovations kitchen with open storage

Morales Finch reorganised the layout of this Victorian home. Photo: Demarrage studio

3. Small change, big difference

When transforming a single-fronted terraced house in Melbourne, Australia, the owners held on to an extension added in the 1990s. Austin Maynard Architects carried out ‘keyhole surgery’ to transform the house for the couple, their two children and the family dog. The front and the back remains largely untouched. The key to the project’s success is the removal of a wall dividing the kitchen and a small, dark dining room. There’s also a new pitched glass roof with sliding awnings.

A through living room that leads to the kitchen and dining areas

Austin Maynard Architects performed ‘keyhole surgery’ on this house. Photo: Tess Kelly

4. Letting in light

Renovating and extending this Grade II listed terraced house in Primrose Hill, north London led to a gigantic pair of pivoting glass doors at the back. It creates new sight lines through the house and out to the garden. The owners have been living in the house for more than 20 years. But they wanted to rethink the rooms to suit their changing needs. They commissioned Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors, who worked closely with the local council.  The scheme preserves the historic fabric of the four bedroom home and won the project planning permission. Taking down the ground floor conservatory made way for a two storey space with a first floor glass box. The structure merges with the landing and provides new views of the garden.

Rear exterior of a Georgian house that has been updated with a two-storey modern extension

Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors’ scheme preserves the original fabric. Photo: Matt Clayton

5. Grand on a small scale

Period home renovations need not be on a grand scale. A Victorian cottage in Darling Point, Sydney, has been updated inside for a young family of five (pictured below). It has plenty of space for privacy despite the building’s limited footprint. Moving the stairs, four bedrooms and a garden terrace led to a whole new layout. Each of the children’s bedrooms has its own desk, wardrobe and play area. The family bathroom references historic winter gardens with a steel framed skylight and timber panelling on the ceiling. So, Architect Alexander & Co included a number of period features to make the small house feel more like one of the bigger traditional homes nearby. These include a grand staircase and lightwell, paved limestone flooring in the kitchen, a contemporary update on traditional wall panelling.