Reviving East Coast Classics: Studio Den Den's Approach to Modernizing Historic Homes with Integrity and Innovation

This past month we've had a couple clients reach out looking to us to help them preserve character of their historic home, create a new addition, and provide a cohesive vision for the interior design. In classic east coast style, both of these homes have suffered some pretty offensive renovations during the 70s. They look to Studio Den Den to curtate and reimagine what the space could be. 

With projects like these, we believe in the delicate art of integrating modern additions into historic homes. And when approaching a historic home, our primary objective is to celebrate its unique features - and often many of its quirks. These homes are not just structures; they are stories about the past, showcasing styles that have weathered the passage of time. Our role is to amplify these stories, ensuring that the historic elements are not just preserved, but also highlighted and appreciated in their full glory.

The challenge, however, lies in introducing modern elements without overshadowing the historical character. This is where the concept of contrast becomes pivotal. We advocate for a design approach that distinguishes the new from the old, making it clear where history ends and contemporary design begins. This contrast is not about creating a jarring separation, but rather about crafting a dialogue between different eras of architecture.

Our approach to dialog and love for natural materials is a cornerstone for our historic projects. As the world becomes increasingly more focused on sustainability and earth-conscious materials, the interplay of our contemporary additions pair with historic wood construction is the perfect pairing. During our design process, we work with materials, colors, and forms that differ from the original structure, yet complement it. For instance, using sleek glass and a warm Corten steel in juxtaposition with aged brick and wood can create a visually striking contrast that underscores the beauty of each. The modern elements, with their clean lines and minimalist aesthetic, act as a backdrop that allows the intricate details of the historic architecture to shine.

However, while contrast is essential, so is the creation of a cohesive space. The addition must feel like a natural extension of the existing home, not an afterthought. This is achieved through thoughtful integration of design elements, ensuring a seamless transition between the old and the new. We pay close attention to proportions, scales, and the overall architectural language, so that the addition, while distinct, still feels like a part of the whole. Moreover, our approach is deeply rooted in respect for the history and integrity of the original structure. We engage in extensive research to understand the architectural heritage and context of the property. This understanding informs our design decisions, ensuring that any addition, while modern, is still sympathetic to the historical essence of the home.

All of our clients that have bought historic homes, also deeply appreciate the unique quirks of their historic homes. We recognizing them not as mere structural anomalies but as vital components of the home's individual story and character. These idiosyncrasies, ranging from unconventional floor plans to intricate moldings, reflect the era and craftsmanship of their time. We approach these quirks with a dual perspective: preserving certain elements to maintain the charm and authenticity of the home, thereby keeping a piece of history alive, and endearing the home to those who cherish architectural history.

Concurrently, we address the quirks that pose functional challenges or disrupt the harmony of the space. Our role as designers is to provide a holistic vision, streamlining the space to ensure it is cohesive, functional, and aesthetically pleasing, yet still retains its historic character. Streamlining involves an intelligent integration of old and new, ensuring contemporary functionality while preserving historical essence, which may include reimagining cramped areas or modernizing outdated utilities. For instance, in a home with an awkwardly placed column, rather than removing it, we might choose to incorporate it into a new design feature, such as a custom bookshelf or a sculptural element. This approach not only retains the quirk but also gives it a purposeful place in the home's new story.

Our design process involves meticulous planning and a deep understanding of both the historical elements and the needs of modern living. We work closely with our clients to discern which quirks are cherished aspects of their home's personality and which hinder their lifestyle. This collaborative approach ensures that the final design is not just a space that looks good, but one that feels right, resonating with the inhabitants' sensibilities and the home's historic soul.