Integrating new sections with older homes presents many challenges-blending old and new materials, creating additions that enhance the original structure instead of appearing like an afterthought and updating older sections without diluting their character.

Yet, in today's value-conscious economy, homeowners are more focused on ways to make their existing homes work better for their lifestyles. Three local homeowners agreed to share their stories about how they used design moxie to effectively mesh old homes with new parts that better accommodated their needs.

A Victorian update

In Victorian Village, Michael Kelleher and Van Lemmon found a Queen Anne-style home along stately Neil Avenue. They loved the house's leaded glass windows, ample oak woodwork and relatively large backyard, but wanted to update the living spaces, especially the small, dark kitchen area. They turned to architect Bill Hugus of William Hugus Architects, interior designer Chris King of Manifesto Inc. and Riverstone Construction for professional help in tackling this last and largest segment of their home's six-year renovation.

Hugus, an architect especially known for historic restorations in German Village, says the homeowners' concerns were similar to those of his other clients. The first is trying to accommodate current lifestyles in historic homes originally built for different lifestyles. The second concern is that historic homeowners often desire to capture the openness of large, newer homes.

Most Victorian houses weren't originally designed with large kitchens. Hugus's solution was to enlarge the kitchen space by extending it into additions that had been put on the rear of the house in previous years. To gain more light and openness, an unfinished greenhouse was transformed into a sunroom and an enlarged doorway connected it to the kitchen. A mirrored transom over the opening cleverly hides the mismatched ceiling heights and repeats the transom style doorways in other rooms of the home.

For trim, contractors ordered custom-milled pieces and modeled the period's style to finish the area and its service spaces with a simpler version of the trim in the home's fancier front rooms. They further differentiated the trim by painting-instead of staining-it.

"Many (renovators) try to replicate older spaces exactly, but miss the mark," says Hugus. "In my opinion, that stands out more than intentionally doing a slightly different version."

To furnish the new kitchen space, King says they mimicked elements of a Victorian-era kitchen by choosing furniturelike cabinets with varying depths, contrasting dark stain and cream paint finishes, and carved detailing indicative of antique storage pieces. They also found a large farmhouse sink, rubbed bronze fixtures and a honed granite island top to reinforce the room's vintage appearance. For the backsplash, they chose a dimensional pillowed subway tile that typifies the era's embellishment of utilitarian items. An oversized built-in refrigerator disguised as an armoire completes the look.

Super-sizing a Cape Cod

At one time, Bill and Sue Otten considered tearing down their newly purchased 1937 Cape Cod and starting fresh on their lot overlooking Walhalla Ravine in Clintonville. When they first saw the home during an open house in 2004, they were captivated by its view but equally concerned about its renovation needs-a garage addition, drainage problems, old electrical wiring, dated finishes and a cracked foundation wall.

They called on architect friend Gene Milhoan for advice. At first, Milhoan challenged the couple's thinking with some broad questions. Would they rather preserve the original home or tear it down to build a new one? If they wanted to save the home and simply add a garage, would they consider adding a master suite and updating the kitchen to justify the investment? Also, how could they reasonably upgrade the home without overbuilding and incurring costs beyond what could be recouped in a future resale? Later, they addressed questions about the garage, its location and the best access to it.

Sue says they decided to live in the home for a year and observe how they used the property before deciding on a renovation plan. After that year, the solution became clear-a garage at the rear of the property on an elevation that was above the home would create a safe entry and a sound structural location without taking away from the home's screened porch and its spectacular view of the ravine. Milhoan designed the plan, which resulted in much more than a simple 2.5-car garage addition. He situated the garage on the rear, higher elevation portion of the lot, and then created a 22-foot glass atrium to connect the garage with the house, providing a unique and impressive entry area.

Space above and below the garage was put to good use. The attic above the garage was transformed into a 770-square-foot bonus room, and the 13-foot elevation below the garage became a master suite. Finished, the four-floor home has now doubled in size and hugs the sloping hillside of the ravine.

While Milhoan has designed larger homes for high-profile clients, he says this project was his most challenging because of the home's hillside location. To integrate old and new exterior materials, the addition was finished in stucco with architectural details fitting the original home's redwood siding, now newly refinished. Inside, the character of the existing structure was matched with trimwork, doors, glass doorknobs and back plates. For new spaces, they chose period bathroom fixtures and paint colors in an Arts and Crafts palette. In the existing spaces, they updated the kitchen and enlarged window openings in the rooms facing the ravine.

A 20-year renovation

Clintonville residents David and Mary Jones faced a different set of home renovation challenges and a longer timeline. When they purchased their Arts and Crafts home in 1980, they were attracted to its character, surrounding mature trees, unique site above Walhalla Ravine and convenient location. With David being an architect at Tedrick & Associates of Worthington, he recognized the home's potential for renovation.

The couple started with a master plan and gradually accomplished their project in phases. "I knew we couldn't do everything at once," he says. Having a master plan, he adds, allows one project to work well when others are completed in the future.

One of his first projects as his own architect/contractor was to direct visitors to the front of the house-a bit of a challenge considering the home's front faces the ravine while the rear is toward the street. "Everyone ended up walking in through the back door and kitchen areas," he says. In 1985, he built a front porch and sidewalk leading to a front sunroom and living room area. A path of brick pavers directs visitors from the driveway to this new front porch, which is situated beneath a huge red oak tree estimated to be more than 150 years old.

Later, the couple wanted to expand the one-car garage, another challenge created by the home being built so close to the street. David's solution was to offset the now two-car garage, cover it with wide cedar planks matching the home's exterior and create a rear porch finished with rounded columns and railings to complement the home's other exterior details.

The most recent renovation project was the kitchen. Mary was concerned that the property's growing shade trees were making the home's interior too dark and the kitchen's three windowless interior walls complicated the situation. David's design combined the kitchen and breakfast room and created two small additions. To gain further light, he traded cabinets above the sink for another window and created a backlit frosted glass display area along another wall.

David says that with the upcoming replacement of some windows and sliding glass doors, his 20-year-old master plan is nearly complete.

Teresa Woodard is a freelance writer.