Old Castle Renovations specializes in old house — and century home — renovations and restorations. “Your home is at the centre of your family’s life,” says Old Castle President Mike Hodgson. “And the kitchen is the centre of your home.” Over 80% of the houses Hodgson renovates are 50 to 120 years old, which brings unique challenges. Many homeowners are not looking to plunk a modern, minimalist kitchen into their traditional home. They want a consistent style that enhances the look and feel of the rest of the house, but of course they don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of contemporary technology and equipment. Cast iron and galvanized plumbing needs to be replaced, jacking, levelling and underpinning of foundations is sometimes necessary, and plenty more, and that’s before addressing the other important issue of what the final project will look like.
“Building modern kitchen amenities into an old or historic home without disturbing its original architectural integrity is one of the most difficult tasks in a home renovation,” says Hodgson. “We seamlessly incorporate these technologies into your older home without destroying its irreplaceable identity.” Repairing or replacing period mouldings, recreating historic casings to match existing woodwork, refreshing antique hardware … all can be critical to the result. “It is possible to enjoy the comfort and modern conveniences while living in a period dwelling,” says Hodgson, who confesses this work is his passion. “Alternatively, we have modernized the look of many older houses into open, free-flowing environments that maximize the use of space.”
Understanding the challenges involved in any renovation, and working to minimize those, is Hodgson’s responsibility. But before that begins, he first needs to get the contract for the job. A free in-home design consultation is part of the process, and Hodgson is glad to offer this to anyone exploring a kitchen or home renovation, but he encourages homeowners to take the lead initially. “If you are interested in renovating your kitchen, buy yourself a binder and start filling it with ideas. You will be amazed how quickly the style you are looking for comes together, followed by a wish list. Once you have the style and your wish list in hand, the next item on your list will be the budget.”
A work-area needs analysis and establishing a budget are key to developing a proposal. How much to spend is the big question for most homeowners, and Hodgson encourages them to consider how long they intend on living in their home, and how much they can reasonably expect to get back when selling the house. Once the homeowner is comfortable with a figure, the detailed kitchen design process can begin. “There is nothing to gain by giving a client a design that they cannot afford,” says Hodgson.
If everything is a go, then complete site measurements are taken and a design development with 3D renderings is completed. Product selection consultations ensue, and before any work begins, itemized project costing ensures everyone is on the same page. Expectations are clearly laid out, and while unforeseen issues can crop up, particularly when renovating an older home, the goal is “no surprises.” Hodgson is frank. “Be prepared for your life to be interrupted during this process,” he says. “But remember what the goal is, and it will all be worth it in the end.”
Hodgson includes a gallery of past projects on the Old Castle website (www.old-castle.ca), and each have their own story. The kitchen shown in this article is in part a restoration of work that was done over a century ago. This Old North London home “suffered” a 1960s renovation, but Hodgson talks excitedly about the inspiration he got seeing the original blueprints for the home, first built for one of the Blackburn family, founding owners of the London Free Press. “They were beautiful,” he says earnestly. It is clear the past is important to him.
CHRIS McDonell is the publisher of eatdrink. His binder of ideas for his 50-year-old kitchen is getting dated.