Every couple weeks, I come across a video on Instagram of a trendy couple “renovating” a broken-down historic home. Like any number of similar shows on HGTV, these videos almost always end in demolished walls, white-painted wood and black-painted brick.
While changes to old homes’ exteriors can make them more attractive in the short term, they ultimately destroy any and all historic importance and ruin the longevity of homes’ beauty.
There is nothing that pains me more than historic wooden trimming, baseboards, railings and banisters being splattered with trendy paint colors that will soon fade into irrelevance.
White paint especially cheapens the rich beauty of the original wooden facade and diminishes the historic appeal of the building. Painting over wood will inevitably require the home be painted again, while the original wood facade would require less maintenance.
Renovations do not just include shoddy paint jobs. With the open floor plan trend, renovations also commonly require at least one wall to have a sledgehammer put through it. This obvious destruction of historical value is an architectural travesty. Taking out walls destroys how the space was meant to look and feel. Once again, temporary trends ultimately annihilate the long term value of historical properties.
On a larger scale, trendy renovations strip away any and all personality residential neighborhoods could have. One simply has to compare freshly built cookie-cutter suburban homes to the older neighborhoods of Sioux Falls, where every house is unique and intentionally designed. The difference between these two neighborhoods is clear: While one offers only depressing monotony, the other provides a splendid array of unique architecture.
The renovation of old homes into basic, unimaginative McMansions also leads to the gentrification of older historic neighborhoods. These renovations exist for the purpose of raking in profit. They not only ruin the historic value of residential neighborhoods but also drive out lower income communities.
The increased popularity of HGTV spawned reality TV renovations like “The Property Brothers” and “Fixer Upper,” as well as self proclaimed social media renovation experts like “dekotrend” and “kachafurniture” on Instagram, have all contributed to the increased popularity and normalization of the destruction of historical properties. These vandals have made every average DIY enthusiast think they can renovate anything and everything and have only led to further destruction of historical buildings.
To be fair, it is sometimes necessary to renovate old homes when they are crumbling beyond repair. If a historical home is structurally unsound and would decay without renovations, fixing up the house is mandatory. However, there is no reason to repair homes in an artificially new and trendy way. Repairs made to salvage historic homes should try to match the original design and architecture choices as closely as possible.
While renovation does sometimes have a place in historical structures, the oversaturation of the home improvement and home flipping genre has led to the widespread, sloppy cheapening of historically important properties.
To save old properties, we need to turn off HGTV and its social media copycats and, of course, refrain from painting all of our wood white.