All photos courtesy of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.
One of the great things about homes in Sarasota is their diversity seen through our local architectural heritage. Since William Whitaker built the first cabin in 1863, to the development of the Sarasota School a hundred years later, Sarasota boasts an incredible stylistic array of vintage homes. Some of these historic properties didn't age gracefully and have been removed to make room for more modern residences; but for those who wish to honor Sarasota history in restoring an older home, there are a few things you should consider as you prepare for your project.
Figure out what has to stay. When you take your first tour of your vintage home, there are going to be little things that jump out at you as unique. You're restoring a historic artifact, so identify what needs to be protected to keep it special.
Figure out what has to go. Look into upgrades for the home's electrical and plumbing for safety and energy efficiency, and identify any structures that will need to move if you want to shift your floor plan.
Secure your foundation. Historic homes sometimes shift a bit over the years, and the moisture here in Florida can take its toll. Start at the bottom and work your way up to make sure the house is strong where it needs to be.
Look up. The first things you must protect your house against in Florida are rain and sunshine, so make sure your shingles are in top shape and your roof is leak-free.
Look out. Old windows can be restored, but some need to be replaced. Fortunately, Sarasota has a number of professionals who excel at restoring the sash pulley windows you're bound to find in most older homes around here, and there are plenty of great options for more energy-efficient windows as well.
Strap it down. Some old houses in Florida were built before hurricane straps were invented, and we've been pretty fortunate to not get any direct hits in a while. Nevertheless, this is a pretty low-cost retrofit that will put your mind at ease and be out of sight.
Fill it up. Vintage houses tend to be a little light on the insulation, and as they settle over the years, they sometimes learn to breathe. Fortunately, they're doing amazing things these days with caulking and spray foam insulation.
Consider cuisine. Since the kitchen is still the heart of the home, give some attention to how well the older appliances and cabinets are functioning. There weren't as many gadgets around when these old houses were built, so consider what upgrades and renovations you'll want to make you really feel at home.
Skip to the loo. In addition to the sink, tub, tiles, and toilet, the bathroom does offer some other changes to consider. Each of the plumbing fixtures can be upgraded to include low-flow features to save on water, and like the kitchen, there's often room for improvement in cabinet space.
Bring on the color. Once the place is secure, smoothed out, updated, and leak-free, you'll find that a bit of color makes all of the difference. If you're fortunate, you may just find a place that will allow you to skip all of the previous steps and make it look like new with nothing more than a fresh coat of paint.
Feel out the floor. From terrazzo to hardwood, Sarasota vendors carry some pretty distinguishing floors. Restoring the original floors often adds character to the house, but there's a lot to be said for new tiles or hardwood flooring. Since this is your journey of restoration, ultimately, you get to decide what you want to walk on.
Be flexible. Old houses are sometimes ornery and stubborn, just like people, and restoring an old house doesn't always go according to whatever perfect plan you devise. The good news is that you're cherishing a piece of history, and however you and your vintage house finally work things out, it's commendable.
If you want to see examples of restored vintage homes to get some ideas of the possibilities, the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation is holding their 25th Annual Historic Home Tour in Laurel Park on Sunday, March 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. With a dozen homes on the tour through one of Sarasota's oldest neighborhoods, ranging from multi-family buildings to some that have been LEED certified, you'll see that there is a lot that can be done to bring a vintage home into the modern era with a bit of grace and ingenuity. For tickets and details, click here.
Julian Yates and Sarasota Property Finders specialize in vintage and historical homes. If you’d like to “meet” a vintage property in the Sarasota area, contact Sarasota Property Finders today.
Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist