Matching old styles with new

The Kirkpatricks successfully mixed period details with glass elements. Here’s how to get this look. Bringing a period building into the 21st century while respecting its origins and features can be very rewarding. The key is to contrast old and new without either elements jarring – planning and research will pay dividends.

Harmonious blend

old houseIf you are renovating an old building from graze, there are a lot of ways to make an effect. Many successful conversions play on period features but still introduce contemporary notes. Attempt emphasising features that are unusual instead of covering them for example, making a double-peak living space exposed can bring attention to vaulted roofs, whereas lots of glass inside the type of interior walls can make comparison while helping sustain an open experience. Softly addressed beams can protect the conversion’s traditional nature, but modern and exposed brickwork, efficient kitchens will offer you a contemporary juxtaposition.

flooringConversions are often offbeat in size and shape, so try to be supple with your scheme and be prepared to alter your layout to suit the space. A semi-industrial approach can often work surprisingly well – consider stone wood or concrete flooring, as well as steel fittings,  to create a striking, modern note, hear in mind that if the building is listed, you won’t be able to alter its exterior or add any new external openings, but conservation officers are often more liberal with interior alterations.

Picture perfect

Breaking up a large expanse of solid structure, such as an external brick wall with an inset window is an effective way of lighting a space and maximising views. Modern innovations and design techniques have progressed to make this an environmentally practical option. But beware of incorporating glass ad hoe without thorough planning as the result could be an expensive, glare-filled, privacy-free home that is prone to overheating. Instead, outline what you are looking to achieve, as glass should be used to meet a specific purpose. What views do you want to take in? Will the orientation of the glazing mean that the sun will blind you all day? How would you like the space to be viewed from outside? Are there problems with overlooking neighbouring buildings? The answer to these questions will define the correct approach for you.

Keep in mind that staircases and glass walls can be a successful internal system, too, specially, when compared against original brickwork making links between locations which can be otherwise divided, in addition to permitting an elevated circulation of sunshine.

Professional advice

Whether for a major extension or modest refurbishment, glass can define how a house feels and operates. Technological advancements have pushed the material further than before, prompting us to see glass in a new light.

The main purpose of glass is, of course, to allow light in and views out, but these days it can offer more functionality than ever. Double and triple-glazed floor-to-ceiling panels allow a blurring of the boundary between inside and outside, connecting us with nature without bringing hostile weather indoors.


The glass is an effective tool in creating extensions on period properties, as well as getting them through planning. It creates a clear difference between the old and the new, while its lucidity allows the original building to stand out and be estimated. Subtle introductions of glass internally can also make space feel larger and brighter, without requiring drastic changes to the house.

As with all design, the success of glass will always be specific to a house’s site and existing context. For measured advice, visit an architect.

Expert eye: ‘Don’t be afraid to go for a brave approach. For example, sleek glass box extensions can mix amazingly well with a period property. But do be respectful of your home’s unique and original features, as it’s important that they all work well together’.

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