Built in 1922, the Orlando, Fla., home was located a few blocks from the city's historic section. The homeowners wanted to add modern conveniences and decor, yet retain the home's original look and feel. They tapped Victor Farina, president of Farina and Sons, in Orlando, to find a way to mesh these goals. Farina, in turn, called an interior designer experienced in historic renovations.

Victor Farina, of Farina and Sons, taps the expertise of period consultants when remodeling older homes such as this one.
Credit: Everett & Soule Victor Farina, of Farina and Sons, taps the expertise of period consultants when remodeling older homes such as this one.

Farina worked closely with the interior designer to come up with a plan for the home, which needed an updated kitchen, new interior finishes, and complete electrical rewiring. Stone in two fireplaces was removed, refurbished, and reinstalled; a master bathroom was renovated; terra-cotta tile was replaced either with wood flooring or tile flooring with slate-like inlays; and all doors, windows, and trim were stripped and finished with a lighter stain.

“Previous owners were pretty aggressive with plaster techniques and other elements, and changed more things than they should have,” says Farina, who often works on historic homes, which make up about 20% to 25% of the company's annual sales. He says this project was the largest his company has tackled so far.

And although historic guidelines don't apply to interiors, Farina still finds value in working with a period consultant who can recommend ways to retain a structure's integrity and beauty. When the homes require exterior work, he collaborates with consultants and Orlando's historic board to ensure that all work complies with guidelines — which, it seems, aren't always up-to-date or realistic.

“Historic boards weren't around in the 1950s or 1960s, during which time these homes were renovated without much oversight,” Farina says. He and the consultant often pore over old photos to identify elements such as arched transom windows that could be reintroduced to help restore a home's original character.

Farina advises remodelers to ask builders associations, contractors, architects, and interior designers for referrals when seeking historic consultants. He sees real value in taking that extra step to ensure that the project outcome satisfies both the owner and the historic board. “It really helps to have someone who knows their stuff,” Farina says, “and [who can] give their stamp of approval during the process.”