View the details of our historic Houston Heights renovation plans with this exterior walk-around video

Exterior Review Video of this Houston Heights Historic remodel and additions project.

Designing a major remodel or additions in one of Houston Historic Districts

Designing a major remodel or additions to a home is always a challenge. Aas you have to take into consideration the existing structure, the land & trees associated with the property and some times it just makes sense to start over and build new. When designing a major remodel or addition to a property in one of Houstons Historic Districts starting over is not an option for a “Contributing Structure”.

When we get a call for a property in one of Houston Historic Districts, most notably the Houston Heights, Norhill, Woodland Heights or Westmoreland. Our starting point is to visit the City of Houston Historic Preservation Manual and the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission ( HAHC) web site to look for any new amendments or change to the design guidelines.

Architectural design review process for working with a home in one of Houstons Historic Districts

The first step is to determine whether the property we are designing the remodel for is located within one Houstons Historic Districts. The design guideline is complete with maps of these areas and shows us whether the property is a contributing structure or a noncontributing structure within the historic district.

If the property is a contributing structure they give a guide to identify the scope of your project and how to proceed. Typically if the project involves any of the items from the list below and is a contributing structure we will need to seek a certificate of appropriateness from the HAHC.

Identify the scope of your project. (from the Historic Preservation Manual – web site)

Review the list and determine which best describes your project.

  • Alteration means any change to the exterior of a building, structure, object or site. Alteration shall include, but is not limited to, replacing historic material; changing to a different kind, type or size of roofing or siding materials or foundation; changing, eliminating, or adding exterior doors, door frames, windows, window frames, shutters, railings, columns, beams, walls, porches, steps, porte-cocheres, balconies, signs attached to the exterior of a building, or ornamentation; or the dismantling, moving or removing of any exterior feature. Alteration includes expanding an existing structure or the construction of an addition to an existing structure. Alteration includes the painting of unpainted masonry surfaces. Alteration does not include ordinary maintenance and repair or the addition or replacement of fences that are not otherwise regulated by this article.
  • Rehabilitation means the act or process of returning a building, structure, object or site to a state of utility that makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions or exterior features that are historically, architecturally and culturally significant.
  • Restoration means the act or process of accurately recovering the form and details of a building, structure, object or site and its setting as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of later work, or by the replacement of missing earlier work or both.
  • New Construction means a free-standing building or structure proposed to be constructed within a historic district designated by city council, whether that building or structure is on the location of a vacant lot or a lot with another structure on it.
  • Relocation means any change in the location of a building, structure or object.
  • Demolition means an act or process that destroys, in whole or in part, or permanently impairs the structural integrity of any building, structure, object or site. The term also includes demolition by neglect, which is defined as inaction or a series of inactions that result in the destruction or irreversible deterioration of a building, structure, object, or site.

When the home or remodel we are designing falls in the categories above we look to the Historic Preservation Design Guidelines. A 171-page document, that is a comprehensive guide to what can be done with a property while persevering its historic significance.

Remodeling designs that preserve the historic significance

The challenge lies within negotiating what the client wants in their new home and what the guide restricts us from doing. But, what I have found is that most of our clients respect the guide and want to live in the home that can preserve its historic significance. 

We love the challenge and the results.