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10 Ways to Modernize a Traditional Style Home

February 8th, 2024

By Sofia Alonso

4 min read

Renovating a home is a journey that transforms a living space, infusing it with new life and modern flair. This transformation can range from simple aesthetic updates to comprehensive structural overhauls, each with its unique challenges and rewards.

For homeowners looking to modernize a traditional-style home, understanding the distinction between cosmetic and structural renovations is crucial. These renovations not only enhance the visual appeal and functionality of a home but also can significantly increase its value. 

As architects and builders with over 20 years of experience designing and building homes for clients in Northern Virginia, we put together this article to explain the pathways to modernization through both cosmetic upgrades and structural changes, providing a roadmap for homeowners interested in modern renovation.

Cosmetic vs Structural Renovations: What’s the Difference?

Cosmetic renovations focus on updating the aesthetics of your home without altering its foundational structure. These changes can significantly impact the look and feel of your space, making it more contemporary and aligned with modern design trends. These updates, while primarily aesthetic, can profoundly impact the overall feel of your home, making it appear more modern and inviting.

When a cosmetic upgrade isn't enough to achieve the desired modernization, structural renovations come into play. These renovations are more complex, involving significant changes to the home's layout, structure, or mechanical systems. They require careful planning, a clear vision, and often, the guidance of professionals. 

Here are 10 ways you can modernize your traditional home without impacting the structure:


1. Simplifying Trim and Molding

Traditional homes often feature ornate crown moldings, base trims, and wainscoting, which, while elegant, can make spaces feel dated. Removing these elements or replacing them with simpler, more squared-off versions can instantly modernize a room. This shift towards minimalism can also make spaces feel larger and more open.

1Y1A6540AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Inside Out Home, Photography by Tina Krohn

2. Updating Doorways and Entrances

Arched doorways are a hallmark of colonial and traditional designs. By squaring off these arches, you can give your home a cleaner, more contemporary look. This modification not only updates the appearance but also aligns with modern architectural styles that favor straight lines and angular forms.

MACKENZIE-AvArch-TacomaHouse-16Selections-16AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Solar House, Photography by Maxwell Mackenzie


3. Cabinets and Countertops

The kitchen and bathrooms are focal points in any home renovation project. For cabinets, consider sanding, repainting, and replacing hardware instead of a complete overhaul to maintain the original layout while refreshing the look. Upgrading countertops, alongside new sinks and faucets, can modernize these spaces without extensive changes to the plumbing or layout.

MACKENZIE-AvArch-TacomaHouse-16Selections-14AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Solar House, Photography by Maxwell Mackenzie


4. Appliance Updates

Replacing appliances with modern, energy-efficient models can significantly update the look and functionality of your kitchen. Ensure that new appliances fit the existing spaces, or you may need minor carpentry adjustments. 

14_1Y1A5567AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Woodlands House, Photography by Tina Krohn


5. Bathroom Updates

A fresh coat of paint on cabinets, new lighting fixtures, and updated faucets can transform a dated bathroom into a modern retreat. Consider replacing the toilet for an instant facelift.

1Y1A6655AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Inside Out Home, Photography by Tina Krohn


6. Lighting and Color Scheme

Modern homes often feature less ornate lighting fixtures, opting instead for recessed LED lighting, strip lighting, and under-cabinet lights to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Repainting walls and ceilings in neutral, subtle colors can unify the home's color scheme, offering a monochromatic look that enhances the sense of space.

MACKENZIE-AV-ALONSO-30 FINALS-3_1AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Architects House, Photography by Maxwell Mackenzie


7. Flooring Consistency

Maintaining uniform flooring throughout the house is key to achieving a modern, cohesive look. Hardwood floors are a popular choice for their timeless appeal and ease of maintenance. If a complete replacement isn’t feasible, consider refinishing existing hardwood floors to match.

MACKENZIE-AV-AdHoc-29-EditAV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Inside Out Home, Photography by Maxwell Mackenzie


8. Roof and Windows

Modernizing the exterior can be as simple as replacing the shingles with a darker color or opting for a metal roof. For windows, consider removing mullions for a cleaner look or replacing windows without altering the openings for a straightforward cosmetic upgrade.

MACKENZIE-AV-ArchBuild-AdHoc-FinalAV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Inside Out Home, Photography by Maxwell Mackenzie


9. Exterior Materials

Painting brick or applying a cementitious coating can update the exterior without significant structural changes. Ensure any modifications comply with local HOA regulations.

IMG_0032-EditAV Architects + Builders, Virginia, Main Level Living Home, Photography by Best Side Story Media


10. Front Door

Replacing your front door with a design featuring more glass and less ornate molding can significantly enhance your home's curb appeal.

Photo (7)AV Architects + Builders, Virginia, The Angle House, Photography by Sean O'Rourke

Do You Still Want More Modernization?

Consider a structural renovation…structural changes can dramatically alter the functionality of a home, adapting it to new lifestyles and needs. Whether it's creating an open-concept living area, adding a new bathroom, or reconfiguring the kitchen, structural renovations can turn a traditional home into a modern masterpiece.


Examples of Structural Renovation Changes

Kitchen and Bathroom Overhauls: Completely redoing kitchens and bathrooms to improve layout and functionality can modernize the core areas of your home. This might include installing modern features like open shelving, walk-in pantries, or large, frameless showers.

Room Reconfigurations: Removing walls to create open floor plans or adding new rooms can transform the flow and utility of your home. For instance, converting a half bath into a full bath or adding a second laundry room enhances both value and livability.

Ceiling and Window Modifications: Raising ceiling heights or enlarging window and door openings can introduce more light and make spaces feel larger and more welcoming.

Infrastructure Updates: Upgrading outdated electrical wiring, plumbing, or insulation is essential for safety and efficiency. Though not visible, these changes are crucial for modernizing an older home.

Structural renovations are a more significant undertaking than cosmetic updates, but offer the most potential for profound transformations that can redefine the entire character of a home.

How to Modernize a Traditional Home with Modern Renovation

Renovating a traditional-style home to reflect modern aesthetics and functionality is a delicate balance between maintaining its character and introducing contemporary elements. As we've explored, this transformation can be achieved through a variety of cosmetic and structural renovations, from simplifying interior trims to undertaking comprehensive room reconfigurations.

If you're contemplating modernizing your traditional home, the next step is to partner with a team that understands your vision and has the expertise to bring it to life. AV Architects + Builders is dedicated to creating customized renovation plans that blend seamlessly with your home's original charm while introducing modern functionality and style. From initial concept to final execution, our team works closely with you to ensure that every detail reflects your personal taste and meets your lifestyle needs. 

AV Architects + Builders offers a Modern Renovation service tailored for homeowners who desire a modern-style home without leaving their current location, neighborhood, and community. This service is the ideal solution for transforming traditional-style homes into modern masterpieces.

It encompasses architectural and structural changes, aimed at revamping the home to give it a fresh, contemporary look. This approach allows homeowners to enjoy the benefits of modern living, including open floor plans, natural light, and a connection to the outdoors, while retaining the aspects of their current home and location that they love. AV Architects + Builders' Modern Renovation service is perfect for those looking to modernize their living space without the need for relocation.


9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065