Floor Plans & New Interior Walls

Floor Plans

Floor plans are very important in defining historic character. The wide variety of plans, from domestic to commercial to institutional, are indicative of historic use and overall style. Parlors, hallways, offices, classrooms, auditoriums and public spaces all contribute to the character of their respective building types and should be retained in a preservation project. Historic plan treatment is extremely important and we encourage early consultation with our office while the project is in the planning stages.

Hierarchical Approach

The appropriateness of interior changes can be analyzed by using a hierarchical approach that "ranks" the significance of spaces in a building. In residential buildings, there are usually "private" and "public" spaces, reflecting the need for formal functional areas and private individual living spaces. For example, there are often stair halls and parlors on the main floor, and bedrooms, closets and service areas on upper floors or in rear areas. In institutional buildings, the distinctions are not so clear, since the entire building could have been meant for "public" uses. Even in these however, there is a hierarchy in areas such as main hallways, classrooms, auditoriums, and smaller offices, storage and mechanical areas.

The "public" areas should be treated carefully because they often convey the essential historic character of the building. If the historic plan is largely or wholly intact, plan changes should be largely limited to secondary, non-significant areas. Character defining "public" areas should be retained: the proposed use, program and plan should not alter the primary existing historic plan. There may be features or materials, such as woodwork, doors and mantels, however, that should be treated carefully even in those areas.

New Interior Walls & Related Demolition

Historic rehabilitation may require some new construction and limited amounts of demolition. This work should take place at secondary or non-significant spaces and areas to minimize its impact. New interior work should be compatible with the existing historic character. Exact duplication of historic materials and elements is discouraged to avoid confusion between historic and new.

Where new walls or other partitions are planned, an appropriate approach is to use new trim and woodwork matching the historic in scale, material, and general profile. Demolition should be kept to a minimum, and limited to secondary areas or areas of extreme deterioration. Since this always involves the removal of historic material, it should be considered carefully and planned to have the least possible impact on the historic building.