Things to Consider When Designing and Building Homes in Conservation Districts

Out with the old and in with the new! Actually, we’d like to keep some of the old, thank you very much. That’s why we’ve taken on the unique challenge of building and designing within conservation districts. (What is a conservation district you might ask? Like the Lakewood district in Dallas, they are established neighborhoods with certain parameters created to preserve and highlight the neighborhood’s significant architectural and cultural attributes).  When it comes to designing new-build homes in a conservation district, it can be intimidating to bring a home in the modern era to a well-kept, historically accurate neighborhood. But we love seeing the old and the new blended together to preserve both the architectural legacy of the area, as well as meet the expectations of our clients. That’s why we’ve outlined four things we always consider when it comes to designing and building homes in conservation districts.

1. Get to Know the Neighborhood

Building is like dating – you have to put in a little time and work to get to know someone to build a lasting relationship! For historic neighborhoods and conservation districts, we spend a large amount of time researching and understanding the area before we ever complete our first sketch. The character, the stories, the history, the architectural details, the street life, the current residents… it all is taken into account.  When we designed this home in the Northern Hills Conservation District of Dallas, we discovered that the neighborhood was incredibly social, which led us to design a front courtyard in this home that would allow for some socialization. Our vision was to create a timeless home that would blend in with the immense character of the homes in the district and contribute to the fabric, personality, and ongoing longevity of this unique neighborhood – all made possible by dedicated research done beforehand.

2. Get Creative with the Rules

Understanding the parameters of a conservation district is crucial. Not only do we want to know the rules to make sure we keep them, but we also want to be able to find ways to get creative with them! When designing this new-build Tudor home in the Lakewood neighborhood, we wanted to follow the rules but still craft a home that would stand out. For example, by installing huge windows on the second floor, we mimicked the look of a closed-in sleeper porch– something Dallas is famous for in their century-old homes. No rules were broken, but rather, they were kept in such a way that actually allowed us to flex a little more creativity and originality.

3. Pay Attention to Scale

It’s not always what’s allowed; it’s what actually makes a home shine. While some conservation districts allow for bigger specs, bigger doesn’t always equal better. Designing a home that complements the scale of the other homes, allows for a more positive pedestrian perspective of these protected neighborhoods. For another one of our homes in the historic Lakewood
neighborhood, we added a new addition to the 1931 home, while updating an addition that was made in the early 2000s. Aligning all of these additions to keep the home scalable to its neighborhood resulted in phenomenal curb appeal and interior beauty.

4. Try Something New

While we absolutely adore renovating and salvaging the old bones of the beautiful historic homes in these neighborhoods (like we did with this 1920s beauty in the Kessler Park Conservation District), it’s not always in the cards. Some of the most beautiful homes are, unfortunately, beyond reasonable repair or expansion from a financial standpoint. And sometimes, we’re lucky enough to find a virgin lot in a historic district like we did in Lakewood.  But regardless of if we are restoring the old or building the new – updates and newness don’t mean the end of the historical beauty of a conservation district. It just means it takes the right team, the right homeowners, and the right artistic collaboration to see beauty brought to life in away that honors the past and paves a way for the future.  At Maestri Studio – designing and building homes that fit into any historic or conservation district is our bread and butter. We are grateful to our phenomenal clients and the districts we’ve been thankful to build within. Our hard work has paid off, and it’s our honor to accept our third Paper City Design award for Historical Restoration/ Preservation. Explore the home we have received this award for this year at our Portfolio.