FEATURED PROJECT: Modern Preservation at the John Hand Building

In a strange way, architecture is really an unfinished thing, because even though the building is finished, it takes on a new life. It becomes part of a new dynamic: how people will occupy it, use it, think about it. – Daniel Libeskind

There are plenty of approaches to rehabilitating a historic space. There’s the full-on restoration mode, for instance, versus modern transformation. The former may feel like a museum piece, though, or the latter stripped of its history. For the John Hand Building, we’ve done both. And neither. In short, we’ve created a modern home around the original elements.

The updated space is an homage to the building’s bones. Moving walls to create an open living space, for instance, left concrete channels through original hardwoods. We embraced the original flooring as an interesting feature. We patched small breaks in the existing plaster but left larger ones intact, creating areas of exposed brick and walls with artful edges. We opted out of a splashy kitchen vent hood, instead crafting one to blend into an existing steel beam. The original hallway of Alabama marble remains intact, its elegant finish accented by exposed plumbing and electrical.

Where we did install new things, we went modern, adding smooth surfaces and sleek lines. The metal kitchen cabinetry has integrated hardware. A built-in plyboo (bamboo plywood) shelving unit runs the width of the living and dining rooms. The piece is a stylish workhorse, separating communal space from the master suite and streamlining the function of multiple pieces into a single, stunning installation. Most importantly, we kept the layout open to focus on the home’s single greatest asset: panoramic views of Birmingham.

Click through for photos, and check out the before space here.