How Mixing Old and New Adds Complexity and Interest to Architecture

Lisa Elkins of 2 Point Perspective Architecture + Interiors explains how combining classic and modern elements can bring nuance to your home’s design.

When Lisa Elkins co-founded 2 Point Perspective Inc. with her husband Ron in 2006, it was a true passion project. Over the past 13 years, the Chicago-based full-service architecture and interior design firm has helped a variety of clients transform their spaces through a wide range of services—including updating historic residences with touches of modernity. “Strategically mixing ‘old and new’ adds complexity and interest to any project,” Elkins told ESTATENVY.

Elkins pointed to European design as the gold standard for this blending of styles. After all, the continent is rife with well-preserved historic architecture. “In Europe, you’ll see a 400-year-old home with modern furnishings, modern art and bright pops of color. It looks fantastic,” she said.

In her own right, Elkins has been mixing such elements “across the pond” for years. “In our first condo in San Francisco, we had these Edwardian crown moldings, so we punched them up with a lime green accent wall and sleek, modern furnishings,” she said.

Elkins also specializes in transitional design, a cleaned-up version of older aesthetics. “Transitional pieces are historic, but with a contemporary bent,” she explained. “They’re a slightly simpler version; a nod to history without being historically accurate.”

As far as modern architecture trends to keep an eye on, open floor plans are more popular than ever. Open spaces feel much bigger, so smaller homes particularly benefit from this modern layout. “The tiny house movement did a great job of taking advantage of open plans,” Elkins noted, adding opening up a home’s interior can work wonders for updating older structures.

At 2 Point Perspective, each open-layout renovation is planned on a case-by-case basis as the team decides which elements can be retained and what needs to go. Elkins said major elements like historic staircases can usually be salvaged, but older flooring and crown moldings must often be replaced. That being said, scrapping crown molding entirely can instantly add a more modern look.

“When we decide to keep molding while opening up the floor plan, we’ll keep offsets on the ceiling so that the molding remains intact. We’ll decide where the rooms will be based on that, but open up those rooms at eye level,” explained Elkins.

Kitchens and bathrooms are one arena where modernity wins out across the board. “No one wants to go back to a time when functionality was second in those rooms,” laughed Elkins. “People get excited about cleaning up outdated spaces in order to align them with their real-life needs—like installing multiple bathroom sinks. A lot of people are also doing outdoor kitchens these days, with modern built-in grills and countertops.”

Elkins said that the key to mixing the old with the new is selecting high-quality products while remaining thoughtfully consistent. For example, installing a cohesive set of floor colors and styles throughout the home will make the renovation feel like it was completed at once.

“If you have an antique bedroom suite handed down by a family member, blend in a few pieces of similar-era furniture throughout the house, as well as a few modern pieces in that bedroom,” said Elkins. “Otherwise, it will feel like you’ve walked into a room that hasn’t been updated in 100 years.”

If your residence’s architecture is already more on the current side, you’ve got a bulletproof excuse to go antiquing. Incorporating high-quality historic elements in unexpected ways will automatically add an imaginative, modern flair to your space.

“We once installed five different old school doors onto a sliding track to act as a screen between two spaces,” said Elkins. “The client was actually a teacher, so it was perfect. One of the doors even said ‘Principal’s Office’ on the glass. It was a quirky, cool element, and a fun way to bring in history in a modern way.”

When it comes to mixing today with yesterday, it all comes down to creating a space you’ll love returning home to every day.

“If you’re excited,” said Elkins, “Then that’s the right answer.”