Creative Reuse: 12 Before & After Projects That Repurpose Old Buildings Into Inspired New Homes

Creative Reuse: 12 Before & After Projects That Repurpose Old Buildings Into Inspired New Homes

By Melissa Dalton
From the neighborhood bodega to a dilapidated motorcycle shop, these once disused buildings were given a new life, thanks to imaginative renovations.

Rather than demolish, these designers use neglected and forgotten architecture as a springboard for creative solutions. 

A Rundown Bodega in Chicago Is Reimagined Into a Vibrant Live/Work Space

Starting with an abandoned bodega on a Chicago corner, Matt Nardella and Laura Crip of moss Design Studio transformed the rundown building into a 6,000-square-foot complex called Logan Certified. The new space includes moss's design studio and offices, a showroom, a furniture and art gallery, as well as a personal apartment and a rental apartment. There's even a private courtyard with a custom pizza oven.

Before: "We created a courtyard by carving out a portion of the building," the architect says. 

After: "The studio and the showroom share the courtyard, and the large windows bring in plenty of natural light and warmth during the winter," says the firm. "To reinforce the nature-in-the-city feel, we installed cedar siding, as well as a custom wood-burning pizza oven, which is perfect for entertaining. The base of the oven is constructed from bricks that were salvaged during demolition." 

A St. Louis Architect Builds a Perfect Party Pad Over a Brownfield

St. Louis architect William G. McCuen, Jr. passed a neglected midcentury gas station on the corner on his daily commute for eight years. Whereas neighbors saw an eyesore, McCuen saw potential. "It appealed to me that it was just so pathetic. Every time I’d pass it, I’d think, 'Man, that would just be a great house’," says McCuen.

McCuen converted the former brownfield into a three-bedroom home, perfect for large family get togethers and aging in place.

Before: The high-ceilinged service bay would become the home for the main living spaces.

After: The industrial accents were kept at the ceiling in a nod to its past. The city required interior insulation to fulfill code, which meant McCuen was unable to expose the more rough, industrial texture on the walls.

A Melbourne Pub Is Recast as a Funky Home

Ioa Studio revamped a 150-year-old pub with a funky layout into a warm and cozy home, using curved surfaces, textural elements, and a bright color scheme.

Before: The area that would be the kitchen, before the pub was converted into a home.

After: Pink-toned terrazzo tile counters and a backsplash and olive green-painted cabinetry enlivens the kitchen, where the designers created open shelving using leftover plywood from the mezzanine ceiling panels.

A Brick Engine House Becomes an Airy Abode in England

In 2014, Sandy Suffield bought a 100-year-old Victorian utility building in the English town of Bury St. Edmunds, then worked with designer and friend Michael Corsar to give the building a new life as her personal residence. The pair saved many elements of the original building that spoke to its history, such as the ceiling rafters and exterior brickwork, while modernizing it and gently expanding the footprint.

Before the renovation. 

After: When designer Michael Corsar converted a late Victorian utility building in Suffolk
into a home for his friend Sandy Suffield, he kept the charming features, like the 17-foot ceilings, while making the space habitable after years of neglect. Deben Joinery built the kitchen cabinetry. The vintage Optima pendants are by Danish designer Hans Due.

A Former Motorcycle Shop Roars to Life as a Breezy Home on Mallorca

In order to transform a 990-square-foot motorcycle shop into a two-bedroom, two-bath home, Spanish architect Mariana de Delás first thought about the home's connection to the street. "As the existing ground-floor access door created a very violent connection between the road and the studio, it was essential to integrate an intermediate buffer garden area," says the firm.

Before: View through the shop to the former street entry, which previously only had an industrial roll-up door.

After: "This garden buffer area serves as a way to get light inside and also act as an acoustic and privacy barrier from the street," says the firm.

An Abandoned Schoolhouse in New Orleans Now Holds Chic Apartments

The derelict McDonough School #30 sat empty in New Orleans’ Third Ward for decades, and would have been lost to time, if not for a recent renovation by Rome Office. Now, the former classrooms in the 1894 Victorian building contain minimalist apartments, their facilities (such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry) pulled from the external walls into "boxes for living," so as to preserve as much of the exterior character as possible. 

Before: McDonough #30 in 2016, pre-renovation. "I think what's great about New Orleans is that the history of its buildings are important to everybody here," says Melissa Rome, one of two principals of Rome Office. "They have a lot of great collections for you to find historic photos of whatever building you're working on."

After: "We wanted to restore the missing components back to their 1890s original form, while inserting additive elements that would transform a schoolhouse with classrooms into a building for apartments and modern day living," says Brian Rome, the principal of Rome Office.

A Brick Church in Quebec Becomes a Resonant Home

A construction business run by a married couple, Constructions Boivin in Quebec, teams up with family to redesign a large historic church into a comfortable home, even keeping the bell tower and organ in place. 

"Even after the transformation, we still feel the original acoustic in the building," says the owner. "It is majestic…The sound of the bell makes the villagers smile, and the sound of the organ makes the whole building vibrate, and there’s the incredible impression of living in a building that will last forever." 

Before: The layout of the entrance was maintained, including the lancet-style windows that flank the front doors, but this door now accesses the backyard.

After: Now, vertical strips of wood from American tulip trees accentuate the height of the entry wall and surrounds the new backyard access, with glass that mimics the window shapes on either side. The ropes are in place to ring the bell in the tower.

An Old Equipment Room Is Reborn as a Modern Penthouse

This space in a high-rise in the Ukraine had terrific bones, such as 20-foot-ceilings and full-height windows with 180-degree views, but had been underutilized as an equipment room. A renovation by the Kiev–based architecture and design studio recasts it as a stylish penthouse.

Before: The floors were replaced but the dramatic windows were retained.

After: Now, the windows are artfully highlighted with black paint.  

A Car Shop in San Francisco Is Reborn as an Artist’s Loft, Gallery, and Studio

After buying a 1923 auto repair garage in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood in 2011, Klari Reis and Michael Isard spent five years renovating it for the ultimate work-life balance, turning it into an art studio, gallery, and home. 

Before: The garage’s condition was such that only its concrete walls and beams could be salvaged. It would take five years to transform the 9,000-square-foot, two-level structure.

After: Wood beams and concrete walls emerge from cutaways in the drywall, revealing the building’s industrial skeleton. The custom steel-and-oak dining table is by Ohio Design.

A Derelict Cottage and Dairy Stable Become a Sleek Family Compound

In Melbourne, Robson Rak Architects reconstruct a decrepit cottage and dairy stable as a family compound, connecting the two with a modern glass addition and internal courtyard.

Before: Much of the window and door pattern on the original dairy stables was kept.

After: The rehabilitated stables building now houses a family room, garage, and several bedrooms, and easily connects to the central courtyard.

A Converted Office in NYC Ditches Bland Interiors for Brick and Steel

In an 1869 building in New York City’s Financial District, drab office fittings like dropped ceilings and a bland kitchen obscured dramatic city views and a top-notch brick and steel shell. When tasked with transforming the unit into a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, StudioKCA asked: "How much can you peel away to get at the essence of what was once there?"

Before: Drywall covered the black steel supports at the ceiling.

After: The firm used the steel to demarcate different areas in the new home. Glass-and-steel-framed walls now enclose the master bedroom, and an office nook with built-in storage is tucked off the primary circulation paths. The firm designed the custom bed platform; it’s white oak with a smoked finish.

A Ramshackle Barn in Northern California Becomes a Family’s Rural Retreat

In a thoughtful remodel from Faulkner Architects, an old barn with a dirt floor becomes a well-appointed guesthouse, complete with a dreamy screened porch and its original framing. 

"Everyone loves the idea of inhabiting a barn," Faulkner says. "But what generally happens is, the very things that make it a barn are diminished by the things that make it a house, like small windows and overhangs. Our tack was to return it to its barn vocabulary and stay away from elements that don’t contribute to that concept." 

Before: The tack barn was originally 936 square feet. The redesign created an 839-square-foot living space connected to a 107-square-foot screened porch.

After: The barn’s original framing was kept for its agricultural character. Faulkner Architects applied an exterior envelope of salvaged redwood and added a Cor-Ten steel roof that will patina over time.


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