Expert Interview: Diane Foreman of Neil Kelly on Historical Renovations

Posted by Paige Thomas ~ February 26, 2009

For today's Expert Interview I was lucky enough to get responses from Diane Foreman, a designer for Neil Kelly Design/Build, one of the most respected and recognized home improvement companies in Portland. She'll be giving us some insight on her expertise: historical renovations.

Portland is home to lovely old bungalows and houses that many design/build companies in the area pride themselves on restoring. There is nothing like restoring an old home to it's orginal statuesque beauty.

Diane Foreman, CKD, a national award-winning kitchen, bath and residential interior designer, moved to Portland from a long-established Seattle area practice to join Neil Kelly Design/Build Remodeling as part of the firm's design team.

A graduate of the UCLA School of Interior Design, Foreman has won first place honors in several national kitchen and bath design competitions and has earned the James M. Foster award for overall best in competition by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). She is a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer.

(Kitchen Before Neil Kelly Renovation)

Foreman credits "an ability to listen" as key to successful remodeling projects. "Good design is a collaborative process between client and designer," she noted. "A skilled designer will listen, ask questions, and then focus on reaching the highest realization of a client's needs."

Her work has been published in Northwest regional publications, as well as national industry and consumer magazines, including "Kitchen and Bath Business," "Remodeler," "Woman's Day" and "American Homes and Lifestyles." She has served as a design competition judge for the Olympia Master Builders Association and in a variety of posts as a board member of the NKBA's Puget Sound Chapter.

(After Neil Kelly Historic Remodel)

With all of Diane's expereince and recognition, she's a great expert to have answer questions for us. Continue on to read about why Diane thinks older home are so great, how to being planning your own renovation, and some hints on where to find period remodeling materials.

1. Starting the renovation of an old home can seem daunting, where do you recommend planning should start?

I think the first decision is what is the desired end result? A museum quality restoration or a living home? If you look around most old houses, you will find design elements from more than one period. The home has evolved over time whether for the good or in many case, not for the good. If the choice is for a living home, ie a respectful renovation that honors the home's period architecture while updating it for a modern lifestyle, I would recommend starting with the home's most complex rooms; the kitchen and baths. I recommend starting planning at least six months in advance of when construction is to start.

2. What are some of the most common problems that occur during a renovation that homeowners might not have foreseen?

Lath and Plaster shattering. Outdated building practices inadequate to present day standards. Prior remodels that may have impacted the structural integrity of the home.

3. What are some of the advantages of renovating an old home versus buying a brand new one?

If you love period architecture, there is no greater joy than restoring one of these treasures to their former glory. It also affords you the opportunity to design the home to your own needs rather than buying someone else's dream.

4. What are your favorite features of older homes that you no longer see in new homes?

Incredible mouldings, wonderful details, history.

5. What materials and resources do you recommend to homeowners doing historic home renovations?

Many companies specialize in reproduction fixtures, wallpapers, custom moldings. Rejuvenation is a great resource. Kohler has brought back designs from the 30's in their line of bath fixtures. A good website is

6. If you had one piece of advice for a homeowner starting their own renovation what would it be?

Hire a good designer with a strong knowledge of architectural and decorative art history. Hire a general contractor known for quality craftsmanship and attention to detail such as the Neil Kelly Company.

Again, thanks to Diane for taking the time to lend her knowledge on this subject!

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