Preservation Architecture

The design-build team discusses the renovation and expansion of this classic home.

The design-build team discusses the renovation and expansion of this classic home.



QUINCY, ILLINOIS HAS SEVERAL HISTORIC DISTRICTS which display the architecture of the city’s rich history. Known as the Gem City, Quincy’s earliest days of development include a remarkable number of pre-Civil War buildings that exist today. Many Federal and Greek Revival style homes and commercial structures built as early as the 1830s can be found in and around the core of the city’s Downtown Historic District. A strong preservation ethic has helped to maintain these brick, stone and timber gems for generations to come.

Preservation architecture involves keeping a structure from being destroyed and at the same time, seeing to it that the structure is not irredeemably altered or changed. Preservation projects should be flexible, allowing the architect and designers to preserve what is unique and irreplaceable while bringing the building up to modern safety and accessibility standards. There is also a survival of the fittest mentality inherent in preservation projects, protecting not just the beauty of a space, but also the neighborhood and cultural aspects that have occurred over time where events have shaped shared history.

Preserving an older home places additional layers of responsibility on decisions regarding materials and the final appearance, in addition to retaining the maximum amount of original building fabric. Case in point, a gorgeous turn-of-the-century brick-clad home in Quincy, where a dedicated team of design-build colleagues collaborated in a preservation and expansion project that retained the essence of the original design while interlacing newer methodologies to ensure the building’s longevity.

I recently caught up with architect David Schaub, interior designer Heather Helms, and technology designer Jamie Briesemeister to talk about their shared experience on this wonderful project.




Director of Interior Design


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DOUG: Take us back to the beginning and walk us through the project.

DAVID: I was first approached by the owners who said they had an opportunity to buy an old house from a long-time friend of the husband’s father. The husband said he had lots of memories of the house from growing up and he wanted to preserve the essence of the space, as well as add a substantial addition. His vision was to honor the old, yet upgrade and update for his younger family.

Our challenge was that knowing the addition was going to be substantial, we wanted to preserve the street presence and fit in with the other homes in the area. The spaces needed to feel comfortable for a single family, but be large enough to accommodate frequent large parties of 100 people or more and we needed to make a 120-year-old home more efficient for the owner, all while preserving as much of the original detail and character of the original residence.

HEATHER: This project was unique in that we inherited not just a house, but a historic home. It was important to honor the history while updating it to meet the functional needs of a modern, active family. A family that entertains and hosts large groups, regularly. The importance of creating clearly defined public and private spaces was essential when considering the addition and the flow between these spaces.

JAMIE: Plus, with an active family lifestyle, we knew it meant there were going to be technical wants and wishes that didn’t even exist when the home was built, like internet connectivity, whole-house audio and video distribution and indoor/outdoor lighting control with convenient lifestyle-based scenes, all intuitive and accessible via mobile devices.

DAVID: I think it was important to get all of us in on the project as early as we did, because not only was it important for Heather to be involved with our design discussions, but the family was technology forward and hiding technology in plain sight was something we knew Jamie and her team could do best.

From my perspective, preserving a beautiful big brick house built in 1904 was a great experience. We began by going through and measuring everything from top to bottom. From an energy management perspective, there was no insulation and the windows were definitely in need of replacement. So we furrowed out the walls and used close cell spray foam for insulation and also for acoustic attenuation to dampen noise between adjacent rooms.

We also employed geothermal heating and cooling, which a lot of people do in this area of the country. Partly because electric companies offer rebates and there are tax credits in certain areas.

And finally, from an energy management perspective, we replaced all of the original windows which made a huge difference.

"I loved this project because we had to figure out how to accommodate the preservation aspects of the design, while also delivering cutting edge technology that happily resides behind the walls."

Jamie Briesemeister

JAMIE: Part of our task was to ensure that the entire property had an excellent wired and wireless network so the family could stream content and have connectivity across the span of the home and outdoor locations. In the original 4,000 square foot section of the home, the walls were 13 inches thick and had metal work embedded that was so thick that it turned individual rooms into Faraday cages — no wireless in/out! However, with a great backbone of network wiring and fiber, we placed wireless access points to ensure wireless connectivity where it was needed most. Part of a great wireless design is to also design a wired infrastructure, thus televisions and streaming sources such as Roku or Apple TV are hard-connected to allow the highest possible signal strength when needed.

This network design also included a separate backbone where audio and video distribution took place, utilizing what we call A/V over IP (audio video over internet protocol). That way, family members could enjoy what they wanted to watch or listen to in the room of their choice, with no latency between rooms – or across the property grounds.

DAVID: That process of getting cabling around the original house was amazing!

JAMIE: Yeah, it was crazy. I have to give accolades to the electrician, however. While this can be a challenging relationship at times, the electrician on this project was highly collaborative and ran most of the cabling needed for the low-voltage systems in the home. Given that this project was over two hours away from our office, their collaboration was key to reduced costs and efficient work, especially since this house was completed during the pandemic.

The electricians had a major job to do in the original part of the home. They removed most of the floor on the second story to access the first floor instead of trying to drill between rooms on the first floor. This was to preserve the first floor original plasterwork.


HEATHER: The motorized draperies in the great room are another example of how modern technology and function came together. These were not a part of the initial scope. The windows in this area are beautiful and cased to perfection with no immediate privacy concerns, so the original intent was to let those be. However, after the homeowners had the benefit of being in the built space, during construction, it became clear the ability to manage the amount of light during certain parts of the day was needed. And, with the number of windows and size of the space they were not interested in walking around manually closing and opening them. I was familiar with Lutron motorization but found the hardware to be too modern. Jamie saved the day with the JL Anthony recommendation. This allowed us to utilize the motorization from Lutron while pairing it with a JL Anthony decorative wrap that gave us the traditional look we were interested in.


DOUG: Tell us a little about how the spaces were lit and how you managed audio and video distribution without impacting the historical design.

HEATHER: Adequate lighting is a key to any successful interior project. It was important to make sure each room had layers of lighting that could be utilized throughout the day and night to provide the amount and type of lighting when needed. It helped that the homeowners love chandeliers and wanted them everywhere! These were then supported by recessed can lights and task lighting. A great example of the task lighting can be found in the Christopher Peacock cabinetry in the kitchen and bar. The real trick was how to manage the lighting and how to give the family a few scenes, perhaps daytime task lighting versus entertainment lighting – without exposing the technology. And that’s where Jamie really came through with a solution she discovered from a colleague in her industry.

JAMIE: Forbes and Lomax. Oh, I remember when I first saw their wall plates! F&L is a company out of the UK and they have a beautiful, classic, ‘old-world’ style of wall plates for toggle, push-button and rotary dimmers that can interface with the Lutron lighting control system we specified. With these in place, we were able to set lifestyle scenes, such as “entertainment,” where the family flips a switch and the whole house goes into entertainment mode.

HEATHER: And the solutions for whole-house audio were also incredible.

JAMIE: Thank you. It was great to use invisible speakers in these classic spaces. Where there were chandeliers, the design didn’t allow for any in-ceiling downlight fixtures or visible speaker grills, which made for a perfect match when the room called for music. In these spaces, the family can enjoy music, without compromising the design goals.

HEATHER: And can we please talk about The Frame TVs from Samsung? I could not be a bigger fan! These were utilized in the owner’s suite and also the bar. While The Frame in the bedroom is a perfect place to display family photos, the bar is an opportunity to personalize their special events and tailor the images to their guests. It is always such an unexpected touch that makes a big impact.


DOUG: Take us outside and around the grounds.

DAVID: One of the first impactful designs of the original house was the entry porch. The original house has limestone trim that were belt sawn with horizontal grooves, but the entire porch had fallen into disrepair and needed replacement. So we rebuilt the porch and had the quarry where we sourced the limestone replicate the belt sawn grooves and we carried that design feature to the new addition and used it around the entire breadth of the residence.

While I sighted the new addition and designed the footprint of the house and pool house, we brought in a landscape architect to design the driveway and pathways.

Another indoor/outdoor aspect I thought was really cool was how we turned the large garage into a basketball court. So the family can back the cars out and have a basketball game. There is a 360 degree mural that wraps around the court that is a panoramic photo shot from center court on the floor of the University of Kansas basketball gym. And, if you know where to look, the family is in attendance and cheering along with the other fans watching the game!

JAMIE: I love that. There is a lot to talk about in the outdoors spaces. All of the landscaping lighting is controlled through our network and we integrated Coastal Source bollard speakers around the pool area, in addition to two Samsung outdoor TVs. Going back to our networking design, there is excellent wireless connectivity throughout the entire property, whether you are sunning by the pool or playing bocce ball next to the hot tub.

DOUG: Final thoughts?

HEATHER: Each space in this residence is so unique. The clients were very active in the selection process so what you see is a home that reflects the lifestyle and story of those living in it. This project truly is a testament to what can be achieved when you approach a project with the various disciplines included from the planning stage.

DAVID: The project was so interesting because we were able to preserve the essence of the original house while tying the additions seamlessly into the existing building. And the family, which loves to entertain, now has their functional private spaces for day-to-day living in addition to being able to open things up to accommodate large crowds.

JAMIE: I loved this project because we had to figure out how to accommodate the preservation aspects of the design, while also delivering cutting edge technology that happily resides behind the walls. It was the perfect blend of technology and design in a way that most don’t see . . . and that’s the whole point!