Making a New House Look Old

Making a New House Look Old

Jeanine Brennan
Feb 26, 2010

Have you ever settled into a new place, and realized it's well…a lot newer than you'd like? In addition to adding antiques and vintage furniture, there are some simple tricks you can use to change this. Since our style is more farmhouse than new-house, we love these 10 tips from recently folded Cottage Living magazine on making a new house look like it has been there a lot longer.

We always looked forward to our issues of Cottage Living — each would showcase newer cottage homes and bungalow additions that really matched the original. The homeowners and architects knew tricks to add 100 years to new construction. If you've moved into what a friend of ours calls a "big white box", here are some things you can do to lessen that look:

Add Antique Appliances. If you're updating an old kitchen, consider keeping and restoring a vintage stove, or look on craigslist or eBay for a vintage one. Even a restored vintage range can usually cost less than many new stoves. We know folks that have taken doors off vintage (pink!) wall ovens to have them repainted crisp winter white to fit in with a new kitchen renovation. The photo above is one of our favorites from Cottage Living and we love the antique Chambers stove offsetting the newer cabinets.

Use Old Doors. A few years ago we lived near a brand new housing development and all their front doors looked the same. Every house had builder's basic doors with oval frosted glass and vine etchings, and a shiny brass lever handle. All except one where the owner replaced hers with an an antique salvaged door. As soon as she installed it, her home suddenly looked interesting to us. Same with interior hollow-core doors. Measure yours and keep a lookout for antique doors on craigslist someone is throwing out.

Open Up Shelves. You can take the newness out of stock kitchen cabinets by removing some of the doors. In addition to making a kitchen look older, open shelves can also make a kitchen look bigger. And you can place vintage crates or gym locker baskets in them to organize things. We're also fans of painting basic cabinets so that you can't tell how old they are.

Beadboard. Covering plain walls with beadboard can add a layer of texture and can make a new home look cottage-y. You can also use it on a ceiling to visually lengthen or widen a room (beadboard can also cover up a popcorn ceiling). Also, did you know that you can install beadboard right over 50's or 60's bathroom tile? It doesn't cost that much and you can paint it white. Sure beats taking looking at pink tile.

Switch out Stock Cabinet Hardware. Instead use period or vintage hardware on doors and drawers in the kitchen and bathroom. They'll make even new cabinets look older.

Salvage Old Architecture. Visit architectural salvage stores to find old doors, windows, moldings, lighting, sinks and mantels. These places carry a lot of interesting antique accessories as well.

Lose the shiny brass doorknobs. Change out newer doorknobs for older glass or ceramic knobs. Changing out cheap, Home Depot doorknobs used to be a must-do for us when we moved into cookie-cutter apartments. An architect friend told us that if they don't install actual antique doorknobs, they install slightly smaller matte ones to match the scale of older knobs.

Put Up Crown Moldings or Period-Style Shelves. Crown molding adds a lot of character to a room thats otherwise a big box. It can be added relatively inexpensively and you can paint it yourself. Adding a chair rail (just a piece of painted trim at chair-height) is inexpensive and you can paint the top of the room a different color than the bottom. In the very first photo, walnut shelves were installed over doors in a new home to fake some traditional bungalow craftsmanship.

Vintage Plumbing. Installing a vintage-inspired faucet it can take some of the Home Depot out of a new sink. Other things you can do to add age in a new bathroom (because this room tends to show its newness more than others) are to add shelves made out of reclaimed wood, and change out the lighting for vintage (or vintage-inspired) sconces.

Use Antique or Vintage Lighting. Replace overhead lights and sconces with antique or vintage lighting. We love online stores like Factory20 for these, although a lot of the newer vintage-inspired lighting looks great too.

You can read more Cottage Living ideas in this article compiled by We should mention that we realize renters won't be able to do many of these, but they are great to keep in mind for inspiration. Does anyone else have tips they can offer on how to add age to a new home?

Images: 1-4 Cottage Living Magazine; 5: Jeanine Brennan

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