13 Ways to Make Your New House Look Old

Make these changes to turn your cookie cutter house into a charming dwelling.

Make Your New House Look Old

Make Your New House Look Old

You’ve just purchased a home built in the past 10 to 15 years, and it has everything you need: the perfect location, a good-size lot, big closets, top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, a two-car garage—even a fireplace. It’s missing just one thing: character. Your house looks an awful lot like all the other cookie-cutter houses in the neighborhood. While new homes don't develop personality overnight, a few easy updates can instill in your new place the charm of an older one. Ranging from simple fixes like changing the paint colors to more ambitious projects like adding trim and beadboard, these 13 upgrades will transform your builder's-grade home into something special.


Install Crown Molding

Historical Crown Molding

In older homes, it's all about the small details. Take crown molding, for example. Available in widths from simple to extravagant, crown molding provides a finishing touch in any room. Before you do it yourself, check that you've got the right tools for the job or hire a pro to help you cut each piece to size and install it properly against the wall.


Mix Up the Furniture

Buying Home Furnishings

If you want to achieve a layered, lived-in look, then buying all your furniture at a department store in one afternoon won't cut it. Instead, gradually acquire your pieces over time for a mismatched design. Craft fairs, antiques stores, salvage shops, art exhibits, and even Craigslist will offer unusual pieces that can infuse your home with timeless charm.


Paint It

Historical Paint Colors

Nothing dates a home like color. Sometimes that's not ideal—think 1970s olive green. But if you're trying to evoke a particular period, the right color change can transport your home back in time. Arts and Crafts, Victorian, and Colonial interiors each call for different colors, and paint companies offer collections to help you mix up the perfect combination.


Build Built-Ins

Built-In Bookshelves

Not only are built-in bookcases practical—turning empty spaces into valuable storage nooks—but they also give a home a stately, custom look. Alter the styling according to your taste. For instance, a built-in lined with beadboard appears farmhouse-rustic, while darker wood tones call to mind a dignified old library.


Change the Ceiling

Tin Ceiling Tiles

While tin ceilings rose to popularity in the 1880s, they're still in vogue today. Whether you add these tiles to your kitchen ceiling or use them to create an eye-catching vintage backsplash, they're certain to bring in historical charm.


Go for Wainscoting

Wainscoting Idea

Wainscoting enhances any plain wall, and for DIYers with good basic home improvement skills, it's not too hard to install. If you want to take your old-home quotient up a notch, remember that in older homes the fanciest beadboard was reserved for the main floors; save simpler designs for the family quarters.


Natural Materials

Wide Plank Floors

There's nothing wrong with laminate or vinyl surfaces, but if you want your countertops or floors to appear older—sturdier, even—opt for natural materials. Consider wood or stone countertops and ceramic tile or hardwood floors. And if you're imitating a bygone era, keep in mind that wide-plank wood floors have a more antique look than narrow boards.


Change Up Your Cabinet Pulls

cabinet hardware

They didn't have brushed aluminum and acrylic hardware back in the days. So you know what you should replace in your house? The same! In your kitchen and bathroom, consider using glass knobs, which came to popularity in the early 1900s (when metal was in short supply due to the Great Depression and World Wars). To echo the look throughout your home, do the same with your door knobs, desk drawer handles, and dresser pulls.


Address Your Staircase

staircase details

Most new houses are modeled after Colonial-era homes, with the staircase front-and-center and the various rooms stemming off a main hall. Consider replacing the handrails and newel post with more elegant woodwork. Check local salvage yards, classified ads, and online sites to snag pieces that will make an impression. And if you really want to go for it, rip up your wall-to-wall carpeting and install a stair runner for a signature antique look.


Upgrade Your Light Switch and Outlet Plates

light switch plates

Builder-grade light switch and outlet plates are plain and lack any bit of visual appeal. Look for nickel and brass finishes to stay era-appropriate. You can check antique shops if you’re a purist, but there are plenty of reproduction pieces that’ll do just fine.


Switch Up Your Lights

light fixtures

Nothing screams contractor-built home like contractor-grade lighting. Swap out the generic fixtures for something that has more character, like chandeliers or antique lanterns. 


Hang Wallpaper

historic wallpaper

Wallpaper was a popular choice in the early 1900s, but by the millennium it was outdated—and a pain to hang. Luckily, advancements like peel-and-stick wallpaper have made this much easier to put up. Covering blank walls with a fun pattern will make a major difference. 


Replace Doors

replace doors

Replace or paint your simple exterior doors with ones that have more character. You'll be surprised at what a difference it makes when you switch your drab metal garage doors with warm wood ones.


Don't Miss!


If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!