12 Designer-Approved Tricks to Fill a New Home With Vintage Character

February 24, 2024 at 9:00 AM
how to make a new house look old
How to Infuse Vintage Charm Into a New HomeMatthew Williams

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No matter how updated the design, an interior that lacks color, texture and architectural interest is going to feel generic. As more and more homeowners and renters look to give their modern cookie-cutter homes some old-world character, we’re seeing antique finds, maximalist design and ornate millwork trending in home design this year.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of living in historic houses with original architectural details, but that doesn’t mean you can’t emulate a vintage look in a new build. “I think people grew bored of everyone having the same-looking home — those all-white, neutral, modern, clean homes stripped of any character,” says blogger Annie Diamond of Most Lovely Things, who notices homeowners leaning toward softer, more eclectic looks that evoke nostalgia.

Here, we’re highlighting our favorite tips to make your new house feel old, whether it’s swapping in reclaimed wood floors in an entryway, building a faux fireplace for the living room or installing decorative molding throughout your space. Or, consider a renter-friendly idea like weaving in thrifted pieces, hanging stained glass panels or relying on vintage artwork.

Just be sure to proceed with caution. According to Matt Ransom, design director of Hatchet Design + Build, it can be easy to overdo it. “If a contemporary space has too many historical elements that don’t tie together, then it’s going to feel strange,” he warns. The key, says Ransom, is to be deliberate with pieces in the room that are “historic.” For example, pair traditional wainscoting with crown molding that isn’t overly ornate, steer clear of “wood look” flooring and layer in decorative lighting, like sconces and floor lamps. More tips ahead!

Try Reclaimed Wood Floors

Rather than installing new hardwood floors, consider reclaimed wood panels, which are typically sourced from old barns, warehouses or factories. “The texture, color and wear add an element of lived-in luxury that you really don’t see in spec homes,” says Kristin Harrison, owner of Bungalow 10 Interiors.

RELATED: The 9 Best Flooring Options for Your Home

hallway with reclaimed wood floorshallway with reclaimed wood floors
Angela Newton Roy Photography

Embrace Checkerboard Floors

Checkerboard flooring, a style that’s been around for centuries, feels classic and timeless. Here, Jean Stoffer and Grace Start of Stoffer Design set marble pavers diagonally to draw the eye. “I love their antiqued chiseled edges,” says Stoffer. “It makes the tile look original.”

RELATED: Popular Kitchen Flooring Ideas for Every Design Style

the garden boot room in stoffer home designed by jean stoffer designthe garden boot room in stoffer home designed by jean stoffer design

Showcase Stained Glass

A stained glass window panel adds unexpected elegance to this Art Deco-inspired kitchen. Designer Melissa Wood‘s clients used hooks and medium-weight chains to hang this vintage panel, which adds privacy without reducing natural light.


kitchen with stained glass window panelkitchen with stained glass window panel
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Install Decorative Molding

Here, content creator Erika Vér from @peonyandhoney attempts to emulate Victorian architectural details while maintaining a modern feel in her home. Crown molding, picture molding and tall baseboards, plus antique decor and artwork, bring vintage flair into this living room.

a fireplace in a rooma fireplace in a room
Erika Vér from @peonyandhoney

Apply Floral Wallpaper

Floral wallpaper isn’t just for your grandma’s house. Ranging from delicate patterns to moody foliage, floral wallpaper has become a popular choice as homeowners move away from plain white walls and ceilings.

To complete this vintage-inspired powder room, Stoffer Design used a console sink and faucet in brushed bronze, hung an antique gilded mirror and painted the beadboard paneling in Sherwin-Williams’ Evergreen Fog.

RELATED: Wallpaper Trends Top Designers Are Loving

powder room designed by jean stoffer designpowder room designed by jean stoffer design

Swap in Antique Doors

Add historic character to an entryway by repurposing an antique door. In this Italian home by Hatchet Design + Build, the homeowners sourced these locally salvaged, hand-carved wood doors. Plus, they added a hand-painted harlequin pattern on the floor and hung a family heirloom ceiling light.

a hallway with a door and a mirrora hallway with a door and a mirror
Matthew Williams

Add Wall Paneling

Use decorative wall paneling to bring architectural character to blank walls. Take it a step further, just as Diana Lombard of Diana Lombard Interiors does in this cozy living room, by painting the walls a deep shade, like navy blue.

RELATED: 10 Best Interior Paint Brands, Tested by Our Experts

a blue cabinet with a lamp and a chair in front of ita blue cabinet with a lamp and a chair in front of it

DIY a Faux Fireplace

Make your house feel cozier by faking a fireplace, whether you build a purely decorative mantel or incorporate an electric or gas fireplace insert. Construct a vintage-inspired mantel from scratch using plaster or wood, or source an antique mantel (or one that just looks antique).

To complete this charming interior, Hatchet Design + Build hung an ornate gold mirror over the white mantel.


a living room with a fireplacea living room with a fireplace
Matthew Williams

Hang Artwork and Vintage Lighting

Renters take note! If you’ve got simple white walls, there are ways to inject personality without permanently altering your space. Artwork and lighting fixtures can make a huge impact in any space.

Here, designer Lindsay Sherbondy pairs a vintage dining set with oversized artwork and two lantern sconces.

dining room designed by lindsay sherbondy artwork by lindsay lettersdining room designed by lindsay sherbondy artwork by lindsay letters
Laura Kackley

Weave in Antiques

It’s a no brainer that decorating with antiques will make your space feel more personal. Take a cue from this Lake Simcoe, Ontario, dining space by designer Ashley Montgomery and accumulate pieces — such as chairs, rugs and a hutch — over time.

RELATED: The Best Thrift and Used Furniture Stores to Shop Online

dining room in lake simcoe, ontario, with a collection of antiques designed by ashley montgomery antique chairs, antique furniture, antique hutchdining room in lake simcoe, ontario, with a collection of antiques designed by ashley montgomery antique chairs, antique furniture, antique hutch
Lauren Miller

Add Texture to Walls

While there are various techniques and styles to choose from, texturing your walls can actually be quite easy and cheap (one involves applying drywall compound with a roller).

To give this powder room a vintage feel, Kelsey McGregor of Kelsey Leigh Design Co. painted the textured walls a deep green (Sherwin-Williams’ Cast Iron). Then, she added a vintage-inspired gold mirror and a 700-year-old vessel sink found at an antiques shop.

RELATED: Inside a Modern Oklahoma Abode With a Collected, Vintage Feel

kelsey leigh co warm modern home tourkelsey leigh co warm modern home tour
Emily Hart

Paint the Porch

Give your front porch a fresh (yet rustic) look by painting a classic checkerboard pattern. “I think painted floors of any kind add age to a house,” says blogger Annie Diamond of Most Lovely Things. “It usually means you’re covering up something you would have in an old house, but it doesn’t have to be that.”

a porch with a white railing and a white railinga porch with a white railing and a white railing
The Most Lovely THings

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