How to Make a New House Look Old

Give Your Builder Basic House Some Charm and Personality

How to make a new house look old
Traditional House Exterior. Phillip Spears / Getty Images

Newly built houses can have a lot of advantages over older homes, but the one thing they're frequently missing is character. Builder-grade finishes can rarely compete with the styles and patinas of older materials, and most builders don't want to go to the expense of adding all those extra details. But all is not lost! There are plenty of ways you can give a new house the type of charm and personality characteristic of older homes.

Just remember, when it comes to adding character, details are key!

Add Trim Work

One of the best ways to give a new house character is to add some trim work such as crown moulding, wainscotting, coffered ceilings and door casings. While some of these projects can be expensive (such as raised wood paneling), you can do it in a less expensive way with applied moulding. Check out this tutorial from Scott McGillivray for some easy tips. You don't need to go to a huge expense as long as you're willing to put in a little time and effort.

Replace Builder-Grade Doors with Panelled Doors

Much like decorative trim work, panelled doors add a certain element of detail that gives a home a more traditional look. If your home has plain doors consider switching them out. You can spend a lot buying something new, or you can visit a second-hand store such as the Habitat for Humanity Restore where you can get vintage doors at a great price.

Change Out All the Light Fixtures

Builder-grade light fixtures are usually quite plain and don't do much to enhance the space. One of the first things you should do when moving into a plain house is to change out each and every fixture. There is such a huge variety in light fixtures, even just the flush mount category, that there's no need to settle for something boring.


Replace the Switch Plates

Most people don't give much thought to the switch plates that run throughout their homes, and that's because more often than not builders choose ones that are very plain so that they'll blend in and go unnoticed. But if you want to give your house some character reminiscent of older homes you'll want to replace them all with more decorative versions. They don't need to be over-the-top, but you'll be amazed at what a difference making a switch from builder-grade plastic to a better material and more decorative style can make.

Switch Out Contemporary Hardware

Anywhere that you see plain, contemporary hardware switch it out for something with a little more detail. This can mean kitchen hardware, bathroom hardware, and any doorknobs throughout the house. While it's still important to have hardware that's in keeping with the style of the home, there are easy ways to add detail without going too over-the-top.

Use Reclaimed Materials

When trying to make a new house look old it's ideal to use some reclaimed and salvaged materials wherever it makes sense. This doesn't mean you have to fill your entire home with salvaged barn board or old wrought iron, but you should incorporate it here and there where it works with your style.

For some ideas check out this article about how to decorate with reclaimed wood.