How to Add Historic Charm to Any Home

Emily Udell
Written by Emily Udell
Updated October 9, 2016
vintage gold chandelier
A statement piece, such as this vintage-inspired gold chandelier, can add an air of historic charm even in an updated home.
Frank Espich

From crown molding to architectural salvage, you can add historic charm and period appeal to any home with well chosen antiques, paint, features and more.

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Historic homes tell stories of the past with their architectural flourishes and design quirks, which hold appeal for many house hunters. But what if you love the look of old things, yet prefer to live in a home of a more recent vintage?

If you want the amenities most modern dwellings have to offer — such spacious closets, up-to-date electrical work and energy efficient windows — but love an old-fashioned look, don’t worry! Add charm from a different era to any home using the suggestions below, and create a unique blend of old and new that works for you!

Architectural features

If you’re building a home from scratch or embarking on a renovation, include decorative details that harken back to days past.

Decorative trim such as chair rail, crown molding, wainscoting and ceiling coffers, give a cookie cutter interior some classic cachet.

vintage bath with clawfoot tub and subway tile
Adding historic details such as a restored clawfoot tub, subway and penny tile, and vintage inspired sconce lighting fixtures can add vintage charm to any house or room.
Frank Espich

Vintage fixtures

From pendant lamps that look like they belong in a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse to brass sink fittings fit for a Victorian bathroom, shop around for new lighting and plumbing fixtures inspired by the styles of the past.

Many companies make fixtures that mimic styles like mid-century modern or craftsman.

Historical Paint Colors

Most major paint companies offer a palette of colors that harken back to yesteryear. Whether you like a Colonial or Victorian color scheme, choose from these historic color collections to give the interior or exterior of your home a colorful hint of history.

antique glass door knob
An antique glass door knob can be added to any door to add historic charm throughout the home.
Summer Galyan

Antique hardware and decorations

Likewise, you can find door knobs, drawer pulls and more that give off a vintage vibe. Add these to kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, built-ins or furniture for some old fashioned flair.

Also consider accent decor like ceiling medallions or cast iron stars.

ceilihng medallion surrounded by blue and white wallpaper
Vintage patterned wallpaper and ceiling medallions can be added to new homes too to elevate the room's character.
Frank Espich

Architectural salvage and antiques

Hit the antique mall, flea market or garage sale circuit for furnishings and decor. Architectural salvage shops offer everything from old fixtures — like clawfoot tubs and recycled sinks, historic hardware and more — to pieces of demolished or gutted buildings that you can use for decoration, like an old mantle or leaded glass window.

subway tile walls and hex tile floors in walkin shower bathroom
Subway tile with black and white hex tile floor give this updated bathroom a vintage vibe. (Photo courtesy of Kayla VanLydegraf)

Flooring Choices

Unless you go shag or make a bold color choice, carpet probably communicates the least retro vibe of any type of flooring.

To get some vintage style underfoot, spice up your kitchen with a 1950s checkerboard vinyl or marmoleum squares.

Give your bathroom '20s appeal with penny or hex tiles.

Options for living areas include various types of wood flooring, like parquet.

Exterior Elements

Just a few touches to the outside of your home can make it feel a little less modern. Certain roofing materials, like tile, cedar or metal, can add an old world look. Features like carriage lights, brick pavers or even a custom wood door can infuse any home with period panache.

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