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Design Dilemma: Adding Character to a Newer Home

Recently, a blog follower asked me to give her advice about adding older pieces to a newer home.  Blending the old and the new is a challenge faced by many people who find themselves living in a newer home, but wanting it to have the character and feel of an older home.

Here are a few things both small and large that you can do to add some vintage character to your newer home:

Add Antiques

If all of the furniture in a room is new, the room tends to look like a furniture showroom or a room in a model home. By adding some older pieces, such as a vintage rug, or an antique desk, chair, or table, you will make a space feel warmer and give it some depth. Even a single vintage piece in a room will add character and interest.

Here, the antique mirror adds sophistication to the space:

Southern Living

A worn-looking farm table adds a rustic feel to this kitchen:

HGTV Fixer Upper

A vintage runner adds charm to this kitchen:

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 7.21.31 PM.png
One Kings Lane

Change Light Fixtures

Adding period light fixtures to your home is a good way to add vintage character.

Melissa of The Inspired Room added vintage lighting to her new-build craftsman-style home:

The Inspired Room
The Inspired Room

Add Architectural Details

If your newer home doesn’t have the historic architectural details that you would like, then you can have them added. Moldings, wainscoting, beaded board, shiplap, and window frames can all be added to your space. Such details go a long way to add visual interest and historic character.

In the new home below, shiplap and molding has been added to the walls, butted board has been placed on the ceiling, and the fireplace has been given a historic-looking mantel and brick surround:

Southern Living

Look at all the beautiful millwork that was added to the new home shown below. You would be hard pressed to tell that it was recently constructed:

Traditional Home

Change Hardware and Fixtures

By changing out contemporary-style doorknobs, drawer pulls and knobs, light switch plates, and plumbing fixtures for vintage or vintage-inspired ones, you will change the look and feel of your room.

In Lauren Liess’s former kitchen, she used vintage-inspired drawer pulls, kitchen fixtures, and lighting to add character, and she replaced her upper cabinets with open shelving and painted her lower cabinets:

12-Norman_10028LL_Lauren Leiss_064.jpg
Lauren Liess


If you find yourself with unattractive, builder grade kitchen and bathroom cabinets, a new paint job makes for a quick and easy transformation with a vintage vibe. Benjamin Moore has a historical collection of paint colors that are beautiful and authentic.

Marian of Miss Mustard Seed blog is in the process of painting her new-build living room woodwork white. It makes a striking difference in the character of the room, as shown in the photos below.


Miss Mustard Seed


Miss Mustard Seed

Add Salvaged Materials

If you have hollow and builder-grade doors, you can change them out for solid old  salvaged doors. In addition, salvaged wood flooring and beams can add warmth and character.

Jennifer of the blog Dimples and Tangles recently replaced her newer front home door with a salvaged old door that she painted blue. What a transformation it has made to her home’s exterior!

Before (Jennifer’s former front door):

fourth house 3 porch.jpg
Dimples and Tangles

After (Jennifer’s salvaged front door):

front porch dignity blue front door.jpg
Dimples and Tangles


There are two blogs that I would recommend if you are interested in the topic of incorporating vintage furnishings in a newer home. Jenni of the blog Dear Lillie added beautiful vintage character to her 1970s/80s era home.  She is full of amazing decorating tricks! Marian of the blog Miss Mustard Seed recently moved and purchased a new build home that she is just starting to update, as seen in the photos of her living room above.  She is incredibly talented! The living-room portion of her renovation is a great illustration of the transformative power of paint, and I am eager to see what she has in store for the result of the home.

Do you have any tricks for adding character to a new home?

6 thoughts on “Design Dilemma: Adding Character to a Newer Home

  1. You shared all great ways to add character and charm and these are some great photos! I think taking this idea and carrying it on a smaller scale by creating charming vignettes with vintage books, plates, cloches, old clocks, cameras….any treasured and timeworn collectibles would add to everything done on the larger scale.
    I love the last two blogs you shared!


  2. Thanks Elizabeth! This post was very helpful. We are building a new larger home and I want to bring my antiques to this new structure and make it feel like it has been there for ever! You have helped so much!!


    1. I am so glad it was helpful Cindi! That is so exciting about your new home–I hope you will share it when you are finished! Good luck with the process. I am always happy to answer questions if you have any more. Enjoy your holiday! 💙


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