50 Amazing Ways to Give Your Home Vintage Charm
These blast-from-the-past additions will instantly upgrade any space.
While sleek, modern design and minimalist spaces have dominated the home design landscape for years, many homeowners and potential buyers still prefer the appeal of a period home. But finding that perfectly-maintained Victorian or craftsman can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Luckily, there are some easy ways to add vintage charm to even the most cookie-cutter home. Read on to discover how to elevate your space with an antique aesthetic.
Add some window grids.
Want to transform the look of your home both inside and out? Swap out those single pane double-hung windows and replace them with gridded ones. “Changing it up to a 3-over-1 or older style can help bring character and charm to a home,” says Nathan Outlaw, president of Onvico, a design-build firm.
Install a ceiling medallion.
Create the illusion of higher ceilings and make your home look instantly antique by installing a ceiling medallion. “These circular decorations often went around chandeliers to hide the holes carved where old gas light fixtures were replaced with electric ones,” says real estate investor Brian Davis, co-founder of SparkRental.com. "Today they’re purely decorative, but can create the illusion of age." Believe it or not, lightweight versions of these antique accents can even be picked up at stores like Home Depot.
Opt for a pressed-metal ceiling.
Don’t have room for a ceiling medallion, but still want to give your home a vintage vibe? No problem. “You can install stamped steel ceiling tiles to recreate that centuries-old look,” says Davis.
Add some moldings to your doorways.
Those dull doors your home came with aren’t doing much for its aesthetic appeal. Luckily, there’s an easy fix: In under an hour, you can frame out your doorways with some vintage-inspired molding, which can be cut cheaply at your local hardware store.
Put up some antique wallpaper.
“Wallpaper was the ‘kiss of death’ for a couple of decades, but it's seeing a major comeback with designers, especially in bold floral patterns,” says house flipper and realtor Jodi Moody of Smoky Mountain Realty. If you want to increase your home’s aesthetic appeal, you can find reams of vintage wallpaper online, or you can even have your favorite retro pattern reproduced.
An easy way to completely change the look of your space in no time is by adding some wainscoting to your walls.
“A good wainscoting can help accent a dining room or hallway and add a little class,” says Outlaw. “It also really helps break up a room and keeps walls from being a long bare run where you can't really hang pictures or may not have room for furniture or a table.”
Put up café curtains in your kitchen.
Give your kitchen an automatic ‘50s vibe by hanging some café curtains. Whether you opt for pretty barkcloth or a cheery gingham, these cute, half-length curtains will let in plenty of natural light while taking the interior of your home back in time.
Update your kitchen with some retro appliances.
While you may be eager to have more functionality in your fridge or stove than the average 1950s model offers, you can still enjoy the era’s appliance aesthetic without giving up all of the fun features of the 21st century. Brands like Smeg and Big Chill make modern-day retro-inspired appliances in era-appropriate colors like robin’s egg blue, turquoise, and cherry red.
Swap your tub for a clawfoot one.
You can completely change your bathroom’s aesthetic with a single investment: a clawfoot tub. "You can buy them new, or you can poke around at estate sales and ask everyone you know if they know someone looking to unload one,” suggests Davis. "You can refinish them without much trouble, and create a fun vintage feel in the bathroom."
The only issue? “What’s not always easy is moving them…they can weigh 300 pounds.” However, newer acrylic models share the same antique charm and are significantly lighter, so opting for this modern material is also a good option.
Install some black-and-white bathroom tile.
All-white bathrooms have their place—but if you want to add tons of vintage charm to your bathroom, a little black-and-white tilework is the way to go. “This, when done correctly in a bathroom, can set it apart from the gray and washed-out look that is so popular right now,” says Outlaw. “It also goes very well with some plants and greenery.”
Add some unique finials to your curtain rod.
Even if your curtain rods were picked up at your local Target, you can instantly give them some vintage flair with new finials. Opt for delicate ceramic versions or faceted glass ones to instantly up your home’s antique appeal.
Install copper gutters.
Want to make over your home from the outside? If you don’t want to endure a lengthy exterior remodel, simply replace your existing aluminum gutters with copper ones. In addition to making your home look more vintage, copper has an antimicrobial effect, meaning the sludge that gathers in your gutters will be a lot less icky.
Upgrade to concrete flooring.
Before you replace those laminate floors with another easily scratched or dented material, consider having concrete poured for a sleek look that gives a midcentury modern vibe.
“One thing we are seeing more of is polishing the concrete instead of setting flooring,” says Outlaw. “If done right, it can give an industrial look that can really accent vintage or shabby chic furnishings.”
Have antique lamps rewired.
Not in love with the look of modern lighting fixtures? For a relatively small fee, you can take a beautiful antique piece to your local electrician or lighting specialist and have it rewired, making it safe for use without sacrificing its unique aesthetic.
Splurge on a tufted sofa.
If you’re in the market for a new couch and want to make your home look like it’s straight out of a past era, consider investing in a tufted model instead of your standard cookie-cutter version. Not only are these couches chic, but they're also practically unparalleled comfort-wise.
Add some plaid accents.
Using floor-to-ceiling plaid, which was the preferred style in many homes from the 1950s through the ‘70s, may not be an aesthetically appealing choice today. But a few plaid accents can give your space some vintage charm without looking tacky. Drape a vintage Pendleton blanket across the back of your sofa, add some plaid throw pillows to your chairs, or pull your living room together with a central plaid ottoman; there are a myriad of ways to incorporate this print into your setup!
Plant some flamingos on your lawn.
“Yard art definitely says vintage charm and no yard art is more iconic than the flamingo,” says Moody. “The fact that the little pink bird fits the vintage pastel theme is an added bonus and color-savvy homeowners can use this to their advantage to tie it all together.”
Install some hexagonal tiles.
If you want to give your home a blast-from-the-past vibe, "add hexagon tile to your kitchen or bathroom," suggests Corey Fager, owner of real estate solutions company Buying Houses: Nashville. "It’s an easy change that immediately adds character. Choose black and white themes or marble hexagon for a more vintage/modern touch."
Have your tub re-glazed.
Even if your home was built or remodeled in the last decade, you can still give your bathroom instant vintage appeal by having your tub re-glazed. A re-glazing, which usually takes no more than a day to apply and set, can turn that boring white tub into the pastel piece of your dreams, all without a major price tag attached.
Add some Dutch doors.
These doors, which allow you to open the lower and upper half independently from one another, are a fun way to add a quirky vintage feel to any space without having to undergo a major renovation.
Invest in a telephone table.
If you still have a landline at home, you can show it off in style with a telephone table. These antique pieces are a great way to keep your phone within reach should your kids need it for an emergency—and they just so happen to also be much more attractive than your average wall mount.
Install a chair rail.
Installing a chair rail—a single strip of molding at waist height—can instantly give a dull room a charming vintage vibe. Not only that, but as the name suggests, chair rails can protect your walls from the backs of chairs that could potentially scuff or damage them.
Add some antique sconces to your walls.
Brighten your home and give it some serious vintage charm by installing antique-inspired sconces. While you can get older sconces quickly and cheaply rewired, many home design stores are also making newer vintage-inspired models with bronze bases and fluted glass.
Buy some gooseneck lamps.
If you’re looking for table or floor lamps that give a similar vintage vibe to a space, seek out gooseneck varieties. “Anything with a gooseneck says vintage,” says Fager. “It’s simple and it’s usually the first thing your eyes are drawn to.”
Update your flooring with inlays.
Eager to tackle a larger remodeling project? Have those worse-for-wear floors pulled up and install inlaid or herringbone-patterned hardwoods in their place. The finished product adds a stunning vintage look to your space—and unlike a full room overhaul, it won’t overwhelm or clash with your more modern design elements.
Install some vintage doorknobs.
All it takes is a few minutes to turn your home into an antique-inspired tableau. Swapping out your existing doorknobs for crystal or ceramic ones is an inexpensive and appealing way to make even those modern doors look like they’re from an era that’s long since passed.
Add a vintage rug.
You don’t need to completely make over your space to change its aesthetic. With the addition of a vintage rug, you can turn even the most modern space into a retro-inspired retreat.
Upgrade to a canopy bed.
It's finally time to buy that four-poster bed you dreamed of as a kid! Investing in one of these extravagant pieces of furniture might just be the easiest way to infuse your sleep space with vintage charm. Even if your bed of choice doesn’t come with cute curtains, adding some velvet or tasseled ones can upgrade its appeal in no time.
Add mosaic tile to your entryway.
Your entryway sets the tone for your entire home—so if you’re going for a vintage vibe, swap out those dated floors for a mosaic tile instead. “In the foyer or entryway, mosaic floor tiles can add some color and flair,” says Davis.
Swap your entertainment center for a vintage piece.
That Ikea entertainment center may be functional, but it’s certainly not giving your home the antique look you’re going for. If you really want your home to look like it's straight out of a '60s catalog, re-home your modern technology to a more vintage piece. Even if you load it with Bluetooth speakers and a flat screen, using a vintage credenza can add an antique-inspired wow factor to your space.
Trade in your thin flooring for wider planks.
“Higher-end colonial-era homes featured wide plank hardwood floors with a pleasant sense of irregularity,” says Davis. So, if you really want to commit to the period style, he suggests staggering the joints and “cutting a few planks at uneven intervals to avoid bland, modern uniformity.”
Add some picture frame moldings to your walls.
Even a bright coat of paint won't make the average drywall more eye-catching. What will, however, is a set of picture frame moldings. And fortunately, all it takes is a trip to the hardware store to add a few pieces of picture frame moldings, which you can hang up all by yourself with ease.
Install a metal seam roof.
If your roof needs replacing and you love vintage design, consider upgrading to a metal seam roof. While installing metal seam can be an expensive upgrade, it also has benefits beyond the aesthetic. In addition to lasting longer than a typical shingled roof, a metal roof will also yield a nearly 61 percent return on investment when it comes time to sell, according to Remodeling magazine.
Display your collections in an antique cabinet.
If you have a cute collection of spoons, toys, coins, or crystals, investing in an antique piece in which you can show them off can immediately change the feel of any room. Say "so long!" to that boring shadowbox or display shelf!
Have a transom window installed.
A transom window—which is often a half circle or rectangle set over a larger window or door—is an instant aesthetic upgrade. If you’re in the market for a more substantial remodel on your space, adding a transom window can brighten your home and give it the retro appeal you’re looking for.
Install some shiplap.
Joanna Gaines was right: Shiplap is a terrific way to make your home look older and more appealing in one fell swoop. “Custom trim work was a major feature in vintage homes and is making a comeback, even in new construction spec homes or cookie cutter homes,” says Fager. “Trim can immediately make any room look more expensive and change the ambiance."
Add shutters to your home’s exterior.
Even if your house is relatively new, the addition of some shutters can make it feel like a well-loved older home. While black shutters are a classic look, Moody suggests installing ones in pastel colors to give your home an instant facelift.
Replace your kitchen cabinet doors with glass-front ones.
Those straight-out-of-the-box cabinets your home came with aren’t doing much to make your space stand out. Luckily, there is a solution that falls short of a full remodel. Installing a few glass-paned cabinet doors can give your kitchen a vintage vibe without a significant investment of time or money.
Add an armoire to your bedroom.
No walk-in closet? No problem! An armoire is all it takes to keep that clutter at bay and give your home an appealing antique upgrade.
Use a vintage trunk for storage.
Those plastic storage containers may be functional, but they’re anything but appealing. If you’re eager to give your space some serious vintage charm, store those extra linens, blankets, and other cluttering items in a vintage trunk instead. As a bonus, this chic trunk can double as a low-slung coffee table when not in use.
Replace your modern mailbox with an antique version.
Make sure not to neglect the exterior of your home when you’re doing a vintage refresh. Any boring mailbox can be easily—and relatively inexpensively—be upgraded to a charming antique one in mere minutes. When searching for the perfect piece, seek out wrought iron and painted versions in particular that were popular in the 20th century.
Add some wrought iron railings to your front steps.
Give your home some curb appeal and make your front steps safer with the addition of some wrought iron railings. While it won’t take a contractor more than a few hours to add them to your steps, these railings can easily transform an otherwise unimaginative exterior into a vintage masterpiece.
Have some built-in bookcases installed.
Have some built-in bookcases installed. Incorporate lower doors for storage, molding at the top for antique appeal, and, if you have room, have sconces wired into the front of the bookcase so you can easily find any items contained therein.
Replace your bathroom mirror with something antique.
One of the most room-altering, vintage-inspired upgrades is also one of the cheapest: adding a mirror. You’d be amazed at how swapping the plain, modern mirror in your bathroom for an etched glass or wood-framed one can completely change the look of the room.
Install some vintage-inspired faucet taps.
Those brushed metal taps that came with your sink certainly aren’t giving your bathroom any antique charm. Thankfully, for a small price and minor investment of effort, you can swap them out for vintage-inspired models. When you shop for new taps, look for white ceramic ones that say “hot” and “cold” for a cute but not overly kitschy look.
Add some antique heating grates.
Your forced air system may be relatively modern, but it doesn’t have to look that way. Simply adding vintage-inspired wrought iron (or mock-iron) grates to your existing air conditioning or forced heat system can completely change the look of those vents without altering their functionality.
Hang up an antique clock.
Install an antique fireplace surround.
Even if your fireplace was installed five years ago, you can make it feel like an antique piece with a single adornment: an ornate fireplace surround. Whether you opt for marble, wood, or metal, the installation process is relatively quick and immediately adds tons of vintage charm to otherwise unremarkable heating features.
Add a coffered ceiling.
If you have the time and funds for a more intense home upgrade, then have a coffered ceiling installed. Like other ceiling details, coffered ceilings can draw the eye upward, making even low ceilings seem significantly higher.
Install some decorative fascia on your porch.
A few woodworking details added to your front porch can turn a 2000s-era home into a stately mock-Victorian in no time.
“Fretwork porch trim and eave decorations, such as gingerbread trim or gable scrolls, can all add a vintage chic look that says ‘quaint and cozy,’” says Moody. And for some décor that’s better left in the past, check out the 40 Ugliest Interior Design Trends of All Time.
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