New Materials for Old Houses

If you own an old house like I do, you want to maintain the charm and character, but you may want to do some updating at the same time. So, what new materials could you use that don’t upset the charm you’re trying to preserve?

Keep What You Can

First of all, you may want to keep some of the aspects of your home that bring in the character. I have French doors with glass knobs, for example, that will stay because they’re so cute. I have old light fixtures that I tried to keep if I could (I had my house rewired and they wouldn’t all work). I kept the arches in the doorways and textured walls. And in the kitchen, I didn’t replace the old cabinets. I kept them. (They can always be repainted.) So, don’t feel like you have to update everything.

At the same time, you’ll probably have materials in your house that need updating. That old wallpaper. The outdated window treatments. The layers of ugly vinyl on the kitchen floors. So, you have to find new materials to replace these that fit with an old house. It’s a challenge.

Go Back to the Original

I always ask myself the question: What was the house like originally? Can I take it back to the original without it being ugly? For example, taking old wallpaper off the walls and just painting the walls a nice gray or beige or taupe can brighten a space and make it look new, while also bringing it back to what it could have looked like originally, creating a timeless look.

Refinish Any Hardwood

As for my kitchen floors, the best idea would be to refinish the hardwood floors that I thought were underneath the vinyl layers. If you do have an old house, always look for that hidden gem. Many old houses have layers upon layers over beautiful wood floors that could be refinished pretty easily. You’d bring the house back to original and it would still have a new, yet timeless look.

Unfortunately, I had the layers pulled up and there were no hardwood floors in my kitchen. Sigh. So I had to replace the floors. I could choose another vinyl, but I think tile looks a little nicer. But, most affordable tile I found at Lowe’s or Menard’s looked like it fit a brand new contemporary home, not a 1920’s gem like mine.

Patterned Tile

If you’ve been watching HGTV, you’ll see that many people are using tile that has a pattern to it…like a hand painted tile. See my Pinterest board for pics of each tile. It looks spectacular in old houses. It has an old house feel,  but is a completely new material. I chose a tile like this or my kitchen…in a neutral gray and white palette. See pictures below.

Patterned Kitchen Tile
Patterned Kitchen Tile
Patterned Kitchen Tile for Old Houses
Patterned Kitchen Tile for Old Houses

Now, I tried to get my brother-in-law to be open to a tile like this for his new bathroom and he would have none of it. I don’t think it’s necessarily feminine, but it doesn’t scream masculine either. If this is the case, you might try a 12”X24” tile instead. This size tends to fit older homes a little better than the standard 12”X12” size. There are some nice gray and marble varieties at Menard’s right now. Also, check my Pinterest board (same link as above) as well for some pictures of what this looks like.

What for the Walls?

Last, let’s talk about wall paper. I know you typically see old outdated, country wallpaper in old houses and think it’s the first thing that has to go. And you’re right. But it doesn’t mean you can’t put up new wallpaper. If you’d like to try new wall paper in an old house, don’t just jump to shabby chic prints. You can do a lot of different prints in an old house. Check out my Pinterest board on wallpaper for old houses for some great ideas. I think window treatments are similar to wallpaper in the patterns you could choose. However, if you do choose an exotic wallpaper, you might want to tone it down in terms of pattern or the window treatments. Or, remember that geometric patterns often go nicely with floral patterns if you’d like to pattern it up in style. 

In the end, you’ll want to select materials that work in old homes. You’ll want to save what you can and uncover what you can, but when you have to use new materials, you’ll want them to work well with that old charm and character for a beautiful, unified design.

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