I live in an old house. And old isn’t necessarily bad. It’s much wiser, right? That’s what people are starting to tell me at age 41! Many old houses have been renovated to look like other time periods, like the 70’s or 80’s. I like to take all that updating out and try to return the house to its original. There’s something about returning a house back to what it was intended to be that is exciting to me. Underneath all the layers and masks is some really timeless charm that I love to work with. (I think this concept holds true for us as people too!) When you remove the masks, it’s almost like the house (and you!) starts to breathe once again.

And returning the house to what it was like when it was built can often be cheaper than replacing things with new products. Once you start replacing things with new products, you may feel you have to do it to the whole house to maintain unity, and that can get expensive. 

Keep the Timeless…Most of the Time

Styles and trends come and go, but there are some elements of design that are timeless. For some ideas, see my previous blog post.  If you have any timeless elements in your space, or anything of value, such as an old light fixture, you should try to keep it or just spruce it up a bit instead of replacing it altogether. Of course, if there is a safety issue like a faulty light switch or light fixture, you’ll want to fix it or replace it so your house doesn’t burn down. But if it’s something like old beadboard or shiplap, you can just repaint it and save that old charm. 

In my kitchen I have old, original cabinetry from the 1920’s. It is mixed with some newer cabinets from maybe the 80’s. My goal is to refresh everything with a coat of white paint. I definitely want to keep the original 1920’s cabinets. The newer ones could go (maybe replace with open shelving made out of reclaimed wood). I could keep the hardware on the cabinetry, but I’m not sure it’s original. Instead of replacing the cabinets with brand new ones, I think I’ll keep the old cabinetry and repaint it, then add updated hardware. This would cost much less, maintains the old charm, and gives the space a nice updated look at the same time.

The sink is also original to the house. It has yellowed a bit in the basin, but it looks like an old farmhouse sink, so I’ll see what I can do to take the yellow stain out instead of replacing it.

The trim around the doors will stay as well. I may spruce that up with some white paint as well. The bead board may have been added later, but bead board is timeless and looks like old character, so that will stay.

Capitalize on the Features You Already Have

The other trick you can try to save money is capitalize on the unique features of your space instead of tearing them down or replacing them altogether. I have this beautiful wood ceiling in my kitchen right now. See picture below.

It was put in much later and wasn’t original, but it fits the style of the house and is so beautiful that I wanted to make sure to keep it. It really makes the space special. Not many people have ceilings like this. The stain is very similar to the hardwood floors in the rest of the house, so if I have hardwood floors in my kitchen, I’ll refinish them with the same color stain, so everything will have a unified look. The ceiling contains the recessed lighting, which is also new to the space, but still fits with the old charmed look and makes the space seem warmer and brighter. 

Making New Look Old

The more you can keep…even if you have to spruce it up a little with some paint…the less expensive the project will be. Make sure to maintain a unified look. If you have modern light fixtures and want to keep the old original cabinetry, that might not look right. There are a lot of options out there for light fixtures and materials that look old but are brand new that you could replace things with if you want new materials. (Stay tuned for a post on new materials that work well in old houses.) 

So before you start renovating, see if there is any charm hidden beneath some of the newer layers that have been added to the space that are now outdated. Take out those layers and the heaviness of the space becomes instantly lighter, like taking a burden off your shoulders. If you are able to save things, you’ll also save cost without compromising style.


  1. Ron Kesterke September 28, 2019 at 11:13 am

    I think masks try to make things into something they are not, old many times simply needs refurbishing, leaving one with charm.

    • Kara September 28, 2019 at 9:37 pm

      I agree.