How to Make a New Home Look Vintage

Updated: Sep. 22, 2022

Achieving a vintage or rustic look in a modern home isn't impossible. Here are nine ways to take your modern home and give it an old world vibe.

If you’re someone who loves the vintage, rustic look of an older home, you might find the builder-grade doors and stainless steel everything in new homes cold and boring. Unless it’s a custom built-home, most new houses have straight lines and neutral colors — a look that screams NEW. And if you move your vintage furniture and decor pieces into a recently built home, they likely won’t fit or look right.

Fortunately, there are ways to bring in that vintage, rustic charm into a newer home. Here are a few.

Embellish Ceilings With Wood Beams

Wood beams are a reasonably easy way to give your home a rustic vibe, says Claudia Harvey, president and lead designer at Wydian Kitchens & Design.

“There are two types of beams that people typically use,” Harvey says. “One would be a solid square beam and the other would be with three pieces of wood that make a U shape. They are typically adhered to the ceiling with mounting blocks and screws.”

Decorative faux ceiling beams weigh a lot less than solid wood beams and are easier to install. Or you might like this DIY beam and panel ceiling. Try beams in the kitchen or living/family room where you will see them often.

Install Crown Molding and Baseboards

Wide, detailed crown molding and baseboards were popular in older homes and will add a vintage touch to your new home.

Harvey says crown molding and baseboards are available in many sizes and styles, making it easy to customize. “Go with a darker and older style if you want a real vintage look,” she says. “But even just a basic crown can make a house look older.” Harvey says to aim for four-to-six-inch high baseboards to get the vintage look.

Replace Modern Hardware

Nothing screams NEW HOME louder than standard brushed-nickel hardware on your cabinets and doors.

To age your home with classic style, Harvey suggests replacing this modern hardware with crystal, glass, or forged wrought iron. Echo this look throughout the home by replacing dresser and desk drawer pulls, doorknobs and closet door hardware.

It’s generally easy to change out the hardware. You can have a lot of fun scouring antique stores or flea markets for unique pieces.

Enhance Plain Walls With Wood Paneling

Shiplap enhances any room; it’s a classic, easy way to make your home look rustic. Shiplap is simple to install and can be purchased at any home store or lumber yard.

The horizontal wood planks interlock and are nailed to the wall. Harvey advises painting or staining the wood before installation. Stained or distressed shiplap will give a room a cabin-y feel, especially if paired with rustic furniture or wrought iron pieces.

Replace Light Fixtures

Swap out generic contractor-grade light fixtures for something with more character. “Vintage fixtures, like classic crystal chandeliers and sconces are great to get the vintage look and are very big again,” Harvey says. “Go with a wrought iron fixture for the rustic look.”

And, she adds, choose light fixtures with a nod to the era you’re looking to replicate, like this antique brass Victorian sconce or art deco chandelier.

Dress Up Windows With Curtains

Modern window treatments, like fabric shades and blinds, are popular but can look “off” if you’re going for a vintage or rustic look. And while curtains may seen like an outdated trend, if carefully chosen they can subtly soften modern windows.

For a cozy, rustic look, Harvey suggests a large buffalo check or plaid. Here’s a strong source for traditional curtains and curtain hardware.

Replace Builder-Grade Doors With Panel Doors

Today, hollow-core doors are installed inside most new homes because they’re cheaper and lighter than solid-wood doors. Solid-wood panel doors have been around for centuries. Changing out those plain doors for solid-wood panel doors gives a home a more traditional look. And while panel doors are generally more expensive, they are also stronger and offer more soundproofing.

Revamp the Staircase

In the late 18th century, stair rods became popular in Victorian homes with wooden staircases covered by stair runner carpets. Adding a stair runner with brass stair rods can give your modern looking home a turn-of-the-century vintage look. You also can opt for more elaborate newel posts, balusters, railings and hardware, like these wrought iron handrail brackets.

Dress Up Your Walls with Mirrors

Mirrors have a long history, dating to ancient Roman times. Choose grand mirrors with ornate frames can instantly transform a dull room. Installing sconces on either side of a mirror also helps turn the mirror into a focal point in the room.

Besides filling a room with glamour, mirrors can help a room feel brighter and larger. Hang a mirror behind vintage furniture so the reflection elevates the room’s classic look.