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10 helpful tips on how to make an old house look new again

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Older homes have a certain character and charm that you won’t find in new construction. From expansive lots to impeccable architectural details, the appeal of an old house is something that makes it unique. With a few key changes, you can give outdated portions a new look and feel while retaining their character, further enhancing their overall appeal.

If you’re looking for helpful tips and tricks on how to make an old house look new, here are several helpful tips to keep in mind to help you restore your home strategically while preserving its classic elegance.

1. Spruce up the entrance

Want a starting point for your renovation? Your home’s entrance is a terrific choice. You can give an older home’s entrance a makeover by painting the front door with glossy paint to establish it as the focal point for your home’s exterior and maximize its visual appeal. Finish off the look by adding a stylish brushed nickel doorknob set and a new door knocker and kick plate.

You can further enhance the entrance by placing potted plants on either side of your front door and installing various light fixtures that complement your home’s style. Finally, choose a new doormat that perfectly brings the entire look together in a seamless and cohesive visual package.

2. Combining traditional with modern

It’s important to differentiate between traditional and modern interior decorations and design elements before attempting to mix two styles.

Modern styles are typically defined by clean and crisp lines, with color palettes consisting of simple colors. They’re sleek, minimalist, and often make use of materials such as metal, steel, and glass.

Traditional interior styles, on the other hand, feature a rich, vintage look and feel, and are often highlighted by deep colors, textures, layering, and curved lines. Common textures and materials used in traditional designs are silk, velvet, and finished wood.

To avoid a clash between the two styles, the key is to decide which style you want to be more dominant in a room. All major furnishings will be anchored on the main style, while the secondary style will serve as an inspiration for smaller accent pieces incorporated into the space. The main style grounds the entire room, while the secondary style will be highlighted through accessories.

One of the best ways to blend traditional and modern themes is to identify similar elements and pieces from both styles to create a harmonious look. Try to find similar colors, textures, and shapes common in both styles to tie the entire space together. Another option is to alter traditional pieces of furniture by repainting or reupholstering the fabric to give it a modern look to connect both styles.

When done right, combining traditional and modern styles creates a timeless look and feel.

3. Update the bathrooms

Updating your bathrooms is a great way to create a fresh, new appeal in an old house.

Consider giving the walls a light, neutral coat of paint, which can make the space appear larger than it actually is. You can also add a new vanity in a classy finish like oak or hickory, or go with a painted version if you’re going for a more updated look. Adding new granite bathroom countertops is also a nice touch.

A large bathroom mirror with an elegant wooden frame can complement the new vanity for a seamless look. If you’re updating your sink, choosing a vessel or undermount sink is a terrific way to create a clean look. Travertine flooring will enhance the entire look of your bathroom by adding an instant shine.

4. Replace outdated fixtures

Certain fixtures like outdated ceiling fans, faucets, or air vents, might seem like they add more charm in an older home, but replacing these with newer fixtures can create a big impact on the look and feel of your overall space.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to tackle every update at the same time. Investing in new fixtures from time to time (like once every two months) gives you an opportunity to take a step back and see what else you need to transform your space and give it a fresher look. It’s the perfect way to make use of your creativity as well!

In case you decide not to replace certain fixtures, you can simply clean and polish them instead to help revitalize the space.

5. Refinish your flooring

Depending on the type and current condition of your home’s flooring, restoring them may be worth the effort.

For hardwood floors, restoring is usually more affordable than outright replacing them. In case you have vintage floors like retro tiles or checkered vinyl, restoring could turn out to be a fun project to tackle. Well-maintained carpeted sections can also be converted into smaller rugs to give it a new spin while preserving a space’s classic look.

Keeping some of your older home’s original features intact is a great way to preserve the character of your home.

6. Accessorize strategically

You don’t always need to rely on furniture when redesigning. Accessorizing is another great way to revitalize a space while maintaining its original charm.

Finding smaller pieces is easy and fun to do, and can inject great personality to any space. Pieces like framed artwork, old clocks, chests, or suitcases are perfect if you want to change the look while retaining their vintage charm.

With accessorizing, the key is to avoid overdoing it, as adding too many pieces or collections can create a cluttered look.

7. Create a stylish look for your kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of a home. A kitchen makeover effectively brightens up an outdated home, creating a more vibrant look and feel.

If you’re repainting, shades of gray, cream, or tan are great choices for any kitchen remodel. Use lighter styles and finishes to change the look of any dark, outdated kitchen cabinets. For a sophisticated, modern flair, white or black painted cabinets are excellent options.

New lighting fixtures like sconces, overhead lights, or a chandelier can help give your kitchen a contemporary look. New countertops in concrete, marble, or granite, can spruce up the appeal and make your kitchen look more luxurious.

For the floors, consider floating new linoleum tiles above the old flooring to give a refresh. Complete your kitchen makeover by selecting a new faucet in a finish that matches other metals in the room.

8. Upgrade your living room

Soft, neutral shades like beige, gray, or tan can make your living room look and feel more expansive. For a crisp new look, painted white moldings framing your living room doors and windows are a nice touch.

For outdated living room floors, hardwood flooring or a new carpet are both excellent choices depending on the look you want to achieve. If you’re going with a carpet, make sure its shade matches the walls to create a more spacious appearance. For hardwood floors, choosing a contrasting hue is a smart move. Dark floors paired with light-colored walls create a contemporary look.

Complete the look by adding new lighting, such as a bronze chandelier or wall sconces, which are always popular choices for older home renovations.

9. Incorporate minimalist decor

A great way to use vintage pieces to modernize a space is to simply let its shape and structure stand out.

Spaces in older homes look especially outdated when, for example, old pillows are piled onto an equally old sofa, or if the room looks too cluttered. But if vintage pieces like chairs or a lamp on a simple table has plenty of space surrounding it, it highlights the piece’s beauty, like a sculpture in an art gallery.

Individual pieces aren’t the sole reason for a room’s dated look – it’s the amount of pieces that do not feel stylish or current. Keeping this in mind when you’re redecorating will help you highlight current items in your home while utilizing available space and creating a modern look.

10. Keep editing!

Decking out entire rooms in an attempt to make a new look can be tempting, but adding too much stuff can make it look tacky.

The best way to keep the balance of vintage and modern elements in any room is to make sure it’s always clean and uncluttered. If your space is starting to look a little too busy, then you might’ve gone overboard.

Curation is key when combining vintage and modern, so make sure you keep a close eye on your spaces by continuously editing furniture and décor while keeping the clutter away.

Key mistakes to avoid when trying to make an old house look new

A woman repainting a chair

There are some common mistakes that owners make when renovating an older house. Before you take out your toolbox or talk to an architect, take a look at these key mistakes to avoid during your project.

Not factoring in the home’s original style

Most older homes have unique architectural details evocative of the specific time period when it was built.

One of the most common mistakes owners make is to completely eliminate anything that looks “old” and replace it with something that looks more modern. Many fail to realize that some of the materials used in older houses are of higher quality and it might be worth the effort to restore an original piece instead of simply replacing it with something new.

Some also make the mistake of introducing new elements and then placing it next to an original piece, highlighting the stark difference between them, which essentially makes the newer elements appear out of place.

Considering just a single opinion

The level of quality and cost of a home renovation varies significantly, so make sure you get several opinions on how to approach your project.

This is because of two reasons. First, you want to avoid going over your budget. Second, you may have a vision of what you want to accomplish, but have no idea how to start.

Getting in touch with several designers and professionals will give you multiple ideas on how to approach your major renovation project.

Incorrect budgeting

Miscalculating your budget while your renovation project is currently in progress is one of the costliest mistakes you can make. You’ll be left with no choice but to take out key aspects of your original plans or wait for an extended period mid-construction as you come up with the funds required to bring your project to completion.

There are many important factors to consider when you’re estimating the cost of a remodel, especially when the home in question is an older one. Older homes often have many unpredictable elements like asbestos that needs to be removed, or an outdated electrical system that needs a complete overhaul, for example.

While some unexpected costs will not be enough to push your budget off track, they can still be very expensive. Strategic budgeting will not only give you some leeway in case you need to spend on something unexpected but could give you some extra funds to spend on better quality upgrades after the renovation.

Failing to obtain a permit for your project

Not obtaining legally required permits may lead to problems and delays in your renovation. Depending on your neighborhood or area, local authorities might prohibit you from proceeding with your renovation project.

When applying for a permit, the permitting authority will not only review your design plans thoroughly but will assign inspectors to make sure everything is done safely and correctly.

If you’re already working with a contractor, the official inspectors sent by the permitting authority will help ensure that the people in charge of the project won’t cut corners and abide by all local building codes when it comes to safety regulations.

Going the DIY route without a strategy

If you’re not 100% confident in your experience and skills, it’s probably best to just leave your renovation to a professional. There’s no telling what unexpected issues you might run into if you tear something down in an old house.

In addition to making sure that everything is done right, the contractor you hire for your project will also be able to complete the renovation faster and more efficiently, helping you save more time.

Planning a successful remodel or renovation

A couple trying to fix their pipes at home

When thinking of ways to make an old house look new, fast-forwarding to the exciting part like selecting new paint colors and new fixtures to add can be very tempting.

But for the renovation to go smoothly, there are a lot of important things to consider before you take that first step.

  • Know your end goal– Are you making your old house look new to increase its resale value, or do you plan to stay in it for years to come? Having a specific plan in place will influence your decisions and direct your plans for your project.

  • Plan your budget – Creating a budget and making sure you stick with it is one of the most important aspects of a renovation project. Don’t forget to add in a contingency fund for unexpected and incidental costs. Take time to research and plan your budget before you proceed.

  • Establish a timeline – If you want finished results for a specific event or holiday, determine an end date and then work your way backward. Remember to set aside a couple of weeks to a month near your end date to give you some leeway in case of delays.

  • Do your research – Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers about previous renovation projects they’ve completed and find out about the challenges they’ve faced. Gathering more information from others who have experienced going through the same type of renovation will be invaluable, and could be extremely helpful if ever you run into the same type of problems they’ve encountered.

With the right strategy, careful planning, and a little bit of elbow grease, making an old house look new can be an enjoyable challenge that can help increase your home value while sharpening your interior design skills in the process!

If you’re planning to put your home on the market after the renovation, get in touch with me today by calling 301.208.2288 or sending me an email at judymartinsells(at)gmail(dotted)com

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