Original Home Details: What to Keep and What to Cut

old home

You finally found the home of your dreams that’s full of century-old charm and wonder. And it turns out you’re in good company. According to Inman Research, living in an old home is also a rising trend with the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. like San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston, featuring predominantly historic homes.

But now that you’re moving into the old home of your dreams, the reality is setting in and you realize how hard it can really be to make something look modern without completely losing its old-world character. If you love your old home’s original details, here’s what to cut and what to keep.


You may have loved those built-ins when you bought your home, but are starting to wonder how practical they really are. Instead of blasting them out to turn them into a closet or pantry, maximize their storage-savings abilities and enhance it. Add a fresh coat of paint and under-cabinet lighting to illuminate everything from dishes to keepsakes. And if the built-ins are too shallow to really turn into anything useful, try turning them into a space to showcase your children’s artwork or your own travel photographs instead.

Exposed brick

Exposed brick can feel like a touch of rustic charm for some, and eyesores for others. Instead of removing it, look at how you can transform it to match your aesthetics. Try adding faux ceiling beams to tie together a rustic look or drill in hooks and add a bench for a space to get organized before work. But if you’re still not feeling the exposed brick, try painting it in a crisp white or slate gray for a modern touch for the best of both worlds.

Nooks and crannies

If you live in an old home that hasn’t been renovated in the last few decades, chances are high you have odd nooks and crannies that just don’t seem to offer much for your home. Tiny pockets that aren’t even wide enough for a table are probably safe to enclose or expand into a closet or pantry. If that’s not in your budget, try a hanging wire basket to place plants and succulents to breathe some life into those little nooks. For bigger nooks that are just sitting there, add a plush chair and small end table to turn into a reading area. You can even hang a curtain to turn it into a luxuriously private space.

Doors and windows

One of the benefits of most older homes is their solid doors and window frames, making them a sound choice for your home. Keep these gems if you can and just add a fresh coat of paint or varnish if they’re starting to look old and warped.

Now it’s time to address the hardware. Your windows may need new locks, but if they appear sound and show no signs of wear and tear or splintering around the wood, they’re probably good to keep. However, door handles that are loose and unable to keep a good seal or stay locked properly should be replaced. The good news is you can purchase faux antique handles to retain the charm of your old home’s original details without noticing the difference.

Floor plan

Your original home’s floor plan may leave something to be desired. While some old homes have grand foyers and sitting rooms, others are chopped up and feature tiny kitchens and bathrooms. One way to address tight quarters is to see if lightening the stain of the wood or adding windows or skylights brightens up the room. Removing clunky furniture and oversized appliances also make a big impact and make your rooms feel larger.

But if the floor plan just won’t work for your needs, look at how you can open up space where you need it and leave the rest in place. For example, a small dining room and family room can be opened up and combined to create one big room for multi-functional purposes. Use a drop-leaf table that can expand when company comes to maximize your space.

There’s plenty you can do to transform your old home’s details into a fresh and modern look. But at the end of the day, opt for what’s important to you and what’s safe. Updating old and faulty wiring and plumbing is a must, but those quirky built-ins can stay with the right approach. Focus on what makes an immediate impact on your budget and slowly add in the rest.

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