Adding Vintage Character to Spice-Up Your Home

Adding Vintage Character to Spice-Up Your Home

We live in a world where people like new items, but deeply appreciate vintage items. Whether you are attracted to vintage cars, guitars, toys or tools, people will pay a premium price for anything vintage that has “weathered” the test of time. The same is true in-home décor.

When contemplating a change in your home décor, do not ignore the possibilities in utilizing existing features, or adding some vintage looks. I learned several years ago from a seasoned property rehabber about the artful touch of adding vintage character. I was able to visit one of his projects that was in progress, a pre-1920’s home in a gentrifying area of town. The home had a brick exterior, classic design for that era, but had a lot of rehab needs.

There were two things that really caught my attention, even in the midst of the chaos of rehabbing. The first was that they had kept the fireplaces in the living room and the parlor as original looks, with just clean-up and touch-up applied. And the second was that they had stripped away approximately 6 feet of the plaster in the dining room and were in the process of exposing some of the exterior brick to become part of the interior décor. This meant that there would be no insulation, or anything between the outside and the inside except for that one layer of brick.

I asked the rehabber about concerns over loss of heat, and he explained that they had worked hard on the other areas of the house, installing new windows, eliminating air flow leaks, etc., and he said that this trade-off between function and fashion would probably net an additional $15k in the selling price of the property, and the buyer would not be worried about the additional heating costs caused by this small uninsulated area. “Sometimes, ya just hafta go for the look,” he said.

Here are a few items to consider in your own remodels:

  1. Exposed Brick or Faux Brick—the object is to show some of the home’s old exterior brick on the inside. If this is impossible, often you can find faux brick that is almost identical to exterior brick. Do not overdo it, a little bit of exposed brick goes a long way. Exposed rafters can sometimes be good vintage features too.

  2. Vintage Fireplaces—If you can keep the fireplaces original, or close to original, do so. They have so much character, and even a slight lingering of burnt wood in the air give an atmosphere that makes people feel at home.

  3. Antique light fixtures—There is a big difference between old and vintage. Antique or vintage light fixtures would include chandeliers, tiffany glass, and unusual vintage fixtures, not just a big heavy brass ceiling fan that blocks the view.

  4. Vintage Bathroom or Kitchen Features—Examples, claw-foot tub, vintage vanity, art-deco wall or floor tiles, dumb-waiters, Laundry Chutes

  5. Other Vintage Features—Old Fashioned air vents, glass doorknobs, twist doorbells, telephone seat/alcove, bas-relief ceiling art, wrought-iron stairway rails.

Everything mentioned above is an item that would be installed items or exposed items that are permanent. We have not addressed the addition of antique furniture, art, memorabilia, etc., that is not permanently affixed to the home. A tasteful blending of old and new items gives your home a uniqueness, can be a conversation starter with guests, and gives you the ability to showcase things about your home that are important to you, adding a homey warmth and a touch of class.