Design Hints

The New Old House

Discover the best ways to infuse centuries-old style into your home with ideas for floors, windows, furnishings and much more.

When Margaret Bryant (whose home is featured in our January 2012 issue) faced the challenge of building a new home that would be easier for her to manage on her own, she was sure of one thing: It had to look old. "I did not want to make the house look new inside," she remembers, "so I had pictures of things I'd seen through the years, and I tried to copy the look of an old house. I couldn't just copy things, though -- I did it my way." Here are five of her best ideas:

1. Use lots of wood. Margaret didn't just settle for pine plank floors, she installed pine on the ceilings and even on some walls as well.

2. Forgo upper kitchen cabinets, and install open shelving instead to display lots of antique kitchen implements, crocks and baskets. If future owners want upper cabinets, they can easily be installed later.

3. Hang period doors and window treatments for a more authentically old look. Margaret has two back-to-back front doors; one of them swings in and the other swings out, a common feature in New England saltbox houses. She also installed custom-made wood interior shutters, complete with handmade wood latches, for all the home's windows.

4. Outfit the house with an interesting variety of old furniture, and display plenty of antiques throughout the house. "I think it's the furnishings that make it look so old," Margaret muses. "That and the wood."

5. Disguise modern appliances when possible. A large cutting board covers Margaret's stovetop, and her washer and dryer are ingeniously tucked behind a rustic wood door in the buttery.

Written by Nancy Anderson Hedberg
Photographed by Franklin Schmidt
Styled by Esther Schmidt