- Carole Conn
12 Ways to "Antique" Your House
We can't all live in an antique home, but we can make our new homes look antique without sacrificing our modern conveniences. Sometimes all it takes is adding a few architectural details. Here are some ideas I've used to "antique" my living spaces, ( I'm going for the 18th and early 19th century New England country home look). The photo above is courtesy of Early New England Homes, www.earlynewenglandhomes.com.
1. CHANGE OUT THE DOORS
You can find old doors at salvage yards. They usually don't fit the opening you have in mind, but they can be cut or augmented to fit. Look for panel doors, "Christian" doors, board and batten doors.
You don't need to find antique doors - board and batten doors (upper right photo) are not hard to make - an amateur carpenter can build one. Paneled doors are readily available from door manufacturers, if you can't find old ones.
2. USE ANTIQUE (OR REPRODUCTION) HARDWARE
Wrought iron latches and hinges can make new doors look antique. Choose bean latches, Norfolk latches, strap hinges, HL hinges, etc. (See the Old House Parts section of this website).
Antique latches are often missing the pins and bars needed to make them functional. You can find the missing parts to an old latch at one of 2 websites: Horton Brasses: https://www.horton-brasses.com, and Ball and Ball Hardware Reproductions: http://www.ballandball-us.com. They also sell authentically reproduced latches and other hardware.
Nails, where they show, can make an impression. Rose head and cut nails were used for everything in the 18th and 19th centuries. Antique ones are hard to use, but you can buy reproduced nails online: Rockler Woodworking: http://www.rockler.com, or House of Antique Hardware: http://www.houseofantiquehardware.com. The photo on the right shows our new antique floor with rose head nails, also new.
3. CHANGE OUT THE WINDOWS
Small paned windows always look more authentic than those with large panes of glass. The "12 over 12" or "12 over 8" window was used extensively in the 18th century. I don't recommend using antique windows - they are far from energy efficient.
Most of the better window manufacturers make small paned windows which are energy efficient, double glazed, etc. We installed Andersen windows (http:www//andersenwindows.com) in our old house, which are extremely efficient in our snowy winters. They are shown at the right. The window at left is early - pretty, but drafty!
4. INSTALL OR REFURBISH WOOD FLOORS
There's nothing like a simple wood floor! If you already have them, great! If you don't try to find wide or random width planks, and use square or rose head nails.
We live in an 18th century house, but the old floors were long gone when we bought it. Luckily, the attic still had the original chestnut wide plank floor, so we removed it and put it down in the living areas.
I love it, imperfections and all.
When we built a wing on the house we had no access to early flooring, so we used new floors, this time of oak because chestnut is no longer available.
All of the boards, which are random widths, are nailed down with (new) rose head nails.
To the left is the old flooring, to the right is the new. They aren't exactly the same, but you have to really look hard to notice.
You don't have to replace narrow board floors with wide planks to make the room look antique. Whatever you do, don't shine them up. Unfinished wood would be most authentic, but I like a little color on them and something to protect them a bit, so ours are stained and polyurethaned with a matte finish.
5. ADD INTERIOR WOODWORK AND DETAIL
Even the earliest New England home often had wood paneling - sometimes simple planks on a wall, sometimes more refined.
It is possible to find antique walls which can be retrofitted into a new space. Some dealers specialize in them.
(Richmond HouseAntiques, http://shop.antiquecommon.com/shoplisting/332 is one). For a really primitive look, fasten vertical boards of random widths on the wall, with just a simple flat bottom molding, or none at all, and paint them an authentic color. Old boards are best, but you can distress newer ones to make them look old.
Our house is not as primitive as the ones above, - it is a more formal house which would have had crown moldings and paneling in many rooms. Unfortunately, none of the early walls were left when we found the house. But we did find some old panels at a flea market. Our wonderful carpenters fitted them to our walls and then made additional ones to match them where we needed them.
We also added new crown moldings and base boards throughout the more formal rooms.
6. ADD BEAMS
Find old log beams if you can. We found some from a salvage yard and installed them in our new "great room".
This is a new room, but most people think it is part of the old section of the house.
You don't need to have old beams, - even new beams clad in old or distressed wood will look great in the right place.
Beams are especially good if you like to hang things from them (as I do) - baskets, dried herbs, antique lighting.
7. ADD AN OLD MANTLE
All early New England houses had fireplaces, usually several. We are lucky to have 6 of them - all rebuilt or new. But you don't have to go to the extreme of building a working fireplace to create the ambience that one gives a room.
Just add an old mantle.
This person added a painted fireboard to the mantle to disguise the fact that there is no fireplace in this spot. But you could just put up a fire screen.
If you have a real fireplace with a modern mantle, find an old one and replace it. I found this 1820s mantle at a flea market when we were restoring our house. It needed some repair, scraping and TLC, but now it looks like it's always been there.
8. USE REPRODUCTION AND PERIOD LIGHTING
There are lots of good reproduction lamps, candle holders, chandeliers and fixtures to choose from in the marketplace. You don't have to spend a ton of money or spring for period pieces to create the ambience. And your house doesn't have to be dark unless you like it that way.
We put recessed ceiling lights into the new addition, which are on dimmers, so that we can get some good reading light. The rest of the lighting is antique or reproductions of antiques. We visited the shops and galleries of Period Lighting Fixtures, available online at www.periodlighting.com, and selected well made authentic reproductions for wall sconces, chandeliers, exterior post lights and side lights.
Of course, being a dealer of New England antiques, we have lots of period lighting pieces around too. Can't get enough of them!
9. PAINT IN HISTORIC COLORS
New England settlers liked bright colors - probably to cheer them during the long dark winters. Over the years those colors have muted to the ones we now associate with the period.
Painting the exterior of your house all one color - including all the trim - will convey an early house feel, particularly in the darker colors.
Most of the major paint manufacturers have a line of colonial colors - some better than others. I like the Old Village range, (www.old-village.com):
Interior walls were usually plaster with wood trim, or wood clad. Usually, they did not paint the plaster, just the trim, although that varies with the custom of the particular location.
10. DISGUISE KITCHENS AND ELECTRONICS
It's hard to pretend you are living in the 18th century when you have big flat screens on the walls and stainless steel in the kitchen!
I have seen some early homes where the kitchen is completely disguised so that you can't see any appliances at all. Not even a sink! I admire that, but I couldn't live with it. I am an avid cook, and to think that I would have to go into a cabinet to find the refrigerator is too much for me. And if I have shelving and storage, I have to fill it with modern kitchen stuff - I can't give it all over to my primitive collections. This room looks great, but I couldn't cook here.
I think you can compromise and still make the kitchen look like it belongs in the house. I like a simple cabinet style, soapstone or wood counter tops, open shelving, plain wood floors. If you're not renovating, just paint the cabinets in a colonial color and add primitive touches. We opted for few upper cabinets, and indulged in putting some early kitchen items where one might have been:
This kitchen uses stand-alone upper cabinets and open shelving effectively:
We had the luxury of putting a new kitchen in our new addition. We opted for a shaker style cabinet, soapstone countertops and a cherry island.
We didn't try to hide the stainless steel stove! Initially we painted the cabinets in a dark sage green, but I need more light, so we repainted them a pale pewter color.
The flat screen tv was another issue. We hid it in a cabinet.
I have to admit that it's open most of the time!
11. MAKE THE WINDOW TREATMENTS SIMPLE
If you have small paned windows and you live in New England you want as much light as you can get. So did the early settlers. Window treatments tended to be non-existent or very simple. In winter they may have added heavy lined fabric to the windows for warmth, but usually they were minimalists when it came to window treatments.
Gingham, homespun, hopsacking looks great in primitive rooms.
If you don't have privacy issues an undressed window can look just as good as one with curtains. And you get more light!
12. ADD CURB APPEAL: RUSTIC FENCES, STONE WALLS AND AN HERB GARDEN
Every early home had an herb garden, or rather, a "kitchen garden" which was near the house and provided vegetables and herbs for year-round use. Root cellars and outbuildings housed harvested root vegetables in the winter, and herbs were hung in bunches from the ceiling to dry.
Even if you're not a gardener, herbs are easy keepers, and who doesn't want a bit of fresh parsley or thyme for their meal? Herbs like lots of sun and not a lot of water. Perfect plants to neglect.
Lay out your herb garden with stone, brick, grass or gravel paths so that you can reach the plants on all sides.
It doesn't have to be large. A small plot can hold a lot of herbs. Enjoy the textures and the heavenly scents!