Create an Old New House

Want to spruce up your new house with some old-world charm? Here are some tips for using new cost-effective materials to take your décor back in time.

Some of today’s new homes are not much more than a simple series of square boxes with little architectural interest or pizzazz. This can be especially depressing for the new home buyer who longs for an old, traditional home.

New materials "mimic" the old

If your heart is in the past and you want an "old" new house, look at some modern building materials that mimic the look of old stone: roof shingles brick, wood and iron. These products can considerably "age" your new home without the maintenance of a truly old house.

Victorian era wrap-around porch

Dreaming of a Victorian era wrap-around porch? Even the most basic porch can be made to feel like a traditional porch with the use of colours and by making "historic" selections with regard to architectural details. Most Victorian-styled homes use plenty of traditional rich shades, mixing avocado-based greens, rustic reds, handsome taupes and deep blues. When choosing your window frame, soffit and fascia colours, opt for deep, darker shades as opposed to white or linen.

Victorian homes are rich with trim and moulding details: porch brackets, planked porch floors, carvings or appliqués, columns and cornice boards. Traditionally made from wood, these items are now available in high-density polyurethane mill work, a wood look-alike alternative that reproduces an original interior or exterior wooden ornamental or architectural detail. Unlike wood, polyurethane doesn’t require priming or sealing, so you can save money with the painting contractor here.

Interior details

Inside the house, add polyurethane reproduction detailing such as ceiling medallions, fireplace surrounds, domes and crown moulding. Composite flooring products, made from recycled plastics and wood, are available in traditional tongue and groove styles and plenty of traditional colours. The look can be achieved without the maintenance.

Are we faking it?

Definitely, but builders have been faking building materials as long as architecture has been around. Even the Egyptians made stone look like reed matting and the Greeks faked wooden elements with stone. Today’s architect and homebuilder are blessed with a wide spectrum of durable, low maintenance, easy on your budget stand-ins for opulent originals.

Faux stone

The look of stone is attractive both inside and outside of a home, but the quarry costs, transportation and installation can quickly add up. You can turn to cast stone, faux stone and glass fibre reinforced concrete to get the look and to extend the budget. Glass fibre reinforced concrete products are produced from a mould that has been patterned after wood, clay or metal, and then a face coat of concrete is applied. Added aggregates provide a variety of surface appearances. The face coat has a backing of glass fibre elements and a frame attachment. The finished surface may be sandblasted or acid-washed to achieve an authentic finished texture.

Cast stone, an architectural concrete product manufactured by combining natural gravel, sand and crushed stones such as quartz, marble, limestone and/or granite, is available in hundreds of historically accurate designs. Sills, medallions, friezes, stone pavers and columns are all available to give your home an authentic look.

Achieve the goal of owning an "old" new house

Even the squarest box of a home can suddenly age with near authentic applications of traditional look-alikes. The addition of faux products, specifically designed to give homes an older look and add a true sense of historic detailing and traditional value, can help to achieve the goal of owning an “old” new house. Browse shelter magazines, tour historic districts with your sketchbook, take note of the details and then ask your builder for suggestions on how to bring them home.


Want some interior decorating advice from an expert like Cheryll Gillespie? Find them at—The smartest way to find licensed and insured house experts—from home stagers to contractors to home Inspectors

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