Adding Architectural Details

Tips on how to add architectural interest to a room without spending a fortune.

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By Shari Hiller
Home & Garden Television

Have you noticed that older homes seem to have great warmth and charm? My decorating partner, Matt Fox, and I believe that the architectural details found in these homes create real character.

Homes built in the late-19th and early-20th centuries frequently were built with crown moldings, wide baseboards and decorative trim. Early ceilings featured beams, embossed tin, stylish papers and decorative plasterwork.

Certainly these architectural elements can be included in new homes, but can be quite costly. It is possible, however, to add architectural interest to a room without spending a fortune.

Many architectural artifacts can be found at antique stores, flea markets, salvage companies and even on your neighbor's lawn on garbage day. Doorknobs, old windows, shutters and doors can all be used in innovative ways to add interest and charm to a room.

Antique doorknobs can be used in a variety of ways to enhance a room. For a simple window treatment, mount doorknobs on the upper corners of a window and place a fabric swag over them.

Need storage in an entry hall? Antique doorknobs can be used to create a decorative coat rack. Old shutters offer possibilities for storage, as well. They can be used to create an interesting and decorative hall tree.

Simply secure two shutters together with mending plates. Then add coat hooks, a mirror and a shelf to complete the project.

Obviously, shutters can be hinged together to make a room divider, but did you know you can also use an old shutter to create a mail center?

Cut a piece of plywood the dimensions of your shutter. Screw the plywood to the back of the shutter and set or hang your shutter with the outside edge of the slats pointed upwards. Tuck mail, postcards and family photos into the slots.

There are many ways to incorporate salvaged windows into your home. Look for an old leaded-glass window with clear beveled glass. Have a piece of mirror cut slightly smaller than the outside measurement of the window frame. Using mirror clips, attach the mirror to the back of the frame.

The finished mirror is visually very pleasing as the leading and beveled edges of the window are reflected in the mirror.

Old windows with panes can be used to display artwork or family photos. Cut cardboard pieces the same size as the panes. Cover one side of the cardboard with a pretty paper. This will become the background for your picture. Mount your pictures onto the cardboard and press into the pane from the back of the window. Small brads may be used to hold the cardboard in place.

Although you may think doors serve only one function in a home, we have discovered numerous decorative uses for old wood and screen doors. For instance, to make an interesting room divider, check salvage yards and junkyards for old doors. Look for distinctive doors with glass panels, irregular shapes or unusual hardware.

Simply connect the doors with standard door hinges at the top and bottom.

Old paneled doors also make great headboards. Simply cut the door to the desired width. The legs are made from 2-by-4s cut to the desired height. Cut top and bottom rails the same width as the door to construct a frame. To attach the frame to the door panel, drill pilot holes through the top and bottom 2x4s, and then use screws to secure them in place. Repeat the procedure to attach the legs.

Old screen doors are one of our favorite architectural artifacts.

Victorian doors are especially fun to work with. Multiple screen doors can be hinged together to create another type of "headboard." To make the headboard even more appealing, keep the original hardware, like mail slots or door knobs. Keep the center door flat against the wall and angle the door on each side to create additional interest and depth.

The very best part of using architectural artifacts is that often they require no work whatsoever. Many can simply be secured to a wall as a piece of art. Because of their age and history, we believe they add warmth and character to an area. Who cares if they're a little beat-up? The flaws make them all the more interesting.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show Room By Room.)

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