20 Old-Home Design Elements to Add to Your New Build

Yes, you need a laundry chute. We all need laundry chutes.

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April 02, 2018

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Built-ins, Built-ins, Built-ins

Old homes have character and charm — and that didn’t happen by accident. That sought-after quality was built into the homes from the start! Customize the character of your dream home with beautiful built-in benches, a classic bookcase or roomy breakfast nook.

See More Photos: Benches, Bookshelves + Breakfast Nooks: 20 Built-In Beauties You Need RN

Grand Windows

Frame your views with striking, floor-to-ceiling windows. The bigger and more detailed, the better. Bonus points for gorgeous grid panes like these. Go ahead and silence that little voice in your head that’s screaming about how difficult it will be to wipe 'em down. It’s worth it. Trust us.

See More Photos: Window Designs: Casements & More

Stained Glass

When is the last time you came across stained glass outside of a church? Bring back this lovely element and personalize your front door with wow-worthy, watercolor window panes. You're sure to treasure how the colors coat your foyer during golden hour.

Soaring Ceilings

Raise the roof! Adding stunning, soaring ceilings throughout your home (beyond just the foyer and great room) appears elegant, airy and creates an expansive feel throughout the interior.

Glass Door Knobs

We like to think of glass door knobs as diamond jewelry for your home. Rest assured that this small detail is not one that will be overlooked by visitors.

Fireplaces in All Spaces

Let’s face it, even with a handy-dandy HVAC system in place, we could all benefit from some extra warmth, coziness and glamour in our homes, right? Before interior heating systems, fireplaces were dispersed through the home out of pure necessity during the winter months. We say, add some handsome hearths throughout your new-build to create classic, cozy character. Add one in the kitchen, a bathroom or go ultra-luxe with a stunning surround in your master suite.

Walk-In Butler's Pantry

Expansive and elegant storage spaces will never go out of style. Yes, you can quote me on that. Case and point: the butler’s pantry. Build a spacious, wow-worthy butler’s pantry just off your kitchen and guarantee a scenic view while rummaging through hand-crafted drawers for your next midnight snack.

Pocket Doors

Often found in historic bungalows and Craftsman-style homes, pocket doors take up less space than regular doors. Sophisticated and clever, this space-saving feature is a must because it allows for a floor plan that easily opens for entertaining or sections off for a little privacy.

Entry Plaque

Claim your territory with a crisp, classic entry plaque of the family or estate name for your new home. We’re positively smitten with this old-fashioned accessory because it’s easy on the wallet and adds such a sweet, personal touch to the property. Choose to mimic many old homes and show off the plaque next to your front door or use stakes to display it in the front garden.

Ornate Walls

Why select simple when you can select trim that's so swoon-worthy? Thick, handcrafted molding and trim, like the crown molding and shadowbox trim shown here, are some of the many characteristics that make older homes so special. Make millwork a high priority and you’re guaranteed a high-style payoff in the end.

Clawfoots + Pedestals

Showers are great and all, but can we all agree that there is something overwhelmingly luxurious about bathing in a claw foot tub? They are statement-making, stylish and, without doubt, the perfect place for a little scrub-a-dub-dub. And let’s not forget the power of a pretty pedestal sink! All practical counter space aside, this old home staple could be a posh focal piece in a new-build’s powder room.

Study + Bookshelves

Old homes have a reputation for closed floor plans. However, there are some true advantages to having designated rooms throughout your home. Our favorite of these reasons? The ever-glamorous home library. Add this classic space in your new home and use it as a space to help with homework assignments, tackle your reading list or even work remotely. Just don’t forget to budget for some sophisticated bookshelves and a comfy leather couch in the process.

Detailed, Designer-Worthy Doors

Huge tip: forget the bland, blah and otherwise boring white doors that your contractor suggests. You can (and should) do better than that. Opt for some enviable, detail-laden doors throughout for an instant upgrade to your space. Go for solid wood, hand-carved designs or maybe some fancy sloped French doors. We are drooling over this architectural element because it creates a gorgeous sound barrier between spaces, without sacrificing natural light. Use them in the home office, a formal dining room or as a handsome entry for your walk-in pantry.

Mismatched Hardware

Cookie cutting in the kitchen? Yes. Cookie-cutter kitchen? No, thank you. Avoid overdone and achieve that effortless, old-home charm by decking your shiny, new drawers, doors and cabinetry with diverse hardware. Mix brass with black and head to your go-to antique spot to scout out some vintage treasures.

Planked Wood Ceilings

How our society went from using gorgeous, glossy wood planks to popcorn ceilings will forever be a mystery. (Seriously? This downgrade is real, folks.) Avoid plain-Jane and popcorn like the plague and recreate this striking ceiling design for a natural, warm touch in your new home.

Updated Laundry Chute

How the laundry chute trend ever ended, we will never understand. Moving forward, all new-builds should feature both an upstairs laundry room and this clever, modern take on a chute. Lugging the dirty-clothes hamper down the stairs all day should simply be a non-option for future generations.

Wood Floors Throughout

The same people who implemented popcorn ceilings were the same folks who took it upon themselves to cover original hardwoods with shag carpet. Learn from those who came before you and skip carpet all together. Invest in real wood floors and buy a pair of fuzzy socks and a couple of gorgeous area rugs to keep things warm.

Transom Windows

Although transom windows were originally used for extra ventilation in buildings with no central air conditioning, we love this over-the-door feature for homes today because they easily flood central spaces with natural light. Bonus? These tiny windows accentuate the height of your ceilings and create an airy feeling in otherwise blocked-off rooms.

Stare-Worthy Staircase

Go ahead, delight in design drama. Add a traditional, over-the-top staircase with gleaming wood steps and hand-carved finials. Why not?


Okay, so not every home needs an outhouse. But those with a pile of kiddos and a pool out back? For you guys, this old-timey addition is worth thinking about. Upgrade your outdoor WC with modern amenities or an outdoor shower to up the ante.

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