20 Charming Design Features Found in Older Homes

Design features found in older homes tell the story of the space. Here are a few ideas on how to embrace these heirloom details, so that they will stand the test of time - and set your home apart from the rest.

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February 12, 2019
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Coffered Ceilings

Coffered ceilings are an ornate detail that changes the look and feel of an interior space. This element brings a little excitement and character to the ceiling. The coffered ceiling seen here, features and all-white design, but you can also leave the beams a natural wood look and paint inside the squares - leaving an endless amount of design options.

Glass Doorknob

Homes across the United States featured glass doorknobs after the U.S. entered World War I. The metals that were used to create doorknobs before, were now sent to support the war effort - thus the creation of glass doorknobs. Not only is this feature a unique and beautiful detail, glass doorknobs are well-built. To clean and preserve your glass doorknob, be sure to not immerse it into hot water, beause the glass may crack. Instead, try wetting a rag with a warm water and vinegar mixture, and rub the doorknob clean.

Antique Mirror

Mixing modern and antique features can be a great way to give nod to the original style of your older home. This antique bathroom mirror is paired with more modern elements, while the mirror stands out as the star of the show.


A common older home element, archways, are a visually appealing room separation that softens square corners and brings a classic charm to your home. Most newer homes have square door frames, but embracing your existing archway will set your home a part from the rest.

Transom Window

A transom window is implemented over a door or window to allow natural light and airflow throughout home spaces. Besides the practical purpose, a transom window is also used as an ornamental home detail.

Antique Light Fixture

With a little elbow grease, you can clean your home's original light fixtures and keep them shining for years to come. This contemporary girls room is paired with a gold antique pendant light, which gives the space a touch of art deco glam, and is sure to be an eye-catching piece.

Antique Door With Peephole

Before the glass and metal door peepholes we all know today, there were door cutouts one would open to look out. The peephole in this antique door is surrounded by a wrought iron grill, and is a fascinating home feature.

Dutch Door

A Dutch door was devised and used in the Netherlands to keep children in the home and farm animals out. Opening the top half allows a breeze to circulate throughout the home. This Dutch door, seen on HGTV's Fixer Upper, was original to the home, and hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines painted it with a faux finish to look like a dark stained wood grain.

Pocket Doors

Often found in historic bungalows and Craftsman-style homes, pocket doors take up less space than inward- or outward-swinging doors. Pocket doors are created by framing the inside of walls with enough hollow space to accommodate a track that allows the door to slide inside of the wall when opened.

Mosaic Tile

If your home has a beautiful old tile design that needs a little love, you can try cleaning it to preserve and keep this feature. Pairing a mosaic tile with more modern cabinetry and colors, like in the picture above, is a great way to give nod to your home's original design, while embracing modern amenities.

Knock Knock

Announcing your arrival, per doorbell era, was done via a doorknocker. These fascinating front door embellishments can come in many different shapes, sizes and designs.

Butler's Pantry

Traditionally a butler's pantry housed expensive serving utensils, such as, silver and serving ware. Since these kitchen items were very valuable, they would be kept locked away in the butler's pantry. The butler would sleep in the pantry to ensure thieves did not try to steal the valuables - thus the name butler's pantry. Today these spaces are still used to store additional serving ware, and many include a cocktail area and small sink.

Unique Windows

Many older homes have spectacular windows that were built to specifically fit the home. Restoring the original windows will keep true to the intended character and look of your home.

Avocado Green Bathroom Tub

Nothing says 70's design like avocado green home appliances. If your bathroom features this seventies design trend, try embracing the green and create a serene space with what your home has to offer. This bathroom has avocado green features paired with white walls and cabinetry, creating a tranquil color palette. Not only does embracing the original features of your home bring character and authenticity into the space, it can also save money since you will be avoiding a costly remodel.

Built-In Bookshelves

Built-in bookshelves are a great way to add charm to your living room, while also disguising your books and other nick nacks. This feature not only adds appeal, but also function - because who couldn't use a little more storage. The built-ins that surround the fireplace in this home, featured on HGTV's Fixer Upper, have a beautiful design and provide an eye-catching characteristic.


Originally implemented to protect the bottom half of walls from dirt, scuffs and the mess of everyday life, wainscoting has also become a stylish home element. There are many different patterns of wainscoting that work for different designs styles and spaces. This entryway is clad with white wainscoting and topped with lilac walls, creating a nice contrast, while still allowing the designs of the wainscoting to shine.

Wood-Burning Fireplace

Before furnaces, homes were heated by wood-burning fireplaces. Not only isa fireplace functional, it also brings an aroma many prefer. Before using your wood-buring fireplace, be sure to have a professional come to check your chimney to ensure it is safe for a fire.

Stained Glass Window

Many older homes come with gorgeous stained glass windows. These pieces instantly give the home a sense of history and charm and produce dazzling colors throughout the day.

Clawfoot Tub

Clawfoot tubs are a highly desirable bathroom amenity that add character and charm to any style of home. Most are constructed of cast iron, and with a good cleaning, can last for years to come. To bring this bathroom feature up-to-date, try painting it a color that fits your style, like the black-bottom tub seen here.

Colorful Bathroom Tile

Striking tile colors make for a standout bathroom space. To embrace your colorful tile try painting the walls a similar or complementary color. The pink and black bathroom seen here embraces a light pink wallpaper design, bringing a modern edge to this bathroom.

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