Top 10 Ways to Give Your New House Some Pretty, Old-House Charm

Love the whimsy and romance of an old home, but you're stuck in a stark, newly constructed one? Well, with a little know-how and elbow grease, you can DIY your way to architectural interest in any room. Here are This Old House's top 10 Step-by-Step projects to add timeless character to a house of any age.

1. Install Crown Molding
Crown molding brings a timeless sophistication to any room. The good news: it can be added without a big bill from the lumberyard or clouds of drywall dust. Installing crown molding, however, is a task that strikes fear in the heart of many amateur carpenters-and even some pros. Corner joints are especially troublesome. But, you can get it right with some patience. Here is the Step-by-Step Guide, How to Install Crown Molding.
See also:
All About Crown Molding
Making Backing Strips for Crown Molding
VIDEO: How to Cope a Joint for Crown Molding

2. Add Stair Brackets
The newel post and balusters get all the attention, while the exposed side of most staircases is largely ignored. But with the addition of decorative stair brackets like these, a bland stringer can become an elegant eye-catcher. See How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets to put up simple-to-install wood brackets with adhesive and nails.

MORE: How to Build an Entry Table From Salvaged Stair Parts

3. Hang a Tin Ceiling
In less than a weekend you could turn a blank ceiling into an architectural showpiece of pressed metal. Just imagine sleek steel above the kitchen cabinets, or a classic Victorian-era pattern painted white, to make a lacy canopy in your bedroom. Jot down some measurements and check out How to Hang a Tin Ceiling to get started.

See also:
All About Tin Ceilings

4. Put Up a Ceiling Medallion
If you would like to add a touch of the baroque to your home without going all broke, consider one of these. A decorative disk centered overhead can turn a plain expanse of drywall into an architectural focal point. And luckily, what was once made from heavy, fragile plaster is now available in molded polyurethane-lightweight, more forgiving, and much easier on the wallet. Check out How to Install a Ceiling Medallion and find out how a morning on a ladder with a tube of construction adhesive is all you need to do it yourself.

MORE: 7 Great Looks for Your Ceiling

5. Install Wainscoting
We're the first to say all you need is a can of paint. But for a room revamp that brings dimension and lasting value to plain walls, nothing beats a traditional wainscot of richly layered wood panels. How they're put together may seem inscrutable to the average DIYer, but once you peel back the layers of this architectural onion, you'll find that each step is plenty doable, if a bit tricky at times. See for yourself: here's How to Install Wainscoting

See also:How to Install Patterned Lincrusta WainscotAdd a Pop of Color With Wainscot StripesCustom Wainscot for Just $4.49 a Square Foot

6. Put in Some Wall Frames
We'll let you in on a little secret: A lot of the fancy woodwork you see inside old houses is nothing more than deft layering, bits of simple molding combined to mimic ornate profiles. Consider, for example, the wall frame, the thin rectangle first used by the British in the 1750s to give the illusion of wood paneling after plaster walls came into vogue. If you have a plain room, you don't need to hire a pro-or be one yourself-to get this bit of custom carpentry. See How to Install Wall Frames for step-by-step instructions.

7. Add Stature With Baseboards
Despite their lowly position along the floor, baseboards are one of a house's defining features. If they have stature, a room becomes regal; when they are skimpy, that same space looks dowdy. It's easy to replace modern moldings with taller, thicker, two- or three-part baseboards. See How to Install Baseboards and sharpen your carpentry skills while you're at it.

8. Add Ceiling Coffers
Ceiling coffers came into vogue during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when American architecture went retro with a revival of classical house styles. The hollow wood-panel grid was originally used during the Renaissance to dress up beams. Today, a handy homeowner can easily get the look. See How to Coffer a Ceiling for this, plus more easy projects to add old-house charm.

9. Build a Window Seat First, you need a niche that features a window. Then, the seat has to be custom-built by a cabinetmaker or trim carpenter to fit the exact width and sill height of the window. Not surprisingly, this approach is expensive and time-consuming. We've got a way to do it using stock cabinetry that'll take you just a weekend to complete! See How to Build a Window Seat Using Stock Cabinets for more.

10. Trim Out a Window
Whether restoring old houses or building new ones that look old, Tom Silva finds finish carpentry the most satisfying part of the job. For this project, Tom installed window trim that has reeded side and head casings, plain corner blocks, a thick stool, and a dainty apron, all of which he copied from the original trim. Here's our general contractor's own method in How to Trim Out a Window.

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