Adding A Vintage Vibe To Your New Build

By Ashley Freeman

Adding a Vintage Vibe to Your New Build

What makes up your home? Well, every new build starts as a structure; becomes filled with beds, tables, dressers, sectionals and armchairs and is topped off with accessories and personal knickknacks.

I’ve been in the design industry for five years now and it’s taken me all that time to truly understand what makes a house feel like a home. Vintage design, or as I like to say, choosing pieces that tell a story, is one of the ways to really bring your house to life.

If you live in a newly built home and want to add some vintage character, here are my tips for how to get there:


A vintage look can be realized through soft furnishings. Imagine what type of materials would’ve been used back in the day (according to your preferred era) and copy it!


Older or antique furniture would have been handmade. Find upholstered pieces with a wooden frame or a vintage wooden accent chair with antique charm. Better yet? DIY an existing armchair by cutting away at the fabric to reveal the wooden frame.


Look for traditional prints such as florals or botanicals and look for textures that appear handmade, woven with imperfections — something that looks like your Granny Sue made it.


Layer books. Look for vintage books at used book stores or library sales You can stack your shelves with them to create a vintage library or pile them up as a side table. DIY an art piece with pages from old books.

Hard Surfaces

A vintage look is just a nod to the past. If you really want to go all out, ask your builder to modify the structures of your home (aka, walls, floors, hard surfaces) to make them look older.


Drywall is the poster child of a new build. Ditch it by resurfacing with one of the following options: brick (painted or raw), plaster, wallpaper, beadboard or some sort of wood paneling. This will add an extra barrier to dampen sound and insulate, as well as add character — it’s a win-win!


Ask your builder to distress or paint your hardwood floors or replace tile for a smaller mosaic or clay tile. If you’re on a tighter budget, you can even paint a stencil pattern over floors for a vintage look.


Choose vintage fixtures (and I’m talking authentically vintage, not vintage remakes!). Second-hand or antique shops always carry stunning lighting fixtures that just need to be reimagined. You can always paint a tired fixture to give it new life!


Opt for solid wood doors. Older homes would have been built with solid wood doors. Not only are they more beautiful to look at, but the solid wood is sound dampening and has weight to it, which feels much more luxurious in use.


Find antique or vintage-inspired fixtures. Instead of silver hardware, try brass, bronze, steel, wood or glass. This applies to faucets as well! If you’re on a budget, hardware stores offer spray paints compatible with metals so you can paint them or change the metal color. This translates especially well in kitchens. For example: ask your builder to paint the interior of your kitchen cabinets a contrasting color to add some vintage charm.

The simple mindset of “would this have existed back in the day?” is enough to get you on the right track to reimagining your newly built home and adding some vintage vibes.

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Ashley Freeman is a Toronto-based interior designer who leads her design firm to capture the fullness and richness of life through materials and finishes. See her featured on Apartment Therapy, the Contemporist and Umbra.

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