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How to Make a New House Feel Anything but New

Nine savvy strategies to infuse your new log or timber home with even more charm.

Written by Donna Peak


There are a lot of excellent reasons to build a brand-new, custom home. Of course, there’s the ability to tailor the layout to your needs and the finishes to your specific tastes, but there’s also peace of mind in knowing that components, like the roof and HVAC, are up to snuff and in perfect working order. 

The downside of a new build is that it can feel new — meaning that it can lack the character and sense of permanence of a home that’s been around the block for a while. “Many people find old houses inherently attractive,” says Patricia Poore, editor-in-chief of Old House Journal magazine (a sister publication of Log & Timber Home Living). “They come to us with a whiff of lives past, a softness as they settle and age, unexpected nooks or evidence of fine craftsmanship.”

Log and timber-framed homes fall into the “fine craftsmanship” category Patricia speaks of, and choosing to build with these time-honored materials automatically helps to alleviate that cold, sterile feeling. However, there are additional materials and methods you can use to infuse your home with the character of a historical abode — even if you’re on a budget. Here are nine of our faves:


1. Design using classical proportions and historical standards; this goes for roof pitch, size and placement of windows, depth of the porch, etc. Remember that logs and heavy timbers are a building material and don’t have to conform to a predetermined “style,” so why not consider archetypal design motifs, like Georgian or Victorian, as you craft your layout.


2. One of the easiest ways to give a new home a touch of nostalgia is right under your feet. Wide-plank flooring made of reclaimed wood is at once beautiful, durable and sentimental. 

Wide-plank flooring was common in historic farmhouses because it was easily sourced from large, old-growth trees on the surrounding farmland that could be milled on site and quickly installed,” says John Nevadomski with Pioneer Millworks. “Today, capturing the vintage look and feel of farmhouse flooring can be achieved by selecting a wide-plank wood flooring option that replicates the classic look of a turn-of-the-century farmhouse floor.”


3. Include salvaged materials, such as a statement-making wood or plaster surround to frame a fireplace, or a carved-wood door. If you can’t find a genuine antique, there are a host of companies and handcrafters who can replicate the antique look. An excellent new-old fit is a solid-wood front door with clavo bolts and a speakeasy window.

Screen doors are another way to make an entry feel as homey and welcoming as Grandma’s place. Make them interesting by installing double screen doors for a bit of French flair. 


4. Add a touch of stained or leaded glass in an unexpected place, like at the landing of a switchback staircase or above a bathtub (it will let in light while maintaining modesty).


5. Obviously, lighting is essential, but shiny, modern fixtures can feel out of place if you are trying to create an established, legacy-home vibe. This is an area where you can get really creative with up-cycled options and antique flair. And up the ante with push-button switches instead of the typical flip variety.


6. Patricia suggests incorporating materials that will develop a natural patina over time. These include unlacquered brass, copper, soapstone, raw cedar shingles and stone walls (lichen happens!). 


7. Hinges and other hardworking hardware often go totally unnoticed — they just fade into the background and do their job. However, this is an excellent opportunity to insert some unanticipated flair into your design. Antique hinges, doorknobs and drawer pulls are easy to find in shops and online and come in a range of materials and finishes to fit your aesthetic. 


8. Forgo the microwave above the stove (not only does it look less-than-homey, it’s impossible for two people to use both appliances at the same time), and opt for a decorative vent hood. Here, aged steel is further embellished with a painted crest. 


9. Also on display in this kitchen, the trusses overhead mix wood types. They feature new yellow pine interwoven with timbers from a dismantled tobacco factory, creating intriguing contrast as well as a wood-home appropriate vintage vibe.


See Also: Design of the Times

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