Old Home, New Tricks

Old Home, New Tricks

Barry Wooley Designs

Choose finishes that complement the original without taking attention away from it.

Barry Wooley Designs

Old Home, New Tricks

by Skye Squires


Often times there is a ton of pressure to stick with a given style when updating a period specific house, but that doesn’t have to be the case. For example, a mid century ranch doesn’t need to look like the set of Mad Men and a victorian home doesn’t have to be dripping with antiques to make the home beautiful. Moreover, it certainly does not need to fit anything but your style and meet the functionality for everyday living.

That being said, there are a few guidelines to help along the way in keeping the integrity of an older home while still making it your own. Whether you purchase a Craftsman, victorian, mid century, 80s contemporary or turn of the century shotgun, there is something about the home that you fell in love with. As we well know, old does not mean wrong and more often than not it adds to the character of your home. Updating a vintage house can be tricky and knowing where to draw the line between restoration and renovation gets blurry. Allow me to help guide you!

There have been countless occasions that I have walked into a client’s dated house and seen the baffled look on their face saying, “what did I get myself into?”. Honestly, I absolutely drool over the challenge. Right off hand I ask what drew them to this space while mentally taking notes of the details they love and ones they don’t. Just because you despise the original chandelier in the foyer doesn’t mean it has to stay there or stay at all. Either relocate it to another space that appropriately fits the scale or take it to an architectural salvage company to find a good home. Vintage light fixtures are like beautiful jewelry that need a little love to bring a lot of charm to a room.

The one tip I cannot stress enough is PRESERVE THE WOOD, folks!! Original hardwood, ornate woodwork, builtins and trim work found in old homes is hard to come by and holds substantial value monetarily and aesthetically. If the wood is damaged beyond repair, of course, remove the piece(s). Beyond the wood, original hardware like doorknobs, cabinet latches and even windows add more character to the home than what can often be found in modern day replacements. Avoid replacing these items if at all possible and if you find yourself staring at them in disgust, please please please send them somewhere that some other collector can take them home to adore!

Older homes were built in another time where life was seemingly lived differently, hence the spacial challenges. Maintaining the structural theme of the house is very important so that the original style isn’t all together lost. Everything should be in proportion to make major alterations to the home less obvious. Add space in the heavy traffic areas- kitchen, family room, bathrooms- while considering the overall flow and structure of the house. If your home is on the historic registry, it is a whole different ballgame. Be sure to check with your local historic preservation society before making any alterations to your home.

Last, but most certainly not least, do not try to match to the original. It just won’t work. If you are placing an addition onto the house or replacing flooring, you are not going to be able to make a perfect match. Patchwork is not a good look in this case and these details stick out like a sore thumb. Choose finishes that complement the original without taking attention away from it. As shocking as it sounds, creating a sleek and modern contrast to the vintage lines of a house can produce a beautiful product!

Home renovations are the headache and heartache of many home owners. The process and decisions can be overwhelming, but there is a laundry list of professionals like myself who have a sick infatuation with silly things like hardware and flooring that would love to make your home a dream come true. 🙂

Location and Hours

The Portland area, off of 10th Street, is the new home of Barry Wooley Designs’ flagship location. Its convenience to downtown, ample parking and proximity to the areas top restaurants make it a great location for a wonderful shopping experience. The BW Design Team operates out of this hub of creativity.

Operating Hours
Monday - Saturday - 10am to 5pm

Barry Wooley Designs
116 S 10th Street
Louisville, KY 40202-2612



Whether you are looking for something comfortable and sophisticated, or rich and relaxed, you've landed in the right place. Our team is looking forward to connecting with you and creating a space that inspires.