These home improvement tips are going to take your old home into the new decade. Get simple, actionable DIY house projects that will make buying an old house (or even a slightly dated one) so much more fun! 

A bathroom with a greige vanity and cream walls

In my ideal world, I would have a picture perfect new home with all of the old home charm. Apparently, a knock down is not in our budget, nor are the high quality building materials that I would want to use!

The solution? Finding ways to make an old home feel new, without losing character.

Home Improvement Tips 

In each of the homes we’ve lived in, we’ve worked on DIY improvements as well as taken on larger construction projects with the help of contractors. We’ve learned so much along the way!

We’ve taken on countless adventures, including renovating our modern lake house, fully remodeling our kitchen, a new spa bathroom, and more.

I love sharing ideas with you – check out this list of ways to get a luxury home for less, and where to invest in your home for the best return.

A spa bath with a white vanity and gold fixtures

Over the years we’ve also done some inexpensive quick fixes, including painting tile, refreshing grout lines, and we’ve utilized the most brilliant trick for painting over stained wood without sanding. (PS if you’ve never tried that little tip, you’ve got to start now!)

One of the most important elements in our last home search was neighborhood. I passed up my picture perfect colonial home, loaded with details and charm, in favor of an enchanting neighborhood that we knew would be perfect for raising our girls.

Did I love the home itself as much? No, but it was a better fit for our family overall.

So far, I don’t regret it! Okay, I’m still mourning the loss of those two levels of hardwoods, the perfect floor plan, and the butler’s pantry I’ve dreamed of my entire life. However, neighbors welcoming us with friendly smiles, cake bites and fireworks on the driving range have compensated for the loss of that house!

painted tile

Buying an Old House

There’s probably some debate about what’s considered an old home. Personally, if it’s over 20-30 years old, I think it can be called an older house. If it’s at least 50 years old I think you can even call it vintage! Our lake cottage is certainly not considered old, but there were still many improvements to be made.

Regardless of your home’s age, many of these ideas can be implemented for updates. Often I hear from readers who live in a home that’s only 10-20 years old. Guess what? Even those homes might need updating, and they will all show some wear and tear! 

Whether you’re buying a home that’s 100 years old or only a decade old, there are inexpensive DIY home projects you can take on to make improvements. 

how to update an old home on any budget

This home showed signs of heavy wear and needed a little refresh. Come inside to see the easy ways we updated our home. In fact, you can see our entire before and after here – don’t miss it! 

Easy DIY House Projects

Many of these ideas are things you can truly accomplish yourself, and some of them can be done in a weekend! 

Buying an old house is not for the faint of heart. But if your home is just dated cosmetically, there are so many actionable ideas that can make a big impact… with very little cost or time! 

Read on for some of my favorite home improvement tips to make your old home feel new.

Buying an Older Home? Get Started Here!

Clean or Replace Carpets

Make the space feel fresh with new carpet or by having it thoroughly cleaned.

easy updates for an old home

Make it Cohesive

A lot can be lost through the years – an update here and there can leave the home in a state of mis-matched chaos.

Determine how to make room by room finishes connect throughout the house to feel cohesive. It will feel polished, thus giving it new life. 

This can be best accompolished by connecting your flooring choices and paint palettes throughout the home.

tips to update an old home and make it feel new

Update Outlets, Light Switches and Plates

This has made a significant difference in all four of our older homes. Sometimes they yellow, have been painted over, or are various shapes and styles from “updates” through the years.

You can easily update your home by making all of the light switches and plates cohesive. We completed our entire house for under $100 and one minor shock. Find our switch plate covers here!

Note: if you’re not experienced in doing this, hire a licensed electrician or find a great online video source and watch a few tutorials. It’s relatively simple, yet tedious work. Also consider replacing yellowed alarms, thermostats and most importantly, smoke detectors.

Give an old home new life with these simple tips
Beautiful details that add character to your home

Repair Walls

When we purchased our home, it was apparent that years of poor quality DIY patching had taken place. We had our painter fix the blemishes and fill all 240 nail holes. Yes, 240. Now when the light shines on them, it looks like new drywall!

how to update an old house

Add Light

See my post about 7 ways to add light to your home – there are several tips and tricks to add light to your home beyond new fixtures that can help breathe new life.

Have an old light fixture that’s in great shape but a terrible color? Consider spray painting it for an inexpensive quick finish. 

how to update an old house


If I would have mentioned this first, you would have moved onto another site, but it’s true. A current and cohesive paint palette brings the home into the present.

Paint is also incredibly important for your exterior. Improving your curb appeal is so valuable when it comes to feeling proud of your home, regardless of its age or condition.

A gold wall lamp.

Remove Dated Fixtures

Replace dated and builder’s grade light fixtures and hardware for a quick fix to make your home feel like new. Find all my favorite Brass Light Fixtures here!

Psst… this goes for walls, too! Read here for how to decorate around Dated Wallpaper if you don’t want to put the time and energy into removing it!

A light fixture with a gold base and glass surrounding.

New Doors

If you really want to go all out, replace your doors with shaker or 6 panel doors. A front door can add a lot of curb appeal. 

While older homes are full of charm, it’s often the most disappointing updates of decades gone by that need to be replaced! We have found that previous decades can strip an old house of its original character. 

use a warm paint color to make your home feel cozy

Refinish Hardwoods

Choose an appropriate stain and give your hardwoods new life! I remember being astonished at how inexpensive it was to do the living room in our previous home. 

This is one of those perfect real estate returns, as well! Hardwood floors are timeless and always a great investment because it’s what home buyers are looking for.

Make an old home feel new with these easy ideas

Tour our Neutral Living Room and our Modern Living Room, too!

Do you have any tips to make an old home feel new? I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment and if you have any questions feel free to ask! 

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  1. I love older homes. They usually have more character and nice shady mature trees. It’s all in the details for me, arched doorways, crown moulding, hardwood flooring and a dining room. A lot of newer homes seems to fall short on the creative end as it usually ends up being a whole neighborhood of the same looking houses.

    1. I completely agree, Erika – it’s not about the character of an older home but rather restoring what had been adapted in the years since that makes a home feel bleh {particularly 60’s – 80’s homes}. I wouldn’t trade character and trees for anything!

  2. Thanks for the commentary about a home possessing a cohesive motif. I can totally see what you mean when you say that over time new items get purchased and a room theme gets thrown off kilter. That is great advice to go through a room every so often and analyze what really needs to be changed and what is okay to stay the same.

  3. I love this! And I’m realizing that I did the majority of those things and it really does make a stark, new house feel like a home.

  4. I am one of those crazy people who prefer older homes, mainly older than 1950 and wouldn’t change a thing. It’s getting harder to find original old homes but there are a few out there. I love the old kitchens baths with their gorgeous tiles that they don’t make anymore. When I get my home I will actually be installing a vintage stove and replacing any sinks with period correct ones. No granite for me!

    1. I absolutely adore older homes, but sometimes it’s the updates made along the way that make them feel less charming – this post is about restoring a home to it’s original integrity or bringing that 70’s cheap up-to-date. No granite for me either!