Old house features for modern homes

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips, Obsolete Design Elements

There are definitely a few things that have changed for the better where old houses are concerned. The first that comes to mind is air conditioning, especially central air conditioning units. How did anyone survive without them, especially in the southern states? Indoor plumbing is also an obvious improvement. But there are numerous old house features that have fallen to the wayside over the decades, unique points that could truly benefit a modern house. Here are just a few of the cool things that are no longer in wide use -- but should be.

Features that make life easier

Taking good care of your house and everyone in it sometimes feels like a full-time job. These features could make it so much easier to do the day-to-day things we often struggle to finish.

  1. The dumbwaiter. Still common in schools and restaurants, the dumbwaiter can be a most helpful device for those who live in a house with more than one floor. It could be especially great for those who often trudge up the stairs with groceries and other heavy items that could easily be zipped up with a dumbwaiter.
  2. Laundry chutes. Those with kids have a ton of laundry to do, and nothing is worse than lugging those huge hampers down the stairs. Once you have used a laundry chute, you will never be happy without one.
  3. Real shutters. Most windows today have shutters that are permanently affixed to the house. While they are lovely, they don't offer any protection against serious storms. Shutters that actually work can offer a great deal of security, especially in areas that are often hard-hit, like on the coast.
  4. A letter slot. If your home is in a neighborhood where the mail delivery person walks from house to house, a letter slot is a quaint addition that is also helpful -- you just scoop your mail up from the floor instead of leaving it outside, where nosy neighbors might check out what you just got.
  5. Cellar. Before the days of refrigeration, a cellar was the perfect place to keep vegetables and other staples cool and fresh. It also served as a safe hideaway when a tornado was bearing down on your house. Creating a cellar on your property could bring back both of these conveniences.

Features that add style

Forget ease and convenience -- what about pure style? These old house features could make modern homes look even more gorgeous.

  1. Dutch doors. These doors with a horizontal split had a practical purpose: they allowed the sun and air to flow in while keeping the animals out. Today, doors like this can add a touch of whimsy to any home.
  2. Big, unique windows. Those huge windows in old houses weren't just for looks -- they were to let in plenty of light in the days before electricity was commonplace, and they were also great for ventilation. Today's modern homes don't have a practical need for such windows, but they sure look fantastic regardless.
  3. Porches to sleep on. A long, deep porch big enough to hold a bed can not only make your home stand out, but it can serve as additional living space to enjoy during the summer months. And yes, you could sleep out there.
  4. Ceiling medallions. These decorative medallions were often used above chandeliers or other delicate forms of lighting to showcase the beauty of the piece. Things like ceiling medallions, old-fashioned chandeliers and tin ceilings have slowly vanished from modern homes, so now they can provide a pop of surprising design detail.
  5. Claw foot tub. These luxurious tubs were deep, wide, and gorgeous. Though they fell out of vogue when the shower became a staple, tucking one of these handsome models into your bathroom is sure to elicit a "wow" from guests. It also gives you a great place to soak an evening away.

Old houses hold remarkable charm, but they also hold the secrets to features that could benefit modern homes. When you're facing a remodel or renovation, consider the above options to add a bit of useful and quaint atmosphere.