A Vintage-Inspired Makeover

living room dog furniture sofa chair mirror rug
Simple DIY projects transform a dated dining room and equally tired living room into a cozy, sophisticated retreat. Get inspired by the new look’s vintage dining room ideas, nods to nature, and just-right neutrals, and create a welcoming space of your own.

Before: Dated Dining Room

The dining room's surfaces hadn't seen an update in a generation or more. Worn carpeting, dated wallpaper, and a tired light fixture conspired against the room's simple charms.

The Solution: Surface updates—tearing out the carpet, wallpaper, and chair rail—let the period windows become the room's focal point. Envisioning a vintage dining room, the completed makeover includes mixed textures of woven grasses, rustic woods, and nubby linen that provide a backdrop for the couple's ever-changing accessories.

After: Charming Vintage Dining Room

To bring a more modern look to the dining room, the standard-issue chair rail and brass chandelier were replaced with robin’s egg blue walls and a simple, understated oil-rubbed bronze fixture. The vintage dining table set with a simple linen runner and rough-hewn pottery stands in the room’s center. Wicker chairs surround the vintage dining table. Vintage dining chairs could have easily stood in, but when a space is casual and eclectic, a variety of options work. Similarly, instead of vintage dining room wall decor, this space showcases graphic botanical prints.

Dressed Up

Tag sale treasures and vintage-inspired art give this dining room a personal touch. In a space with heavy, antique dining room sets or furniture, a light hand with accessories convey an air of chic, not kitsch. Instead of fussy curtains or drapes, the homeowners opted for clean, white bi-fold shutters. To reclaim some of the softness lost from a fabric element, touches of nature step in.

Simple Nooks

An arched display alcove opposite the buffet in the vintage dining room stands out thanks to contrasting paint colors. The depth of the alcove invites the opportunity to layer accessories. A few dark elements mimic the tones of the vintage room table while a mix of mirrors add sparkle.

Lovely Living Room

Inspired by examples they saw in Europe, the homeowners designed shutters for windows on the front of their home. The recessed-panel, bifold-door design is quaint yet practical. Eclectic furniture conveys a collected-over-time look. A tufted chair and a comfortable taupe sofa that invites lounging are unified thanks to a similar tone. Likewise, a wicker coffee table and rattan side table coordinate but aren’t matchy-matchy.

Editor's Tip: Use foam-core board and tape to create a variety of shutter templates. This way you can see how much light they would block and confirm dimensions. Using your template, cut MDF boards, trim with molding, and install hinges.

Before: Bland Fireplace

A long oak shelf gave the fireplace area in the living room a low-slung, horizontal look. The 1980s mirrored wall and brass fireplace doors also felt at odds with the character of the 1912 home. A complete overhaul was needed to keep it in step with the other vintage dining room ideas and the living room’s casual flea market design.

After: Perfect Nook

The new fireplace, complete with built-ins, lighting, and an arched soffit, is better suited to the home's vintage look. It also creates a brighter, more comfortable spot for talking or playing board games at a vintage dining table, repurposed for the seating area. Two worn-out $20 chairs were revived with new slipcovers and complete the conversation nook. The chairs' simple patterned runners can easily be changed each season and protect the white seats from stains.

Editor's Tip: Before buying (even if it's a bargain!), ensure an old chair has a solid frame. Then rework it to meet your needs. In this case, collapsed cushions gave way to lofty feather ones, creating the necessary height to sit comfortably at the table.

Create Custom Bookcases

Even budget makeovers can include custom projects. To create your own custom bookcases for less, follow these simple steps.

Build the bookcases. Use MDF boards for the bookcase structure, then embellish with clear white pine trim. Simple purchased bookshelves provide the same look—sans major power tools.

Add doors. Use the same trim material to build doors for the upper shelves. Skip this step by ordering doors at a home center. Glass panels were cut to fit the frames. Spray it with paint. For a smooth look, spray the built-ins with one coat of primer and two coats of white paint.

Apply the finishing touch. Sconces and knobs with an oil-rubbed bronze finish complete the design.

Art Perfect

This hallway vignette borrows from the vintage dining room ideas in the adjoining space. Flea market paint-by-number masterpieces and even empty frames create a gallery wall. Common wood tones unify the pieces. A vintage dining room table, replete with accessories, anchors the arrangement.

Vintage Finds

Bring flea market ensembles to life with natural touches. Small plants and simple fern clippings are covered with glass cloches to help them thrive in the dry winter months. A mix of materials such as terra-cotta, wood, silver, and china suggest a look that has developed over time.

Upgrades to Try in Your Own Space

Try these simple DIY tricks to give your home a boost and capture vintage charm.

1. Refinish your floors. Rip up old carpet and refinish your floors for a rich glow.

2. Add architecture. Thoughtful architectural detail, such as this home's new fireplace cove, lend a home a sense of place.

3. Make practical fixes. The home's old wood-burning fireplace filled the living room with drafty air and a smoky smell. Retrofitting the firebox with a convenient, efficient gas unit solved those problems.

4. Mix up the furnishings. A brushed-twill sofa combines with a wicker ottoman/coffee table, a jute rug, a bamboo side table, and a vinyl footstool for an eclectic personal look.

5. Add your personal touch. Layers of favorite books, found items, and flowers make a home feel intimate and comfortable.

See this living room be transformed from a dull "before" to a gorgeous "after". And learn how you can liven up your living room with the same decorating tips for choosing colors, arranging furniture, and more.

BONUS: Another Makeover!

See how the living room in this historic home went from overlooked and tired to classic and polished.


Share the gallery

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.