Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein, the hosts of HGTV’s “Cheap Old Houses,” love exploring historic structures—and often unearth old trends that are making a comeback.
In the episode “Cheap Old Farmhouse Dreams,” Elizabeth and Ethan visit three homes in Pennsylvania that are packed with history. Though these houses are old, Elizabeth spots some surprisingly beautiful design choices that seem to be trending again today. Here are five that may be worth adding to your own abode.
1. Subway tile with thin grout lines
The first home Elizabeth and Ethan visit is a 1925 Arts and Crafts–style home in Monessen. This home is a good size at 1,856 square feet, and it’s on the market for only $50,000.
When Elizabeth and Ethan walk in, they find this home has 1920s history and charm covering every wall. In fact, one feature Elizabeth absolutely loves is on the wall of the kitchen: the subway tile.
While subway tile is a popular choice for modern homes, Elizabeth explains that antique subway tile is different from what would typically be bought today.
“A lot of the subway tile they sell today has, like, a cushion or a bevel shape,” Elizabeth says, whereas this old subway tile is perfectly flat.
It’s not just the tile shape that stands out. Elizabeth further explains that, unlike today, homeowners in the 1920s made sure their tile grout lines were thin for easy cleaning.
“Around this time, people were obsessed with making spaces really easy to clean,” Elizabeth says. “So we had really thin grout lines like this so you could just swipe over it. It was almost supposed to be like a solid surface.”
2. Thin-plank wood flooring
While the kitchen tile impresses Elizabeth and Ethan, there are many other antique details that Elizabeth points out, including the thin-plank wood floor.
“These are original to the house,” Elizabeth says, squatting down to touch the wood floor. “They’re super skinny, very typical of the 1920s. And the skinnier the boards were, the more expensive they were because that was a lot more labor.”
While wide-plank floors have been in style in recent years, these thin planks look lovely. This classic hardwood style adds texture to the room and makes the space feel extra homey.
3. Interior shutters instead of curtains
The next house Elizabeth and Ethan tour is a beautiful 1883 Victorian in Oxford. This huge five-bedroom, three-bathroom home is well-preserved, and the pair are excited when they find the original interior shutters still on the windows.
“I am blown away by the fact that every one of the original interior shutters is there and is in absolutely beautiful working condition,” Elizabeth says. “Interior shutters were sort of the original cooling systems in houses. Now that we have modern technologies like air conditioning, they’ve become a little bit obsolete, so to find them all in this house and all intact, it’s kind of amazing.”
Ethan says shutters are “way better” than curtains, and while this may be debatable, these shutters do add lots of charm to this home. It’s worth noting, for homeowners looking to dress up their home with some classic style.
4. Vintage appliances and a sink with legs
This home has a lot of historic charm, but the kitchen was renovated in the 1990s, making it feel out of place. In order to give this kitchen a more classic look, Elizabeth suggests removing the drop ceiling and the peninsula, then adding a new tile floor, black countertops, and some classic appliances.
“Vintage appliances and a white porcelain sink with legs are a given in a more historically accurate kitchen,” Elizabeth says.
The appliances will certainly make the space feel more like it once did, and a sink with legs will give the room a unique look. While most homeowners have a sink that’s built into the cabinets, this older style could look great in this space.
5. Colorful bathrooms
The third home, an 1896 Victorian stone farmhouse, is located in Spring City. This home isn’t actually for sale; it’s simply being fixed up by owners Veronica and Paul, who paid $150,000 for the property. Nonetheless, Elizabeth and Ethan are delighted that they kept the home’s colorful bathroom intact.
“Colorful bathroom fixtures were a big thing at one point in history,” Elizabeth says when she sees it. “No one saves them; everyone rips them out. People think they’re dated, and it’s so nice to see someone appreciating it.”