Decorating a "vintage" home?

15 Replies

I made an offer on a vacation home that is pretty dated inside. We are not good at decorating and are looking for suggestions.

I will have more pictures this weekend but right now this is all I've got.

The laminate flooring will be replaced with vinyl plank. The windows will be replaced. Any suggestions on what to do with wood paneling on the walls or these old cabinets? We could replace the cabinets but would want to wait until next year. I'm looking for temporary solutions that would make the home "acceptable" until a later time.



Based on the condition of the cabinets and the paneling I might take a risk and see what it would rent for with them still in it. How close to market rent would it bring, and how long on market would it sit?

Maybe Murphy's Oil soap all of the wood and leave it as is and see if it rents.

I say that because you don't know what's behind that paneling (cost $$$)(40 layers of wallpaper, giant cracks in the lath and plaster, etc...) and from the pic it looks like a lot of cabinets (cost $$$) to replace.

If it were mine and I decided to leave it as is, I'd probably do the kitchen floor in (period type) 12 x 12 squares and replace the carpet with dark LVP and see how much rent I could get for it.

Probably a new Formica top and a new Dish Washer (just to avoid service calls on the old one) and Greige the wall color.

Of course from the pics I can't tell the condition of the cabinets--but have have seen similar ones of that age in incredible shape.

Good Luck!

Thanks for the responses! 

I should have been more clear: we're delaying renovations because we want to enjoy it as our weekend getaway for the first year while we develop a complete plan, build furnishings, etc. We will do a full renovation in winter of 2020 and put guests in it starting in Spring of 2021.

Hey @Nathan G. , no offense bud, but that photo looks for all the world like an early 1970 mobile home.  If it is a mobile home let me know and my advice will change a lot.  The paneling would all need to go, as well as the cupboard doors.  I probably have one tenth of your experience with vacation rentals, but I would pick a theme and stick with it throughout the entire house.  Pick your target group, see what they like and push the limit.  Despite your prior attempts you have never come to see my vacation rentals, unfortunately I only have one day open between now and early November.  I did one property in a duplex nice, but nothing fancy, the other side I called the Bunkhouse and put all kinds of Cowboy ornaments in it, like tables with horse legs, western logwood couch and bed, wagon wheels, varnished pine baseboard and trim, stainless steel appliances, hickory hardwood floors, antique oak hutches and dressers,walk in tiled shower with horses depicted on the shower curtain, elk antler lamp and mirror, etc.  My wife was not pleased at what I spent, but the "Bunkhouse" has outsold the "Cozy" side by almost 50%.  It seems that most folks don't just want cheap, they want cool, or unique.  If you cannot cannot find anything like that let me know and I will take you to my barn and let you look around there hehe.

@Jerry W. Good eye! It's a mobile home from 1976 on a permanent foundation and solid as a rock. Same owner for 40 years and he hasn't done anything to update the interior but everything is in really good condition. He wrapped the house in log siding and added a house roof over the mobile roof.

We're getting it for $159,000 which is a great price just for the location. Most the houses around it would sell for $400 - $500. Views are amazing, it's accessible year-round, has a great well. House is actually 4bed/2bath and could easily sleep 8 and then the 1,000sq.ft. garage is insulated and heated so that would make a bunk house and game room. It will take a little money but we can turn this into a vacation rental and make some good money. Our friends make over $40,000 with their vacation rental right up the road. I would be happy making half that to cover our costs and cash-flow enough for a family vacation somewhere else. Eventually, this would be an ideal spot to build a nice home for retirement.

I am planning to paint the paneled walls and cabinets, replace hardware on doors/drawers, update flooring. We will probably run with a western theme just because it's easy. My actual renovation will include replacing the entire kitchen and both bathrooms. I like the yellow fixtures for the retro appeal but for a vacation rental we will want to spruce it up.

We also have great cell signal and dish so that will help with the always-connected guests.

This reminds me of my husband’s house when we got married. Harvest gold appliances, dark oak cabinets and paneling, and yellow Formica countertops, just like yours.  It sure brings back memories. But I t’s all gone now. 

If you weren’t going to remodel in a year, I was going to suggest going with a 70’s theme - add some bright prints with orange or avocado green for curtains and pillows, macrame plant hangers, and dark Mediterranean furniture, which was popular back then. 

I have a 70's modular on pilings at the beach. Paneling all over. Used Behrs best all in one paint with beachy wall colors and white trim. I was amazed how much it perked up the place from all that brown. Or add some strips over the paneling to give it a board and batten ranch bunkhouse look. I've found that old paneling paints nicely, old mobile home kitchen cabinets do not. 

Your Western theme is a winner already. I would continue that. Take down the upper cabinets to open the space up. Maybe remove the upper cabinets for wooden open shelves. Mason jars for glasses. A friend with a beach house painted old laminate countertop. She also wrapped and hot glued light sisal rope to all the cabinet knobs. Cowboy or nautical! Hit sales for old farm repurposable pieces. Find a small galvanized tub to hang upside down, add simple lamp light sockets to replace that cobble glass colonial light fixture. 

If there is any carpet, get rid of it. It's an odor generator in old homes and so hard to clean. Put in a wide plank LVP for the ranch house look and feel. No carpet will make your own visits nicer too.

Congrats on getting a place with much potential and have fun!!




Thanks for the suggestions, @Glenna Wood ! I am familiar with the hot glue rope and have to say that is a little too kitschy for me. I don't necessarily want a "theme" like some people do, I just want a unified look that is classy, memorable, and fits with Wyoming and the surrounding culture. But it doesn't have to be cowboy saddles, dead animals on the wall, and indian blankets.

You had some good ideas. Thank you!

@Nathan G. You are on the track I would take. Paint everything including the paneling and cabinets. Light and bright with some accent walls. New flooring as well and that will go a long long ways. 

Long term. I would start with a new house. A mobile home will always be a mobile home. Nothing is conventional so water piping, fixtures, and electrical doesn't match code for stick built. You will always be fighting it so if you can afford to start over that's the route I would go.

@Nathan G. , I am very glad you liked the location and view.  I told you my advice would change if you told me it was a mobile home.  My first inclination was to say insure the hell out of it and plug in a few electric heaters and let nature take its course.  All joking aside I really dislike mobile homes because as a fireman I really fear them.  Everything in them is flammable, nothing has any sort of a firewall.  The paneling not only does not act as a firebreak, it is a fire accelerator.  The paneling is usually wiped down with some form of oil to preserve it and give it a nice shine so it is mega flammable.  Fire races through them in minutes, and the walls and doors are ultra thin and so you cannot even use standard doors as the jambs are too wide.  I have in the past added sheetrock over the top of the paneling to make the walls wider so I can use regular doors.  Your walls are most likely made out of 2X2s.  What isn't made out of paper thin paneling is plastic, including most of your plumbing, not pex, just plastic.  Probably set up for a max of 50 amps.  Put smoke alarms in every room, and at least 2 fire extinguishers a fair distance away from the stove.  Make sure the exit doors and exit windows are in working order.  The floors are made out of the sawdust board, that is reasonably strong, but the glue falls apart very quickly as soon as it gets wet.  If your floor under the toilet and sink is not already plywood from replacing the particle board, it will be soon.  Spill water and leave it long enough and the floor will sag.  The little motors on the windows give out quickly and so they won't work.  Often the electrical boxes were just using outlets with lots of slots in the back, those usually develop shorts and catch fire regularly.  Replace every one of them.  I lived in the old mobile homes myself, and part of it with my kids.  That will never happen again.  The newer models are fine, they eventually required manufacturors to build them according to house codes, so enter drywall, roofs that are not rolled metal, better wiring, escape windows, exterior doors that were not tin covered paneling.

I have been in several mobile homes that were burning.  We actually saved one or two of them.  One was only 2 blocks from the firehall, but it had a lot of damage.  It spread so fast, we couldn't put it out because we could not vent the hot gases outside.  They cut open the roof, they thought, but they only cut open the roof covering the trailer house, not the trailer roof itself.  Everything from 3 feet below the ceiling was burned or charred or melted.  I would have to agree with @Bill S. , have plans to replace it someday.  Get the smoke detectors with 10 year batteries, put one in every bedroom, every hallway, and everywhere but the kitchen.  With it being out of town the fire department will never be the ones to save it.  Make very , very sure it does not have aluminum wiring.  You can tell by taking the cover off of the breaker box. 

I don't mean to rain on your parade, and I am probably biased, but I have helped remove more than one body from more than one old trailer house.  They improved a lot when they got into the 1980s.

Jerry, I prefer honesty over protected feelings! I'm aware of the increased risk with a mobile home but let's keep it in perspective. In a five year period, there were about 11,000 mobile home fires and 160 deaths. That's 2,200 fires a year and 32 deaths a year. 

There are approximately 10,500,000 manufactured homes in America. This means your risk of dying in a mobile home fire is .0003%. Your chance of choking to death on food is .0002%. I'll take those odds.

Going up to inspect tomorrow and I'll try to post some pictures.