'Cheap Old Houses' founders Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein explain how 2024 interior design trends can fit into historic homes – their surprising answer is refreshingly simple

Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein, the founders of 'Cheap Old Houses,' explain the strategic balance between honoring a home's history and adding fresh life

Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein of Cheap Old Houses
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

'Saving these houses isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it,' says Elizabeth Finkelstein, historic preservationist and co-founder of the viral Cheap Old House movement. Working together with her husband, Ethan, who is a historic build expert, Finkelstein scours the country (and the world) for the best antique houses under $150,000, and shares them. The couple's hugely popular Instagram is a treasure trove of stunning historic homes at an unbelievable price point. Most of the time, the homes need a little TLC, but the project isn't about immediate gratification. It's about the process.

Cheap Old Houses has massively grown since its humble Instagram beginnings. Now, the Finkelsteins' concept has its own show: Who's Afraid of a Cheap Old House?, which premiered on HGTV on May 14th. As expected, the dynamic duo has hundreds of inspiring renovation ideas, a few of which they joined Homes & Gardens to share.

In our exclusive interview with the Finkelsteins, they explained how just because current interior design trends are 'trends,' doesn't mean they can't also look timeless in a historic home. Elizabeth states: 'I think what's kind of funny is how many trends right now in interior design are actually recalling history.'

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She continues, 'For instance, color washing has been something that's been a trend recently that I've seen in houses: painting the trim and the walls and the ceilings all the same color.' This look is also known as color-drenching. Elizabeth says: 'That's really pulled from the Georgian era in houses. If you go to Mount Vernon, there's a lot of that going on in there.'

However, there are limits to how far trends can go in decorating a historic home. Ethan tells H&G: 'I would be cautious of leaning too much into trends. We always try to approach each house with the intention of how that house was meant to be created and then having some freedom within that.'

He continues, 'For instance, the color palette of an arts and crafts house is vast and varied. Likely within that, there are going to be things that speak to you and that feel timeless, and there are things that are going to feel very dated in that color palette. So we try to say, understand the rules of how the house was built at the time, and then think within those parameters when you're, thinking about trends.'

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'I would say any trend that destroys the actual architecture and fabric of the house, you should probably avoid,' Ethan adds. He goes on, 'But any trend that you like that won't harm the house, I say go for it. If you decide in five years it was just a trend, and want to change it, it's not going to have harmed the house. I've been fascinated by how many trends that are popular right now are actually very much inspired by history'

Shop the Dunn-Edwards DURA 'Cheap Old Houses' Paint

Inspired by the charm of historic homes, Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein launched a capsule collection of paint ideas with Dunn-Edwards DURA in late 2023. These paints can effortlessly complement the beauty of antique homes, but can also add character and warmth to any house.

In Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein's conceptions, trends are inspired by history, and can have their space in antique homes, as long as caution is exercised. To learn more, you'll just have to tune into Who's Afraid of a Cheap Old House? this Tuesday.

Sophie Edwards
News Editor

Sophie is a London-based News Editor at Homes & Gardens, where she works on the Celebrity Style team. She is fascinated by the intersection of design and popular culture and is particularly excited when she is researching trends or interior history. Before joining Future, Sophie worked as the Head of Content and Communications at Fig Linens and Home, a boutique luxury linens and furniture brand. She has also written features on exciting developments in the design world for Westport Magazine. Sophie has a MSc from the Oxford University Department of Anthropology and BA in Creative Writing and Sociology from Sarah Lawrence College.