Easy, Affordable Ways to Add Character to a Newly-Built Home

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(Courtney’s Kitchen)

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I tooootally hear what you’re saying Courtney!

Kevin and I lived in a brand new house a few years back, and I, too, was faced with the dilemma of finding ways to justify replacing the “new stuff” the builder picked out, with things that suited our personal style.

My opinion is this.

Home is where YOUR heart is.
So no matter if you plan on living in your house for 6 months, or 60 years-
creating inspired surroundings that make your heart sing is so important.

If that means removing a couple of new cabinet doors so that you can see your pretty dishes- so be it!

If that means replacing some light fixtures with a few that make you smile every time you see them- so be it!

If that means painting unpainted wood- so be it!

Besides, 9 times out of 10, whatever it is you think needs a facelift (i.e. your cabinets, your doors, your light fixtures), chances are, future buyers will probably think so too.

Take our kitchen for example…

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Even though everything was brand new when we moved in- drywall, tile, appliances, countertops, cabinets, there’s a reason this house sat on the market for nearly a year. It wasn’t “homey”, and everyone who looked at it could feel it.

Now I’m not saying that what we did to our kitchen is for everyone- but we made it comfortable for us, and when and if we decide to sell our house, I’m hoping that prospective buyers will, in the very least, feel a little more at home when they tour the place this time around.

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So, Courtney, if you and your husband are experiencing what I call “Model Home Syndrome”, I bet whatever you do to cozy the place up will not only improve your quality of life, but will also make your home more appealing to future buyers, and maybe even up your resale value too!

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Here are some easy, low dough ideas that can instantly kick up the charm factor…

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Don’t feel too bad about replacing light fixtures- especially if they’re the inexpensive ones that builders usually put in to save themselves some money.

We had several of these in our last house…

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We’ve got a bunch of them here at TLC too.
And while there’s really nothing wrong with this type of fixture, they’re just not exactly our style.

This particular type of fixture typically costs under twenty bucks brand new, so we don’t feel guilty replacing them as our budget allows.
Especially since we know that “Habitat For Humanity” can re-use them.

If you still can’t bring yourself to buy new lights to replace your existing ones with- maybe you can change the look of them with a little oil-rubbed bronzed spray paint…

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Sometimes a quick facelift can make a world of difference!

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It may take a few years to get them all switched out- but if they’re going to bug you every time you look at them, I’d say it’s worth the extra effort to switch them all out, or repaint them the color of your choice.

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Also, a lot of times builders will install fairly inexpensive, hollow-core doors.
For example, the door pictured above costs just $19.00 at Home Depot.

We swapped out this brand new “builder” door…

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With this old, solid wood one we had lying around the house…

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We donated the original one to Habitat For Humanity.
That’s some guilt-free renovating, huh?

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Removing the carpet from your stairs is another inexpensive project that can give your staircase a totally different look. Rhoda, from Southern Hospitality, re-did her steps to better suit her style, and they turned out great!

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(Before)

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(After)

Click here to read her tutorial.

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The subject of whether or not someone should paint their kitchen cabinets comes up a lot in my inbox.

I have found that most wives want to paint them, and most husbands do not.

I asked my own husband to weigh in on this matter, and this is what he had to say:

“Husbands need to listen to their wives.”

Okay, fine. I made that part up. I didn’t really just ask him to weigh in on the matter.

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But I have asked him in the past, and his answer is always the same:

“I think most guys are just afraid to mess with something new. That, and they probably just can’t see what their wife is seeing- even if she shows him a picture of what it could look like. I think if she wants painted cabinets bad enough to save up for a professional painter, he should allow her to have them professionally sprayed. That way everyone is happy.

I love that man.

If having them professionally sprayed is out of the question- you can also change the look of basic or stock kitchen cabinets by simply removing some of the doors…

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Open shelves not only keep items within easy reach, but they also make decorative statements out of cookbooks and appliances.

Not into the look of open cabinetry? How about adding some glass to some of your existing doors. My friend Susie Harris did it all by herself, and they turned out great!

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(Before)

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(After)

Click here to read her tutorial.

Lauren, from Pure Style Home, removed her upper cabinets altogether…

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It was a daring design move (love those!), but boy did she follow her heart and create an amazing kitchen, eh?

And if Lauren ever decides to sell her house, I’m sure whoever buys it will want it because of the fun, fresh look she created.

Moving out can be such an emotional experience, so it always helps to know the people moving in are head over heels in love with your house, and will appreciate it like you did.

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Switching out your door and drawer pulls is one of the quickest and easiest ways to personalize your cabinets. For a classic look, use period-style hardware. To save money, I buy all my handles, knobs, and latches on eBay.

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The bin pulls pictured above feel both old and new, and marry vintage style with modern efficiency.
Can’t beat that!

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Chris, from Just Beachy, has done lots of things to add character to her new home.

One of which is the addition of lots of molding…

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(Before)

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(After)

She also added some in her dining room…

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And in her bedroom too!

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And remember, you don’t always have to paint your molding white.

It could be green…

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It could be blue…

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It can even be black!

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Adding molding will really add a lot of architectural charm and texture to all those “seas of drywall” that can be found in so many new homes.

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Wallpaper is another way to add a bit of your own personality into your new home.

Sherwin Williams has lots of sample books you can look through- and as long as your not doing more than one room at a time, it’s a pretty affordable way to change the look of any given space.

Lauren, whose kitchen I featured above, covered her breakfast nook with a black and white patterned wallpaper…

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Isn’t it fantastic!?

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Here’s another perfectly papered place I found online…

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Makes me happy just lookin’ at it!

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Melissa, from 320 Sycamore, used beadboard wallpaper on the door fronts in her laundry room…

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(Before)

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(After)

The great thing about beadboard wallpaper is that it’s embossed to feel just like real wood beadboard, so once it’s painted, no one will ever know it’s not the real thing!

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“Moonkat99″ from Gardenweb used beadboard wallpaper on her ceiling…

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(Before)

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(After)

(FYI- You can usually find beadboard wallpaper at any home improvement store, but you can also get it here.)

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Another great way to personalize your space is through vinyl “wall words”.
They’re inexpensive, and they’re easy to remove if you ever want to change things up.

One of our Sponsors, Leen the Graphics Queen, can custom make you any type of decal your heart desires.

Whether it’s lyrics to one of your favorite tunes…

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Or just something that makes your heart go pitter patter everytime you’re in the room…

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And don’t forget- vinyl will cling to mirrored surfaces too!

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I hope there’s an idea or two here that you can use Courtney!

Happy Decorating!

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Comments

  1. Pamela says

    I LOVE the way you painted your kitchen! Do you mind me asking what is that gray colour that you used on the bottom cabinets? Thanks!

      • Elizabeth says

        Your kitchen has inspired both me AND a co-worker to go gray on cabinets. I’ve scoured the web for the perfect gray color. I thought I read in a previous post that yours were “Mourning Dove”, a color previously made by Sherwin Williams. Do tell, I love your color. Thanks!

  2. says

    I laughed Layla when you said, “I’m hoping that prospective buyers will, in the very least, feel a little more at home when they tour the place this time around.” Are you crazy Layla, if you ever decide to sell, all you have to did is say so on your blog and you will have a line down the street! Love all the tips today:)

  3. gina says

    Great post. Courtney’s letter sounds like one I could have written to you. A couple of years ago my husband wanted to purchase a vacation home. I was not totally on board but I had to decorate it and I’m no decorator! Many items I had to pick out but many were what the builder chose. It’s hard when everything is brand new to change things out immediately. I was rushed with so many of my choices that I am not happy with them now. I wish I had known about this blog and so many others when I was making all those decisions! It’s also hard to change things when we are not there all the time. Thanks for your post! Like you said, I need to be happy when I walk in so some changes will be happening!!!

  4. Rachel Carey says

    I doubt that many homebuyers are dying to buy a house with builder-grade oak! I say PAINT THOSE BABIES…
    I would love to walk into a builder cookie cutter house and see something with style!!!!

  5. Jil says

    I vote to paint the cabinets or use that stinking cool beadboard wallpaper on them. Whoa I had no idea it existed, and now there are so many ideas brewing here. Thanks Layla for another awe inspiring post. Love it.

  6. Marty Trout says

    to Courtney: DO IT!!! i just finished my cupboards and LOVE THEM! we added crown molding to the top and i painted them a light cream color with new hardware, new counters and new floor….. looks like a competely new kitchen, but on a budget!!! well worth the time and effort. and to Layla, thanks for all the great tips, i’ve ordered from the graphics queen site (thanks to your blog) and love those wall words too! i joke that when i die, my family will put a paint brush on my tombstone, lol!!! i’m now re-doing an ugly oak gas fireplace that i bought, yes, it’s turning white!!! i just can’t stop!! lol

  7. Cindy t. says

    In reference to the before and after door pictures above, how did you achieve the wooden board look on the walls of the after pic? I have been wanting to add that look to my living room for many years, to mimic that of my great-grandmothers. Thanks!

  8. says

    This is the most FANTASTIC site! Love, love, love it! Keep it coming…. Bless you. There is a storm in my brain and you are the wind that blows it… (blows my mind) Thanks

  9. Katie says

    I love all the ideas you posted!! It makes me want to redo my entire house. Or just buy a new / bigger one to start over :).

  10. says

    We are moving into a new-to-us house on Friday, and the cabinets are brand new. The only problem is they are not my style. I’m a white kitchen gal all the way. My painter thinks I’m crazy to paint them because they’re “new”. But to me, what’s the point if I’m not going to enjoy them!!!

    This is such a great post. I’ll be sharing this for sure!
    abby

  11. says

    What a fantastic post! I love all the ideas you shared about adding character to a new home. I often find that clients have difficulty getting past the idea of something being “too new to paint or change” to get to creating a home they love. Great inspiration :)

  12. Judy Casebolt says

    What a great post–have one bedroom that still needs a lot of work done–the rest of the house is shaping up to be me. Can remember thinking it was so strange that my husband’s grandmother painted everything–now I have turned into her–look at almost everything with an eye to whether I can paint it the color I want it. Looking forward to more ideas!–and thank you!

  13. says

    Layla, you gave her many great ideas. I can relate to her. We’ll be in our new home 2 years in April and I’m still not even close to having the place decorated like I want. We built the house, took us 8 years. My husband built it by himself for the most part. We are broke now so I can’t even afford to go to the thrift stores, etc. That’s what it’s like to be “house poor.” Oh well, one day.

  14. Patra says

    LOVE this post. I suffer from design anxiety as well and you really make me want to wallpaper my entire house in that beadboard wallpaper. (I’ve never heard of it before!) But maybe I’ll just start with something small. :-) Also those door and drawers pulls with labels… Maybe if I had those in the kichen my husband might put things proper place. One can dream *grin*

  15. Claire says

    Because of the bravery of others like you in blog-land, I took the doors off one side of my kitchen cabinets. I keep white dishes and glasses in them and it makes is so much easier to grab them and put them away and I love the look. I also painted my fireplace brick surround white. I always feared painting it because it was so “you can’t go back” and I didn’t know if I would like it. But I love it.

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you for encouraging people like me.

  16. says

    I could not have read this post at a better time. My husband and I purchased our home brand new in July 2009 and have had similar conversations about not really feeling like our home was “ours”. I’ve always felt that your home should be an extension of who you are, how you feel, and what you love about the world. And so we’re just in the beginning stages of making our house into a home and I’m glad I came across this post. I especially love the idea of replacing the light fixtures. Even though I’m reluctant, I may give some serious thought to replacing the carpet on the stairs….the “after” look is incredible. :-)

  17. Shasta says

    Thank you so much for these tips… and all of their photos! We are currently building and I was terrified of the idea of our house looking exactly like our neighbors… with a few of these facelifts, I’m excited to make ours feel ‘special’!

  18. says

    Hello! This post is incredibly inspirational….especially the photos of your kitchen and new-old-door!!! I would also love to replace the interior doors but they are actually solid and very nice….just not the ones I really really want…..

    I was hoping you can tell me how you did a couple of things. The wall with the mirror where you changed the door out, did you expose the wood behing the sheetrock? or is it wallpaper? or something else?

    What color white did you use for your kitchen walls? And where did you get the corbels for you upper cabinets? I’d love to add those in a couple spots? I think it adds so much charm and looks more expensive too!

    Last question, where did you get the basket cabinet and that mirror? The mirror looks antique, but figured I’d ask :)

    xo

  19. Julie Porter says

    Hi! I know this is an older post but I just found it & I love it. Great ideas here. Looking for a house in a city with alot of post-1990’s tract homes. They all look so bland & boring, I was getting discouraged. This post gives me some great ideas though. Thanks!

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