Stock standard builder brand new homes* are often awesome clean, open, blank canvases. But they can also be boring and bland with the same cabinets, doors, floors and other fixtures as all the other houses the company built. This cookie-cutter approach makes for more affordable projects, sure, be can be less than welcoming for you and your visitors. But, it's a fun and easy fix to stamp your personality on your new build so that it feels like your home with the art of decoration. Look at each room one at a time and enjoy the process of living in the space, layering and curating your life and style throughout over time. Here's some ideas to get you started.
"Interiors shouldn't be static works of art. You're meant to interact with them."
- Alexandra Angle
The kitchen is the hub of any home, and most new built homes tend to have very good kitchens (like you can view here), but there are some easy tweaks you can make to personalise them. Re-painting the cabinetry doors will immediately change the look of your kitchen if you bought the house new and weren't there to request your personalised colour during the building process. Add a few shelves for telling your story with storage jars, books and a few plants. Even the type of shelves - raw edge timber, stainless steel, or stark white, for example - will showcase your style. Another option is to remove a couple of the cabinet doors to be open shelved areas instead. Changing the handles on cabinets and kitchen drawers can also help achieve a different look quickly and affordably. Then, of course, dressing the whole space as your own may mean painting the walls, hanging some pictures, or adding a chalkboard wall or whiteboard for messages according to your decor tastes and personality.
Remember, how you live in your home is unique to you and not every room needs something changed. Often it's a case of moving into the space with your own collection of decor that makes it your own. So let the kitchen breathe and morph with you as you move in and live in the space.
Everyone wants to feel at home and comfortable in their own bathroom. The best way to achieve this in your new home is with accessories such as window dressings, towels and functional decor (a good selection of which you can find here). Ensuring you have all the storage space you need - as this is often lacking in bathrooms of new houses - makes for an uncluttered look. But the storage itself can hint at your style even in a room as sterile as a bathroom. Add woven baskets in colours of your choice, decorative trays to display fragrances, or dishes and cannisters to house soaps and cotton tips. As with the kitchen, paint on the walls and a rug on the floor can be changed quite easily to make it feel more like your own as well.
Bedrooms in new homes can be adapted to the to tastes of the person sleeping in it, whilst still fitting in with the overall design style of the house. Bed heads, layered bed linen, dressed with throws and cushions; curtains, sheers, or other window treatments; rugs, artwork, decor and even the furniture used in each bedroom speak of the age and interests of the person inhabiting it. And guest bedrooms need not be spared an injection of personality either - even with a peaceful and neutral colour scheme suitable for any age. Add thoughtful extra layers of bedding for warmth, stylish bedside lighting, some softness underfoot, a speaker system or docking station, and simply scented toiletries and towels for your visitors to feel right at home.
"Style is a reflection of your attitude and your personality."
- Shawn Ashmore
LIVING & DINING ROOM
These are the two rooms most likely to be seen by visitors to your home, and used by you and your family the most. One rule (if there's truly any in decorating) is to avoid furniture that is too big for the size of the room. It will swallow up any other decor in the space, dominate and will make the space feel and look smaller than it is. Keep these rooms uncluttered and free of obstacles by buying or installing smart storage for books, crockery, and unsightly digital systems. Add plants, personal photos, a few large pieces of art or a gallery wall; rugs or layered rugs that define each zone if it's quite open plan; add texture through cushions and throws and choose floor lamps and table lamps, coffee tables and side tables that perhaps add a bit of quirk too. The point in these rooms is to feel at home and allow others to feel welcome here too, so a bit of creative character works to achieve that. Don't box yourself into boring with all of the pieces that can be easily changed. Inspire yourself and remember to let it evolve as you live in it!
The hallway is a space that is often forgotten, but even if people do not enter your home it's a space they will still see when arriving at your door. It is the first thing people see and creates the first impression of where you live, and therefore forms part of who you are. Take pride in hinting at your home's charm and charisma by decorating with pictures on the walls, a hall table and stool for character as much as convienienece, or coat hooks and stylish cubbies for shoes and bags. Finish with a runner along the floor, a plant or flowers, maybe a humourous or stylishly pattered doormat and your favourite scented candle or diffuser.
Replace any 'as standard' doors internally with a more natural, textured, detailed or sleeker choice or quality, or simply paint or replace the handles and fixtures to make a subtle yet stylish change throughout your home.
Light fixtures are quite often bought in bulk to save money, so your entire house may have the same ones throughout. They are not expensive to replace, but do yourself a favour and change them to LED lights wherever possible. They are more flexible to use, a lot cheaper to run and more environmentally friendly. They also last a lot longer so will need replacing less often. You do not need to have the same light fittings in every room. Each room should have the light it needs for its purpose and to suit its character - and there's some amazingly characterful lighting choices available these days, whatever your design aesthetic. Enjoy the hunt, the layering of light, and the functionality and ambiance good lighting provides.
"If you love something, it will work. That's the only real rule."
- Bunny Williams
An inexpensive and simple way to add character to your ceilings is to add mouldings. These come in lots of different shapes, sizes and designs and can be purchased in strips or set shapes. Moulding can give taller ceilings a voice, detail and attention and are certainly worth considering if you appreciate a classic look or are trying to mix classic and contemporary in a new home with bare, blank walls and square set joins. Some people love the clean look of square set or cornice free plastering while others believe it looks cold and unfinished. Another beautiful use for moulding, especially for intimate spaces like dining rooms, is coffered ceilings, which can also look great with darker paint colours. A dramatic way to personalise a part of your home you may have otherwise overlooked.
The fashion for using wallpaper to decorate the interior comes and goes, but it's a quick way to add oodles of personality with a design to suit almost every taste. It can be tricky to get hung right, so take your time or ask a professional decorator to give you a quote. Wallpaper comes in a huge array of colours, textures and price points and there's always removable wall decals if you don't want to commit to a certain style, especially in growing kids rooms. And don’t discount the kitchen and bathrooms or powder-rooms (amazing little rooms to pack full of personality!) as potential places to hang wallpaper as you can also get waterproof options too.
I hope you enjoy creating a home you love that represents you and your family, feels comfortable and welcoming and you make many happy memories in. I hope I've inspired you to push the boundaries of boring and inspire yourself in your own home - even if beige and minimalism are your jam!
And PS. *I love builders and their talents and patience, but you know the basic homes I'm referring to! If you live in one and are ready to inject your identity on it, I hope you hire a wicked-cool builder or contractor who embraces your vision to help you execute it beautifully.
What have you done to personalise your new build home?
I'd love to know in comments below.