One of the biggest problems with houses today is that so few of them have any real character. If you read my post about our family-room makeover, or saw the photos from my writing-room makeover, you know we started with a big, blank slate of white boxy rooms when we moved into our house.
Our solution? A lot of crown molding and trim. Adding hardwood floors to rooms that originally had carpet. And replacing the standard cheapo brass light fixtures that the builder left us with chandeliers in unexpected places, like my writing room and our daughter’s room (shown next page, from Land of Nod).
We also had the builder add a few things that weren’t in the original plans, like a round window in the powder room instead of a regular rectangular one, and two square windows on either side of the fireplace. The windows didn’t cost much more, but they made those rooms a little more interesting than they would’ve been without them. We also had them reconfigure the front elevation to add a front porch, which is rare in our neighborhood.
There’s no question that it’s a challenge to give character and interest to a newer home like ours, built in a suburb where every third house has the same floorplan and a similar exterior. There are so many neighborhoods like ours out there that I know I’m not the only one who has this problem!
Marni Jameson has a chapter in her book The House Always Wins called “Character Development Begins at Home.” Here’s what she suggests for building character in a newer home that’s lacking it:
Plant mature trees. Or at least one. Nothing screams new home louder than trees on sticks. Even though big trees cost more, they help a home look established. For the same price, one big tree offers more gravity than three small ones.
Revisit the driveway. If yours is just cement, repave it with stone pavers or cut in a border of used brick.
Be different. If you live in a production home, chances are good that everything from your mailbox to your mirrors matches your neighbors’. The less you match, the more your home looks like a custom home that evolved over time. Pick a style–say modern, rustic, French, Mediterranean–then change light fixtures, faucets, doorknobs, and drawer pulls to fit. Frame production mirrors with custom tile work or remove and replace them with framed mirrors.
Add moldings, baseboards, and wainscoting where you can. If you have small 3-inch baseboards, change them out for ones 5 inches or larger.
Change flat doors to raised panel doors, and sliding glass doors to French doors.
Make your fireplace an original. Old homes often have great hearths. The fireplaces of new homes tend to be from molds. Go to an antique store and buy an old mantel to retrofit to your home, or cover white plaster with a veneer of stone or tile.
Take your time. The cheapest way to add character to your home is to wait fifteen years.
Check out the other posts in this week’s series based on The House Always Wins: