13 DIY Ways To Add Character To A New Home

Today’s topic was inspired by a recent Facebook post from a fellow mom. I’m in a Facebook group with other moms from my college and one woman reached out to the community with this question…

“Hi everyone! Does anyone have good ideas that won’t break the bank for updating a new build cookie cutter house to make it your own? We are 3 years in and the all-brown walls, floors, and carpet known to AZ have me losing my mind. We don’t want to do anything too extensive since our children are still 3 and 1 and will most likely ruin anything super nice. But the builder-grade lighting and such is really getting to me.”

I chimed in with a few suggestions and then realized that I should have an entire blog post devoted to this topic. My guess is that at least some of you are in a new build house that could use a personal touch. Builder basic homes can be great. They’re usually new; everything functions well; and they’re a blank slate for you to start with. However, they often lack charm and personality. The good news is, there’s an easy fix for that!

13 Ways To Add Character To Your New Home

My best tips to paint beadboard a dark green

Today, I’m sharing 13 DIY ideas to add character to a newer home. Many of these are fairly inexpensive (like the original poster was looking for) and will not only improve the look of your space but also the value of your entire home! Let’s dive in.

1. Start With Paint

choosing Benjamin Moore Boothbay Gray for our bedroom

If you’re in a new construction home, chances are you didn’t get to choose every single paint color. My guess is most walls are pretty neutral or you just have a bunch of white walls. My first suggestion would be to paint! I do prefer neutral colors for hallways and most of the main spaces, but don’t be afraid to go bolder for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Our baby girl's nursery

It can be tricky to make the entire home’s color palette feel cohesive, so be sure to read this post with my best tips to do just that. Plus, it lists out all of my favorite paint colors and the ones we have in our own home.

Once it’s time to start painting, check out this blog post with the biggest mistakes I see when it comes to DIY paint jobs.

2. Consider Upgrading Your Doors & Door Knobs

my best tips to paint interior doors

When we purchased our home, one of the first things we did was replace all of the hollow oak doors. Hollow doors are a lot less expensive than solid core doors, so you’ll often find them in new build homes. I would consider upgrading the doors – at least for the bedrooms and bathrooms – to solid ones. Solid doors are so much better for soundproofing those spaces, plus you can choose a new style. I went with a Craftsman style for our doors and they add so much character to our home.

If you don’t want to upgrade your doors (It can be pricey!), you can swap out the door knobs around your house. We have matte black hinges and door knobs all throughout our home. This simple upgrade makes things look polished and more custom. This blog post dives into how to choose new door knobs for your home.

3. Swap The Cabinet Hardware

Pull vs knob for kitchen hardware placement

If you’re not in love with the kitchen, one of the easiest ways to make it your own is to replace the cabinet hardware on your kitchen cabinets. Trust me, this can make all of the difference in a space. Personally, I prefer knobs on cabinet doors and pulls on drawers. If you’re unsure about sizing, this blog post walks through all of my best tips for choosing new hardware.

4. Upgrade Light Fixtures

My rules for lighting

Swapping out the builder-basic light fixtures for ones that reflect your style is one of my favorite ways to improve the look of your home. Ugly boob lights begone! I would start with the fixtures in the most prominent rooms, like the living room and kitchen. Then, work your way to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

How to install a light fixture

I always say that lighting is the “jewelry” of a room and that it can make a room feel more finished. This blog post walks you through my rules for lighting, along with my best tips for choosing the right pieces for your space. Changing out a light fixture is a doable DIY project (I promise!) and this blog post walks you through the process step-by-step.

5. Change Out Your Faucets

Tips to install a bathroom faucet

Here’s another DIY project that you can easily tackle in an afternoon – swap your faucet! If you don’t love your kitchen or bathroom faucets, you can change them yourself. This will make a huge difference in the look of your room. I’m all about mixing metals, so going for a different metal finish for your faucet could be a great way to incorporate another metal finish in your space. This blog post walks you through my best tips for mixing metals.

If you’re swapping out your kitchen faucet, I walk you through the process right here. And here’s my tutorial for changing out a bathroom faucet.

6. Add Some Wood To Your Walls

very proud of my new stairwell accent wall with wood

Many of the DIY projects I do around here revolve around putting wood on our walls. My husband always laughs at me because it’s always another project where I’m taking a wall and adding stuff to it. But I’m telling ya, wood wall treatments add so much character and life to any space. Plus, there are so many different options, depending on your style.

Here are some of my favorite woodworking DIY projects to jazz up your blank walls, while creating a gorgeous focal point.

How to install vertical shiplap

Adding Shiplap To Our Basement

Our new green chair rail after

Installing Chair Rail In Rory’s Room

Adding picture frame molding to a nursery

Adding Picture Frame Molding To Ellis’ Room

Our new hallway board and batten DIY project

Board & Batten In My Sister’s Hallway

Our dark green bathroom reveal

Installing Beadboard In Our Basement Powder Room

My new stairwell accent wall

Stairwell Accent Wall

7. Don’t Neglect Window Treatments

Our cozy organic modern living room

Your new home may have come with generic blinds that get the job done. However, I don’t think window treatments should be an afterthought. I love the texture of woven shades on a window and you can’t beat the drama that comes with choosing the right curtains for a room. Just look at our living room, for example. The green linen curtains add so much warmth and color to this neutral space.

When in doubt, add some curtains and follow these tips to do it the right way!

8. Choose Gorgeous Area Rugs

Our basement transformation 6 month sin
Our Basement Rug

If you don’t love the tile, hardwood floors, or carpet in your home, the best thing you can do is find area rugs that you love! I have a rug in pretty much every single room in our house. They add texture, color, and pattern to a space. Adding the right rug can make a huge difference in your home.

Our main bedroom in our finn fixer upper

Just make sure you’re buying the correct size and kind for your home. This blog post walks you through everything you need to know!

9. Go Bold With Wallpaper

Rory's dollhouse in the basement
Panoramic Wallpaper In The Basement

There’s no better cure for a boring wall or ceiling than wallpaper. It’s the perfect way to make any room look more high-end and more YOU! We have wallpaper on the ceiling of our bedroom, I have a mural in our office, a panoramic wallpaper in the basement, and each of my kids’ rooms has wallpaper in the closet.

How to wallpaper a closet
Wallpaper In Ellis’ Closet

Adding wallpaper to your home ensures that your house looks nothing like your neighbor’s house. If you want yours to stand out and reflect your style and personality, then wallpaper is always a good idea!

10. Paint Your Vanities

When we purchased this old house, all of the bathroom vanities were the same, with builder-grade oak cabinets. They all had orangey wood with a 90s style. Not my fave. I ended up painting all three vanities in our bathrooms and I learned so much along the way.

How to use the cabinet transformations kit

In the end, this step-by-step tutorial turned out to be the fastest and easiest. This is a DIY project that you can do in a weekend and it will dramatically change the entire look of your bathroom. Of course, you can also do this on your kitchen cabinets or any other cabinetry in your home.

11. Paint Your Bathroom Tiles

How have our painted floors held up?

While you’re at it, you can also paint your bathroom tiles. We had generic white tiles in all three of our bathrooms and I painted all of them with fun stencils, colors, and patterns. These were such fun DIY projects and are incredibly budget-friendly.

Painting Our Basement Bathroom Floors

Painting Our Main Bathroom Tiles

Stenciling The Kids’ Bathroom

12. Paint Your Front Door

Our fall front porch

If you’re in a neighborhood of all new construction homes, then chances are the outside of your house looks pretty similar to the rest of the houses on the block. Paint your front door a vibrant color to stand out! Our front door is a pretty blue and I absolutely adore the cheery shade every time I walk in.

The fun color on your door will be the teaser to the rest of your home which will now be brimming with customizations! Here are my best door painting tips.

13. Add Personal Decor

My best tips for buying home accessories

Finally, the best way to add character to a new home is to choose pieces that tell your story. Mix new furniture with antique furniture. Display interesting art on your walls. Layer in table lamps and floor lamps for mood lighting. Showcase mementos from your life on your shelves. All of these things work together to make your home look more interesting and less cookie-cutter.

This blog post walks through 10 personal decor ideas that you can incorporate into your home today. It’s these small details that go a long way.

Bye-Bye Bland & Boring! Hello Character & Charm!

13 ideas to add character to new home

I hope this list of ideas inspires you to put your own stamp on your home.

And as for the original poster, I would tell her to not let another three years go by not loving her home. Make these changes slowly and you’ll fall more in love with your space. Also, don’t let young kids deter you from these fun projects. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll appreciate watching their mom roll up her sleeves and create a special place for them to live.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.