How to add character to a new home

If there's a topic I'm overdue to cover it's this one! By far the most common question I'm asked is how to add character to a new home. Before we answer it, let's look at why it's become such a concern. (Not a big reader? Head to the Pinterest board right here).

Housing affordability is a huge issue across Australia, and in Perth it's led to a proliferation of cookie cutter homes in estates across the suburbs. On the plus side, these homes are quick to build and relatively inexpensive compared with individually-built architect-designed homes. But the price is often a result of skimping on details (skirting boards, architraves, and window treatments come to mind) and of bulk buying 'builder grade' materials. 

Builder grade materials are chosen based on their mass appeal and affordability. They're simple and neutral, but can lack character and style. Sometimes, they're chosen simply because they're cheap - the builder needs a door, and from their perspective a hollow core will do the job just as well as a solid timber number. 

So, what can be done to inject some character in to new builds?

If you haven't signed a contract yet, shop around for a builder who works on a voucher system

Yep, this is a thing. Instead of giving you a few samples to choose from, some builders will send you off to their suppliers with a voucher in hand. If you fall in love with a tile and it's over budget, no worries, you just make up the difference. The same is often done for carpets, lighting, and even bench tops and taps.

Flooring makes a huge difference to the overall look and feel of your home, and getting it right first time (rather than pulling it up later) is worth the extra spend if you can budget for it. 

Already living in your new build? Read on...

Let's say you're in your new place, and it feels a bit too new. Worse, it's exactly the same as the neighbour's place, right down to the colour of the blinds! What can you do to personalise it?

Start with the largest surfaces

The waste from pulling up entire floors of tiles makes me feel queasy; creating layers with rugs is a better option. Vintage rugs in particular will add instant character, and will contribute much more than replacing the furniture alone.

Walls come next. Try textured paint, pressed tin, or exposed brick. There are some great wallpapers around, which replicate the look of exposed brick, chipped plaster, and more. In Perth, I like Scandinavian Wallpaper. For specialist textured wall finishes (if you're not a brave DIYer!), try Perth Venetian Plaster.

Above: Vintage pressed tin we did at Jus Burgers in Subiaco, textured paint/plaster walls at same, exposed brick at Industriale HQ, and a vintage lamp with wallpaper from Scandinavian Wallpaper. 

Change doors and hardware

Builder grade doors and hardware are often less than inspiring. The plain, simple lines are supposed to offend as few people as possible, but that means they are also a tad boring. 

Look for old doors (and handles) as well as light fittings at salvage yards. If you're handy you'll be able to change the doors out yourself, but you might prefer help from a carpenter. It's very important to replace like with like in terms of dimensions, including thickness, so check this before you go shopping. 

Sliding barn doors aren't for every space, but they're another option that gives instant character. Hang an old door using new hardware, make a door yourself, or turn it over to us! 

For light fittings and lighting switch plates, you'll need the assistance of an electrician. Similarly, you'll benefit from having a plumber to do your tapware. 

Above: The drawers were boring before they were refaced with pallet wood and had handles and labels added. A vintage light at Jus Burgers Leederville. Nicole's handmade timber barn door, and use of timber as a bench top in the powder room, add oodles of character to a brand new build.

Use real materials and get crafty

This one is possibly controversial, but so so important: use real materials. If you are on a very tight budget, buy a vintage piece of furniture and paint or strip it. It will look 100% more credible than a cheapie faux wood number from a discount furniture store.

There's a reason that a discount-store 'industrial side table' doesn't actually look industrial, and that's because its top is made from particleboard with wood-print vinyl finish. Not only does it lack character, it's a huge departure from what makes industrial so appealing, i.e. the strength, durability, and improvement with time. Similarly, scandinavian style is so appealing because of the warmth that radiates from real timber. White and faux-timber laminate 'scandi' furniture did the look no favours and lacked the soul of what it was imitating. 

There are lots of doable DIY projects on the Pinterest board, with more added regularly. Get crafty, and add character to your new home with minimal outlay.