How to Add Character to Builder Grade Homes

Entryway with a bench and a coat rack and a red vintage style rug

If you’ve ever bought or lived in a builder grade home, you probably understand first hand how cookie cutter they can be. Don’t get be wrong, I love a new home. It’s so nice to focus on making it pretty instead of any repairs that need to be done.

But there is also something about an older home with character that is welcoming and charming. Those high ceilings, beautiful moldings and rustic old hardwoods are hard to beat! Today, I’m discussing a bunch of ways to add character to builder grade homes (a lot of them budget friendly!)

This post might include affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my policy.

1. Add French Doors

Navy Office/Lounge with Grid Wall - How to put a Grid Wall - DIY Grid Wall Tutorial

If you can swing this (no pun intended), do it! There is something about a french door with those beautiful panes that screams character. On my wishlist here is to replace our sliding glass patio door with a set of french doors instead. Oooo la la!

2. Install Moldings and Trim

Playroom Wall Ideas - board and batten painted dark navy with framed photos on top.

Just because you didn’t buy an older home, doesn’t mean you can’t add your own millwork and moldings. In fact, this is one of my top ways to add character. Crown molding, chair rails, beadboard, board and batten etc. – whatever way you want to go I guarantee you will love the look.

3. Put up Wallpaper

a cloffice with fowered wallpaper, a desk a chair, a portrait hanging on a wall

Wallpaper is no longer hard to install, or crazy expensive. Welcome to the world of peel and stick wallpaper. Here’s some tips for installing peel and stick wallpaper. They come in a lot of different patterns and colors. This is an easy way to add character to a blank wall.

4. Replace Cabinet Hardware

kitchen counter decorating ideas, showing a leaf print, red dutch oven and cutting boards on gray kitchen counters with a white tile backsplash

This was one of the first things we did when we moved in. We took the chrome hardware off the kitchen cabinets and added these black matte ones. It’s an instant upgrade and guess what? These black matte ones were Amazon finds.

5. Hang a Gallery Wall

House Beautiful - an eclectic gallery wall - in post, my tips for how to make a gallery wall on a budget

A gallery wall is a great way to take a blank space up a notch. And luckily, today it’s easier than ever to have your art printed and framed.

6. Incorporate Wood Decor

Up close view of DIY wood pedestals stacked- full tutorial in post!

There is something about bringing in some wood that adds a charm to a space. I happen to love these easy to build DIY wood pedestals, and they are perfect for kitchens and bathrooms and shelving units. But I happen to have a whole list of easy wood projects that you can peruse.

7. Add Texture

diy storage cabinet tutorial

Texture is magical. It lends a cozy vibe. Baskets are one of the easiest ways to do this and bonus – they are pretty dang practical too. But also consider a textured light fixture. This one we have here is from Arhaus – but you can even DIY your own basket light pendant fixture.

8. Paint your Tile Floors

checkerboard floors in an entryway by Leanne Ford
Leanne Ford

Most builder homes come standard with a little bit of hardwood, some tile and a lot of carpet. What are some easy ways to change it up? Paint the tile floors! I’m currently loving the trend of checkerboard floors, but even just a wash of new color would add something different. Try out a favorite stencil to incorporate some pattern!

9. Hang Drapes

A close up view of curtains hung with curtain clips.  In post; how to use curtain clips, including my easy method for getting perfect results every time. 

If you’ve been a reader of mine, you know my love affair with drapes. You also know that I refuse to spend a fortune on them, so I’ve spent a good amount of time testing the good ones and weeding out the bad ones. Check out my favorite affordable drapes here, and get some tips for hanging curtains with curtain clips here.

10. Paint a Two Tone Wall

Boys bedroom gallery wall with two tone painted walls

Painting a two tone wall is one of the easiest hacks ever! My only recommendation would be that you consider doing this around the entire room. I wish I would have done that, but even still, it added so much to this otherwise blah wall.

11. Switch up your Lighting

Dining Room with Wallpaper - Shop our Home - 

It’s time to replace the generic light fixtures and boob lights with something more stylish. Think of lighting as art or sculpture – it can easily change the look of a room. Check out this list of boob light alternatives to get you started.

12. Add Greenery

Greenery on top of a wood cabinet - best faux flowers reviews

New homes can feel very plain and nature is a good remedy for helping it feel more alive. Afloral is one of my favorite places for faux greenery and florals, but Amazon and Michael’s are also on that list.

13. Install a Stair Runner

blue annie selke stair runner

Another thing that’s on my wishlist. We have carpeted stairs, and I’m sure if you own a builder grade home you might have them too. Removing the carpet and adding a stair runner will help your home feel instantly unique.

14. Hang a Window Box

 Fall Window Box Ideas with cedar trees, pumpkins, ivy, branches and cabbage Fall Window Box Ideas with cedar trees, pumpkins, ivy, branches and cabbage Fall Window Box Ideas with cedar trees, pumpkins, ivy, branches and cabbage

Window boxes add charm and a great way to show off seasonal flowers. This window box was easy to install and guess what? The florals in there are almost all fake!

15. Install Interior and Exterior Shutters

exterior trellis rwa architects img~2d8172e20f05b848 8 2539 1 98cfe8f - Decor Hint

Photo by RWA ArchitectsDiscover exterior home design ideas

Just like a window box, shutters can add so much character to a builder grade home. And these are not just for the exterior! Consider adding shutters as a window treatment somewhere in your home.

16. Add a Skylight or Transom Window

traditional bedroom edward postiff interiors img~f3f1373601def42e 8 5583 1 ac697e8 - Decor Hint

Photo bySearch bedroom pictures

I absolutely adore transom windows! Look at how much character they add? The same could be said about skylights, because more light and shadows will always help a space feel brighter and more vibrant.

17. Decorate with Mirrors

distressed antique mirror in a dining room

Mirrors not only bounce light around a room, they help a space feel larger. And there is nothing like the addition of an antique mirror or a distressed mirror to add pizzazz to a space. If you like the look of large antique floor mirrors, check out these anthropologie mirror dupes.

18. Change your Front Door

Rejuvenation Front Door - how to add character to builder grade homes

A new front door can help your home feel unique in a sea of similar houses, plus certain ones can allow more light and breezes to enter your home.

19. Install a Trellis or Arbor

View of a cedar and pine diy trellis against planter boxes.  how to build a trellis from start to finish!  Learn how easy it is to make your own!  

A trellis can be so beautiful and is relatively easy to install and plant. An arbor definitely takes more money and thought, but both ideas are a great way to add curb appeal. In fact, sometimes builder grade homes have an awkward blank space along the siding (maybe where you wish a window was installed). Why not fill in the spaces with a beautiful trellis of your favorite vine.

20. Add a Brick or Stone Walkway

BHG Brick Walkway - how to add character to builder grade homes

There is something about brick that just moves me. Maybe it’s from my days of living in center city Philly where the old brick homes really left an impression on me. If you don’t have a brick home, but want to incorporate this style, a walkway is perfect! My Dad actually did this himself and the results were spectacular. Definitely adding this one to my wishlist. 🙂

21. Play with Pattern

Girls Room Decor - Shop our Home - 

Have you seen these CottageCore / English style spaces? We love them because they are filled with pattern and charm. I’m partial to smaller size prints but they all work. Here in Hannah’s room, we use a gingham yellow throw and an antique pleated fabric lampshade to add some character.

22. Incorporate Antiques

diy storage cabinet tutorial

This storage cabinet pictured above might not be antique, but it was certainly the look I was going for when my dad and I built this. Facebook Marketplace and local thrift stores are a treasure trove for old wood furniture and adding one to your spaces is an amazing way to add character.

23. Add a Vintage Style Rug

Red Rug with slippers on it - in post, vintage style rugs that won't break the bank.

We’ve discussed painting the tile floor and adding a stair runner, but this list would not be complete without me mentioning vintage style rugs. And yes! You can put these down over carpet. In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to add character to a room AND protect the carpeted floors underneath.

24. Paint a stencil on the wall

how to stencil a wall - showing a celestial night sky stenciled on blue

Painting a stencil on the wall can add a “wallpaper” look for less to a space. In the above photo, I added a sky themed stencil to my sons room and it’s made quite the statement. You can pick up stencils from Amazon and other places; two favorites are Cutting Edge Stencils and Stencil It.

25. Add a tall piece of furniture

dining room hutch

If have a lot of wall space and don’t want to hang art – your best option is to go up with your furniture. Meaning, a tall dining room hutch or antique storage cabinet (or even an arched cabinet) that adds character and makes the spaces feel taller. I added a hutch to our dining space and it added so much character to the room. Plus – it’s fun to add seasonal decor to the shelves and show off my favorite serveware pieces.

I hope this list gave you some good ideas and inspiration.

Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *