How to Add Character to your Home: 6 Ways to Add Some Interior Charm

A lot of new and newer homes are blanks spaces decorated with mildly ugly light fixtures and little to no architectural detail.  A lot of them out here don’t have trim around the windows, the outside corners of walls are curved and there’s a lovely texture called Orange Peel on the walls.  For those of you not living in Colorado, this may sound vaguely  Southwest in style – trust me, it’s not.  It translates to a big, empty, generic shell with odd niches everywhere (for all the Chihuly’s we own).  These are homes that have nothing much to say architecturally – it’s really up to the homeowner to create a custom home look because the builder or the last homeowner just wanted a blank slate (evidently).  Here are 6 ways to add character to a home that’s lacking.

  1. Determine the style of your home and stick with it for all your design decisions (I’m not talking furniture and accessories here).   This will require you to go outside and take a good look at the front of your house.  For some homes the architectural style is very evident from the exterior.  For other homes, it’s unclear if the architect or builder even knew what style it was.  I have a client who purchased a 1980’s two story that was a hodgepodge of contemporary, ranch and maybe (if you squinted) some craftsman.  This is a house that was just waiting for someone to tell it what it wanted to be when it grew up.  We went with craftsman and the decisions were much easier after that.  If you’re not sure – find out what year your house was built and do some research – it’s possible the exterior isn’t screaming out “I’m a Romantic Cottage” because of a 1960’s addition.  You can fix this.

    1925 spanish style home
    If you’re home is confused because of different era additions, go back to the year or time period it was built for a little inspiration to help get the charm back.  (Source)
  2. Update your doors.  Updating your interior doors is a high impact item you can do that gets overlooked sometimes. door-interior-jw-molded-slab-colonist-500x500 I see this 6 paneled door a lot in varying finishes. Unless it’s solid core and your home is a colonial, it probably was put there by a builder because it’s $29 and had some detailing on it.
    Adding barn doors to a room
    Adding barn doors is a current trend – they don’t have to be overly “barny” – they basically add something architecturally interesting to a room or hall that is lacking. (Source)

    There are so many great looking doors out there for different home styles.  Take a look around at some websites – even the Despot sells some fine looking doors.  It will add instant character and charm to your home.  When you do this, you’ll probably want to upgrade your hardware while you’re at it.

    Old pantry door charm
    Be creative – all your doors don’t have to match!  (Source)
  3. Upgrade your millwork.  Once you’ve committed to getting new interior doors – take a look at the trim around your doors and windows.  Odds are (if you’re reading this) the trim needs help.  Beefing up the trim around doors and windows helps so much!  Some of my clients will start this process (because it is a process) on one level or area of a home and gradually work their way through the house.  This is something you might think wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but it truly does.  They don’t have to be elaborate, just in keeping with the style of the house (or the style you’re trying to help the house into).
    upgrading your door trim
    There are so many DIY blogs out there that have easy step by step tutorials on how to upgrade your door and window trim. Or, you can always just hire someone and get it done already! (Source)

    Take a look at any high use areas and think about adding some millwork to the walls that’s a style appropriate to your home.  Mudrooms and entry’s are good spots for this.

    planking in a mudroom hall
    Wall planking in a mudroom, entry or hall looks great, takes a beating and adds considerable charm.  Also note the great looking doors and trim. (Source)
    paneling and blue door entry
    Paneling and an interesting door establish the tone for the rest of the the home in this entry. This type of paneling is fairly easy to install. I like the gutsy choice of a blue door too! (Source)

    Look around and see if there’s a ceiling that would benefit from a wooden beam or some other ceiling detail.  Don’t go crazy, just be appropriate to the scale and style of your home.  However, try to restrain yourself from putting up crown molding in rooms just because you think that will help – it depends on the style of the home.

    wood beams to separate kitchen and living
    I do this frequently in home renovations – add a wooden beam or columns (or both) to a large opening – it’s usually between your kitchen and living area.  This is a fairly generically styled model home living room – but the beam really helps add some life!  (Source)
  4. Add a built-in.  Built-ins, from dining banquettes to library walls have a huge impact in creating a custom home look in a generic, spec home.  Built-ins are more expensive than furniture but the money you spend on them adds greatly to your home.  It’s also an easy way to stay style consistent with the home.  Add details to your built-ins that go with the architecture of the home.  They don’t have to be over the top period specific details, but adding some craftsman detailing to built-in bookshelf in a craftsman bungalow will only help add to the charm of the home.
    built-in banquette in black
    Built-in banquettes and window seats are a fantastic way to add some character to your home.   (Source)

    doorway with gray shelves
    Bookshelves surrounding a doorway look lovely, are useful and add so much more character to a home.  (Source)
  5. Replace the light fixtures.  This has a huge impact on a home.  This will really help get your style across and creates the custom look that you’re after.  Donate the old fixtures to Habitat and don’t look back.
    boob light fixture
    The “boob” light fixture.  Who likes this?  Someone does and buys a lot of them and installs them every chance they get.  They are very cheap (like the ubiquitous 6 panel door), but I haven’t met anyone yet that likes them.

    ceiling hugger hall light
    If you’re home is confused because of different era additions, go back to the year or time period it was built for a little inspiration to help get the charm back.  (Source)
  6. Upgrade your stairs to all wood and update the newel post and balusters.  This upgrade looks fantastic.  You may not think your carpeted stairs are bringing the design down, but they are.  You can still put a runner on them to cushion them, but all wood treads and an interesting newel post make a huge difference for a staircase.
    What a difference, right?  (Source)

    I’ve found creating a nickname for a home sometimes helps you remember the style you’re going for.  Sometimes just adding the word “Modern” to the style of your home will help.  Mountain Modern Ranch.  Modern Farmhouse.  Modern Country Cottage.  Modern Craftsman.  It does work!  Although Modern 1990’s Transitional doesn’t really have a great ring to it…


2 thoughts on “How to Add Character to your Home: 6 Ways to Add Some Interior Charm”

  1. I guess I can call my house a Modern Dutch Colonial??? Anyway, we sit in a neighborhood of mostly mid century ranches. Our house is going to stick out no matter what. Thanks for the great posts. I really enjoy them.

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