emmelinewe

Best tips for bringing character to a new-build property?

Emmeline Westin
May 7, 2015
last modified: May 7, 2015
When I browse ideabook comments I often read that people think new-build properties tend to look bland and lack personality.

Do you have any tips to make them come to life? If you live in a new-build what have you done to your home? Let's gather all suggestions here!

Sussex New Build · More Info

Comments (43)

  • Susan Peterson
    I would suggest to add texture and colour into the soft furnishings. You can add a highlight cushions, ottoman or even interesting lamps. The image below was a new build I helped a number of years ago, they only wanted a subtle high light in this room.
  • minnie101
    I think you sometimes have to be careful what you add so it doesn't look out of keeping. Our first/last house was 12 years old when we bought it and had it for 7 years so not a contemporary style. We just added wood floor, deeper skirts, coving, some shutters, feature walls, and a bit of wood panelling in the hall as I hated it with lots of doors off so wanted a focal point. We also did the front and back garden which made a huge difference (we did the bathrooms and kitchen too so thinking about it now the only thing we didn't change were the windows!). Some of the contemporary new builds really don't need anything just some great furniture in my opinion.
  • Sarah McNally
    Be very interested in this as moving to a new build next month and want to ensure it still has a bit of character !
  • louisep2012
    I've just moved into a new build and the Magnolia walls are mocking me!! I'm taking my time to put my stamp on each room as its expensive to try and do it all at once. I know how I want each room to look so I will piece it all together over time. For us we wanted to add storage but with a more built in look. I would like to go a bit further and add panelling to some walls but my other half isn't really keen.... He just doesn't have my vision haha
    We've added striped staircase and Karndeen flooring to our living area
    I agree with the above in improving the gardens too! Most new builds are postage stamps of grass, fence panels and overlooked. I definitely have plenty of ideas to make more of our outside space.

    Looking forward to others adding their experiences and tips!
  • Sarah McNally
    We're also doing striped carpet on stairs think it adds depth and interest. We're also planning to mix new ish furniture with antique unique pieces.

    Garden will be blank canvas so planning on doing that year 2!
  • louisep2012
    I was wondering how to make a feature in my living room... There is no focal point. Feature wall? Fireplace? Built in storage....? Any thoughts?
  • Susan Peterson
    louisep2012 you could add an interesting textured or pattern wallpaper feature on one wall with either a free standing sideboard or built in storage cabinet positioned on that wall. Then I would add a mirror above, lamps or decorative vases.
  • Sarah McNally
    We're the same we have a long wall so putting in a very long TV unit which is white and oak with lights bit of a feature.

    Other wall sofa maybe feature wallpaper then artwork or mirror

    Also getting funky offset bookcase bit different like the pic
  • mumprenuer
    Patterned floor would give the room character.
  • mumprenuer
    Or rug and adding warm lighting plus accessories such as throws and walnut wood/ colours goes well with glass. I personally think new buildings like that one in the picture have got character which is different from old but some new builds not as they have just plain walls and windows.
  • crowningfashion
    I currently live in an 80's house. I laid solid oak flooring (took the skirting boards off - hate beading being used between floor and skirting board,) skinny skirting boards are very out of date so added deep ones which both add character and are also more modern, and I dressed the house with a mix of modern art, vintage and modern furniture and rugs, all to add texture, depth and character... and they can all move with me ;-)
  • cavgirl
    Although I agree that ideally the interior of a house should be in keeping with its exterior it doesn't always work that way. My dream house would be a spacious Georgian building with high ceilings, lots of light and that impeccable sense of proportion. What I have is a relatively new build--an ex council 1980s two up-two down totally lacking in any of the features I craved (apart from the extremely undesirable fireplace, that is). I didn't try to add any regency/Georgiana to the house but I have gone for features on the shabby chic/shaker side: deep skirting boards, tongue and groove panelling in living room and kitchen, stripped stairs, chequerboard floor in kitchen and wood effect tile throughout downstairs. Add plenty of charity shop rescues and a bathroom with a claw foot and it all comes together in a cohesive style (I hope!) even though it technically doesn't fit the age of the property. At least it definitely adds warmth and character to an otherwise boring little building!
  • PRO
    Stella Michael
    I agree with adding texture and colour. Also as many new builds have very straight boxy lines anything organic or with curves will help. I won't duplicate all of the above as I agree with most but emphasize one thing people are often not aware of ... in a new space having some older pieces, even just one, especially made of wood will help ground the place. In a room full of modern, adding one or two vintage or older items makes a big difference. (The same idea is true for traditional homes, adding a couple of newer modern pieces lift a room. It's not about pretending it's a period home but the age of the items add character).

    Original art, especially with texture (paint) add a lot to a space, both modern and traditional. I love abstract art, with lots of colour as it brings life to a space as do sculptural pieces. Often it is the place to start and build the room around it although no need to be too matchy matchy, this also adds more life and character, having some surprise pieces and colour itself adds personality.

    Plants make a big difference, cluster a few big ones together to add some boldness and interest. Adding personal items that are not just bought in a chain store make a big difference, group in odd numbers (3, 5 etc).
  • PRO
    Jane McKay
    Some great ideas here. We are building a new house. To add character we are having wooden floors, raked ceilings with white washed ply for texture, feature slate wall and lots of rugs for texture and colour. Lots of paintings, cow hide seats for the dining table chairs and interesting transparent blue glass pendants. Will see how it goes.
  • PRO
    Stella Michael
    Jane, it sounds fabulous! It's great when you build your own place you can include the character and personality! You must post some photos for us, both in progress and when it's finished!
  • Sarah Davies
    I recently moved into a new build apartment on a Greek island so not very traditional at all! I added colour to the walls by painting my own pictures in acrylic. I restored a second hand pine table with washed out paint and have an old marble lamp table that has seen better days, I mirror made with local wood and on contrast a contempory ikea sofa & foot stool with different texture cushions. i plan to add a sideboard but not sure whether i should go for modern, something funky or a used look but not rushing into any expensive mistakes.
  • PRO
    Stella Michael
    Sarah sounds great, post some photos.
  • Natalie Patton
    Imagine your grandma moving into a new build and bringing all her 40 year old furniture with her. It just doesn't fit in with the space... This is my fear how do you incorporate vintage pieces and textures without giving that grandma in a new build look. Also the space thing I find difficult, new builds seam so small in comparison to older houses but they have very minimal storage which means I need more free standing pieces to store things. And the magnolia oh the magnolia I'm not hugely into the feature wall thing since as my partner says "I'm terrified of colour" but the magnolia it's everywhere! You would honk by reading this I hate new builds but I'm moving soon... Into a new build.
  • sizzlinghot
    I do like the New England look with Grey Cladding and Georgian Windows. I would like the inside to have some Murals on the wall. My Daughter has a Brooklyn Bridge New York Mural in her bedroom and all her touches make it look like a chic hotel room. I also like mirror furniture and rare one off pieces for a touch of opulence.
  • louisep2012
    Mini101. Do you have any pics of the wall panelling you added? I'd love to see this in a 'normal' house as most of the pics on here are of houses much bigger and elaborate than mine. I would like to attempt it in my house at some point as I think it really adds something different.
  • minnie101
    Louisep2012. Hi. Sorry I don't. I've just found the estate agents spec when we sold it but he didn't take a pic of the hall unfortunately. I do think panelling can look great though and obviously there are a few styles to choose from
  • PRO
    Stella Michael
    nataliepatton it's not about having all granny furniture, I agree that would look strange ... and people still do it. For me it's about choosing the odd piece that you love. They can be of any age and don't necessarily have to be furniture, think lighting or artwork maybe. In the photos below are mid-century (1950s) chair with a Victorian box in the same room as very modern furniture (couldn't get it all in one photo but you can just see the chair in the second photo- room still in progress), and the 1930s tallboy is in the bedroom with modern furniture, all in the same house.
  • Natalie Patton
    Stellahome ur house is amazing and I love that you have managed to incorporate vintage style within a modern room. How would you go about it if you weren't so brave with colour? I read my previous comment back and it does sound a bit offensive and that wasn't my intention. I meant I was struggling to design a new build and give it some depth without looking like granny furniture in a new build x
  • PRO
    Stella Michael
    Thank you nataliepatton ... the colour is not so relevant in following the principle, you can use the same ideas with a softer palette. The tallboy is just normal 'brown' furniture, so could go with other wooden furniture or even better with white minimalist furniture.

    The chair is a light lime colour but it could easily be cream or grey although it's a good opportunity to add a bit of colour or pattern ... the point is that it has some history. Each item holds an energy of the life it's lived, like people. You can usually tell if an item is a repro or it's an older original.

    The wooden Victorian box (the pieces don't need to dominate) in my living room has at some point or another happily lived in all the rooms of my house as a side table or bedside chest. I think the idea to let go of is that everything has to be 'matching', which is what adds some interest.

    The light in the photo is stunning and looks great in a modern kitchen (I have 3 different ones in my kitchen but all copper retro) and the final room (spare) which is a bit bland (for me) and in progress shows an older piece with modern Ikea shelves and a John Lewis bed in simple white. It looks much better in the flesh but without the older piece the room looked boring and student-like.
  • cavgirl
    I like Stella's point about things having history. Whether that's acquired history in that it's an old piece that you bought and (perhaps) up cycled yourself, or whether it's bits and pieces that you've collected yourself or other people have collected for you. In my living room I have two billy bookcases (bland but oh so functional) filled with my collection of old girls' school stories, an oak table I got from a charity shop and sanded back, my grandmother's side tables that I up cycled, a giant mirror from a charity shop, a TV glass unit taken from a skip (thanks, Dad), several 3d items fastened to the walls with blu tack, and a great pair of pastel prints of 19th century Belfast. Most of it has a story- only the bare necessities of bookcases and sofa were bought new.
  • Sarah McNally
    Some great ideas here. Really agree re wood it adds warmth. We have lots of white ikea furniture and I think that in our new build (looks great in oldish house make it feel newer!) it will look cold. We're planning on having one or two wood pieces in the room to soften
  • Roxane Wiley

    Hello louisep2012 we recently paneled our daughters room, painted in Elephants Breath, our house is 10 yrs old, and totally characterless. based on this success I've managed to talk my husband into paneling our huge long featureless lounge, skimming stone this time and white slated blinds can't wait to get started

  • Sunny
    We live in a new build and I have realised you need to let the place grow with you... It's like ageing really- you slowly add things that reflect your personality without trying to go with the trend.. It will definitely bring out the real character
  • louisep2012
    Chinatraveler that looks brill :) thank you for posting. Could you briefly describe how you did this? Plus I had a look at your idea book....made me laugh as all your pics are of panelling ;)
  • Roxane Wiley

    Hi Louisep2012,

    Lol yes a bit obsessed with panelling at the moment. Mags use it in their shots but don't feature how to add it to your own.

    We used 6mm x 100mm strips of moisture resistant MDF and sealed it both sides (MDF sealer)

    To decide the best height for the room I created strips of paper which I stuck to the walls and moved it around to get the overall effect.

    We attached using glue and nail gun, starting above skirting around the room base and then added top rail we placed at 1570mm so overall height 1670mm, we added a 12mm x 60mm shelf all around using a simple moulding underneath to support the shelf.

    We added 6mm x 100mm strips at reg intervals around the room to create the panelled effect we also continued into the window reveal to (no shelf)

    We then sanded primed and filled the holes and painted with a roller - its possible you'd save some repeated painting time by giving the walls a coat before you added the MDF but that's a personal choice. We painted the window sill and rad to blend in too

    When we do this again where using 9mm x 100mm MDF as the 6mm is slightly too subtle for a larger space and no shelf this time, will finish with a moulding

    We think it looks great and adds the character we wanted, my husband was stunned it turned out as well as it did, the room is coved too so that helps create a softer look.

    For the lounge were going to a height of 1490 inc skirting to allow for bigger pictures to hang hopefully by mid June I'll have further photos to show if you'd like to see them of this project.

    Hope this helps, the room was finished as a weekend project, as it comes together really quickly.

    There are panelling comp scumble goosie has its own but i found it expensive and worked it out for myself

  • PRO
    colourhappy

    Put in lots of things that were made years ago such as antique rugs, vintage pottery, and lots of hand crafted stuff. Avoid shiny surfaces and go for patina instead.

  • louisep2012
    Chinatraveller how are you getting on with your panelling in your lounge? I've painted 2 walls in my living room Welcome Deep by Little Greene. I was a bit apprehensive when I first started but it's developed into a beautiful purple/grey. I am having second thoughts whether to wallpaper the two other opposite walls or just have 1 wallpapered wall. I'm liking the Purity range from Harlequin but ££££ hehe may have to do one wall a month!
  • Roxane Wiley

    Hi louisep2012

    Spent the last few days on it panelling looks brilliant just finished paintings it and starting to putting everything back in, painted in soft truffle LA and elegant cream C&R decided on teal to contrast with. Looks and feels warm and calm. Love harlequin wallpaper liking boutique and Cole & son rajapur at the moment - good luck

  • Catherine Hounslow

    Textures and unique fabrics . Add artwork .We had a boring fireplace (orange varnish) but you can replace or paint them . Interesting mirrors and large shapely pots ?

  • hounoc

    To balance hard modern lines and surfaces I agree that anything that adds 'life' to the room is good i.e. anything colourful, organic, or that reflects individual character. So I would go with some wooden items and/ or a wooden floor, plants to bring life, colourful or interesting textures in the soft furnishings. You don't have to go all out with colourful furniture. You can use cushions and rugs for this and the best thing is they can be changed fairly easily if you fancy a new look at a later stage. Original artwork (painting or sculpture) or interesting lamps are great if you can afford. Photos and books (!) bring personality and show that real people do live here. My rule of thumb is that you don't want your home to look like a showhouse. You want it to have life and to reflect your personality. You don't have to go all crazy cat-lady with loads of kooky clutter but a few elements to break up the monotony will really help.

    Stellahome, your house looks lovely btw! I also love the idea of using interesting or asymmetrical bookcases. You could get a carpenter to knock up something interesting or better yet, do it yourself if you have the skills.

  • stabmonkey

    Louise. My kitchen has been magnolia since before I moved in 10 years ago. Got up this morning and for the first time thought Ugh and painted it white. I just hadn't realised before that I didn't like it. The rest of the house is white.

  • PRO
    Khan Art Studio

    New building are ideal for wall decoration by abstract art. It will give personality of its own and will be centre point for conversation.

  • Cristina Serghei

    I would suggest buying things with character and personality like furniture, accessories and art that you don't find in john lewis, but rather online, at fairs etc.

    You can check our page for very stylish pieces of furniture.

  • PRO
    A BEAUTIFUL PLACE .es

    I would paint it with warm colours and put some plants around. I would go for natural wood furnitures, some natural carpet if its needed and good artwork on the wall and would keep it as minimal as possible.

  • acew1234
    I am struggling with this too!
    We have just submitted plans for a new build on the site of an old farmhouse, the plan is for a simple barn like building.
    I'd like to have handmade looking oak Suffolk doors along side the straight lines of the new build.
    There will be large picture windows with wood interior frames.
    I'd like to a contemporary but warm slightly rustic feel but I'm not sure if it will look amazing or just odd!
  • Jonathan
    I think it is easier if you are building yourself and you don't have to accept the quality typically used by the mass housebuilders and you can change ceiling heights and have more expensive finishes such as stone finished walls and quality floors and interesting radiators and quality kitchens and bespoke lighting.
    If you buy a house on an estate of similar houses it is likely to be a blank canvass but in contrast to renovating at least you can see where most of your money spent on upgrading has been spent.
  • PRO
    A BEAUTIFUL PLACE .es

    Angelaew I would recommend to make 3d rendering of your house with all your ideas. It is the best way to visualize the changes before you make decisions. if you were interested i could help you with that please drop me a line: info@londonfengshui.net

  • jack howe

    Good quality curtains, rug, warm lighting and if possible a fireplace