Adding Character to a Cookie Cutter House

Cookie cutter. Builder basic. A blank slate. However you want to phrase it, I think a lot of us fall into this category if our house was built after 1980. You know the look I’m talking about: beige carpet, white walls, oak trim, maybe some tan tiles in the kitchen, and literally no architectural details. It’s just kind of… there. But you know what? That can be a good thing because now you have the chance to make your house exactly how you want it. In fact, we just bought a house like this BECAUSE of it’s transformative potential. (Here’s the plan for the kitchen.) There are plenty of things we can do to make a basic house more interesting.

Step one: paint! The walls, obviously, and maybe the trim, but have you ever thought about painting your interior doors a darker color? Look at this beautiful (and giant) laundry room:

That black door is striking, no? The room would still be nice if the door were standard white, but adding that final punch of contrast takes the space from simply being pretty into being interesting.

And while we’re on the topic of doors, give the one on the front of your house a little attention, too. Paint both sides of it! I make this recommendation to clients all the time and MAN does it make a difference on the interior:

Bonus: a darker front door will hide finger smudgies.

Other simple upgrades are your light fixtures. You can buy new pieces that are more your taste, or if you like the bones of what’s already hanging, bust out some spray paint. This chandelier used to be brass, and I bet you $100 those walls were white then the house was built, but now the light is black and the walls are gray and suddenly it’s looking much more personalized over here:

If you’re feeling more ambitious, I recommend adding some architectural details. The lack of them in (most) modern houses makes my eye twitch, but with a little time and some good tutorials you can solve that particular problem. Beefing up the window trim is a good place to start:

Board and batten wainscoting, anyone?

A more traditional version of this idea is over here. I like it both ways, but you do you.

You could also use leftover trim on your hollow-core doors to make panels. A closet is shown here, but this idea will work on any interior door:

And hey, these doors are a color! If you have only one takeaway from this post, paint your doors anything other than white. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it will make a huge impact even if you can’t afford to do much else.

Finally, for the hardcore DIYers among us with endless weekends and mad skills, you can build a faux fireplace that looks remarkably like the real thing:

I KNOW. One hundred points to Gryffindor.

I certainly can’t top that, so let’s just end it here for today. What are some projects you’ve done to add character to your house? Anybody going to attempt the faux fireplace? Which of these do you plan to do next?

6 thoughts on “Adding Character to a Cookie Cutter House”

  1. I’m dying to repaint our house…or hire it done, actually! We have white walls and white doors and they are SO boring! I’m so glad I chose gray for my studio!

  2. Great tips! It’s so important to have some character in a home.

    I’ve been wanting to paint our front door since we moved (almost a year ago). Now you have me thinking about painting both sides of the door!

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