Adding Character into a new build home
Many of us long for beautiful period homes but in reality, the housing market tends to dictate where we’ll end up, especially for first-time buyers.
March to June tends to be the busiest time for house sales and, according to Google Trends data, there have been 141K searches for ‘new build’ in the last month, with searches for some of the major new build developers also up 180%.
It’s fair to say that most new builds aren’t packed with original features like fireplaces and real wood floors – the stuff that makes period homes feel cosy and characterful. For those that are opting for a box-fresh pad, Interior designer and head of creative at Swyft Home, Kelly Collins, has shared her top tips for injecting character into even the plainest of new builds.
Don’t go heavy with added features
“When it comes to adding character to a new build home, there’s one piece of advice you should prioritise: avoid decorative features that don’t fit with the overall style of the house. Rather than trying to force character into every aspect of your design, consider incorporating modern versions of period features to keep them in line with the rest of the house.
If you’re keen on a traditional panelled wall, opt for a simple shaker style to modernise this typically period feature. To create a cohesive feel, extend the panelling throughout multiple rooms and hallways. In living areas, mock fireplaces can serve as characterful focal points. Top it off with an original artwork for added charm.”
Avoid shiny and reflective surfaces
“The use of textures is a crucial factor in creating a cosy and homely atmosphere in any living space. To maintain this feeling of warmth, I would suggest avoiding polished or glossy finishes. While gloss furniture may offer practical benefits, it can give an overly clinical vibe, particularly when placed in the freshly painted white or grey rooms of most new build homes.
When purchasing tables, chests, or sideboards, I would recommend choosing items with wood or matte finishes. Additionally, to create a snug ambience, consider placing a high-pile, large area rug on laminate flooring or if you are looking for something a little more hard-wearing, a jute rug is a suitable alternative.”
Switch to softer lighting
“In certain situations, overhead spotlights can be useful, especially if they have the option to be dimmed. However, in a new build home, rooms tend to be more compact and have lower ceilings than in period homes. As a result, ceiling lights often emit too much light, contributing to a cold and clinical atmosphere.
Fortunately, the remedy for this is quite simple. To achieve a warm and inviting space with plenty of character, incorporate more table and floor lamps into the space. Opt for warm daylight bulbs instead of white LEDs to enhance the cosiness, and vary the height and placement of the lamps throughout the room for maximum effect. Placing a large floor lamp in one corner and a table lamp in the opposite corner is a winning combination.”
Choose and combine furniture carefully
“Selecting furniture is definitely one of the more enjoyable aspects of moving, especially when you are starting with a completely blank canvas. The furniture you choose has a significant impact on the overall feel of the interior, so it’s key to choose wisely.
When selecting furniture for a modern home or apartment, it can be tempting to purchase everything at once and have everything match. Instead, try adding character by focusing on more mid-century style pieces. Visit your local second-hand furniture store to discover a bargain that feels less modern and more ‘lived in’ and look for newer pieces that have a more retro feel. By making it your objective to gradually curate the space over time, you’ll end up with a home that oozes character.”
Be braver with colour choices
“Decorating can be intimidating when you don’t have any character features to work with from the offset, so it can be easy to fall back on simple greys and neutrals, however, these colours make adding character quite difficult.
To create a more characterful feel, try to avoid an all-white and grey colour scheme, instead using deeper, bolder colours. Pick out your favourite hues and create a colour palette that includes shades such as burgundy, olive green, mustard, teal, peony, and burnt orange. How much of these colours you use is entirely up to you, whether it’s on the walls or simply in the soft furnishings as accents, adding colour throughout your home will give it much more personality.”
Don’t forget to add personality
“New build homes can lack the unique charm and character of period homes, making it difficult to create a space that feels personal to you without any decor pieces. However, you can still achieve a sense of individuality by carefully selecting a few personal items and curating your decor over time.
Sideboards, cabinets, and shelves are great places to display items that are meaningful to you, such as photo frames, gifts, and handmade items. Why not go thrifting for vintage decor pieces like glassware and vases, as these will add a touch of character to your space. Remember, it’s important to strike a balance between showcasing your personality and keeping the space from appearing too cluttered, so don’t get too carried away.”
Think about the details
“Period homes are renowned for their attention to detail. Replicating this style in a new build can be challenging as ornate picture rails and intricate ceiling roses would look pretty out of place in this modern style of home. However, this isn’t to say you can’t add detail to your new home, you just need to focus on them a little more.
To create a warm and inviting atmosphere, display a carefully curated selection of items in your living room. For example, choose a few of your favourite hardback books to display on your coffee table or bookshelves. This will give your space a cosy library vibe. Take your time when selecting these items, shop slowly and add them to the space gradually to create a truly curated feel.”