Monday, September 19, 2016

How to give a new house tons of character

Thirteen years ago at nearly this exact time of year we were starting the process of buying a house. We had been in an apartment for four years and I had lived either in dorms or apartments for seven years before that. The idea of owning a home had always been a dream of mine and I was so thrilled that we were going to make it happen. 

The funny thing is, we knew immediately we wanted to build a house. We just knew we wanted something brand new, even though I do love an old house. There was something so exciting about picking out each and every detail and personalizing it to how we wanted. And as much as I love old stuff, I loved that everything would be sparkly and new. 

We soon decided on a builder and ended up with Beazer Homes. We were so thrilled with the process from start to finish (and still are 12 years later!), so I was honored when the folks at Beazer asked me to partner with them to share how we've updated our Beazer home over the years. You know this one involves before and after photos so I was totally on board. ;) 

Our superintendent in charge of our build and our design studio contact were both so helpful during our build. When we couldn't decide on a kitchen cabinet finish they allowed us extra time and visits to figure everything out. When I couldn't decide on tile colors our rep pulled out our carpet and paint color and helped me find something that worked with both of them. During the build process our superintendent would make small tweaks along the way and was so accommodating the entire time. It was a little sad when we were done because we knew we wouldn't see all of those friendly faces again.  

Even though we live in a suburban neighborhood, even years ago (before I started changing our home), I still felt like ours was unique. Beyond the fact that we had options that made our house different --  our office could have been a bedroom, our two-story living room could have had another bedroom above, we added a beautiful bay window in the kitchen for extra space and we could have opted for an additional bedroom instead of our open loft. All of the little choices we made created a home like no one else's. 

I've always said I had good bones to build on and that was SO true when it came to our stair makeover. I remember when we were building and I saw the wood stairs -- I was so close to asking them to just leave them without carpet (because I knew they would have). I chickened out though!

For years I thought about the pretty wood stairs under this carpet: 
removing carpet from steps

And about six years ago I finally got the courage up to rip that carpet off the stairs. This was one of my best decisions ever! The pretty white risers and dark stained treads are so classic and make such a difference: 
how to take carpet off your stairs

I added trim below the handrail and painted that wall black later on but the star of this show is the contrast of all that wood. 

Another spot that had quality finishes to start was our kitchen. The cabinets were maple and solid wood:
gray and white cabinets in kitchen
The island didn't always look like contemporary art. ;) That was the marks from the glue I used to add trim over the years. 

The finish wore like any would over the years and eventually I wanted a new look for the kitchen. I LOVED the design of the cabinets (I think they are timeless) so they got a makeover (well, the whole room did!):
two-tone kitchen renovation

Those quality wood cabinets, a good paint job and some patience on my part allowed for a beautiful, factory finish when I was done. I also used our old kitchen island and built on to it to create a much larger and custom one.

There are little details in our home that I've always loved. One is a half wall in our foyer that gives a little bit of definition between the foyer and living room: 
how to build a bookcase

I knew that was a great opportunity to add even more character so I built a bookcase along that half wall that finishes it off beautifully: 
half wall bookcase

This is why I laugh about building a new house -- I love old homes and all of their character, but we chose a shiny new one and I'm always trying to make it feel older. And I'd do it again that way! That's part of the reason I blog, because it is most definitely possible to add character where there wasn't much before.

It doesn't always have to be a big build or project that adds personality to your home. I made a tufted headboard for our bedroom years ago but still felt like that wall needed something: 
DIY tufted headboard

I grabbed some mdf from the hardware store and spent an evening adding it to the wall. I painted the trim and wall in a dark gray for a dramatic backdrop in our room for very little money: 
dark accent wall in bedroom

The three biggest projects we've done in the house are finishing our basement, the kitchen makeover and a big one that involved taking down a wall between our family room and the office: 
how to knock down a wall
This was one of those "real life" photos that I snapped when we were contemplating this idea.

This is thing about building a house -- my biggest piece of advice? Do your research beforehand! Thank goodness you all have Pinterest, back in my day I tore pages out of magazines. ;) I loved the idea of a corner fireplace and the Beazer folks were all, let's do it! And then I lived with it and wasn't so thrilled with my decision. 

Perhaps it is my odd need for symmetry, but it drove me crazy. One day a reader said, "Why don't you take down that wall?" and the skies opened up and birds sang. 

That we did:  
gray fireplace with marble
I got my beloved symmetry but we also got a larger family room that is twice as bright. (I have to mention that we have a ton of windows on our house -- another bonus about the Beazer options.) AND a beautiful new fireplace with a marble surround and tons of built in storage. This is the coziest room in our house and I think this change has to be the best change we've made to date. 

We have never regretted going with Beazer to build our home. Our experience was top notch from the start in the model home to years later as I make this house more ours with every day. This is a well-built house with good bones and I just keep adding good stuff to it. :) 

Be sure to tune into Instagram this Wednesday (the 21st) as I take over the Beazer Homes account and share more before and after photos of our home that I didn't include here. (You can follow me on IG as well and I'll remind you there.) Looking back at our beloved home is one of my favorite things! 

Have you ever built a house or are you considering it? Did you enjoy it? Was it fun for you or super stressful? If you have questions about the process I'd love help however I can!

P.S. I've updated the "Our Home" tab at the top of the page with some new photos of the house and recent projects. Be sure to check it out if you are new around here! :) 

I have been compensated by Beazer Homes to share this post about our home but all thoughts and experience are my own. 



  1. Where did you find the "gather" sign above your doorway? Love your house!

    1. Thank you! :) It was from World Market -- it was red and I sprayed it black.

    2. Love it! Thanks!


  2. Love everything about the stairway! Beautiful!

  3. We have a Beazer home as well! Ours is about 10 years old, with much of the original finishes (we're the second owners), but I've been really impressed with how well this house was built, despite being a new(er) build.

  4. Your house looks AWESOME, and I am amazed how much you have done all by yourself. I am a rookie, meaning I can't paint a room well at all. Can you share your tips on paint - what kind of paint is appropriate for walls, trim, doors, etc. Thanks!

  5. What a timely post; our first house's estimated completion date is October 4th - we went for building new too! It was dreamy getting to pick finishes and options to make our house feel like "us." And now I'm counting down the days to move in and make it home!

  6. I love reading about your home and all you do to personalize it. Guess what? I was the reader who suggested that you take down the wall. It looks awesome! Thanks for all of the inspiration you have given me as well!

  7. Great read. Thanks.

  8. We recently purchased an acre lot, and plan to build in the next few years. I am feeling overwhelmed right now thinking about the amount of cash we'll need to save up before we can break ground. If you read online what's recommended (20% down payment, 10-20% budget cushion, and an emergency fund that will cover your new mortgage for 6 months if you were to lose your job, plus money for new furniture and window treatments, etc.). It is a lot. I wish more people would be open about how much it really costs to build a new home. It's one of those taboo topics, though, since it's all about personal finances, and also varies considerably with all the different options and locations. So, I get why more people don't share the numbers. I just wish I could see into the future and know whether or not we can really afford to do this. :) Anyway... I love your home, and all that you've done to give it character! :)

  9. We bought an older home (1980) almost 2 years ago and we bought based on location. We are 2nd time home owners but had a townhouse prior to this house. It is hard dealing with the little stuff that goes wrong. The previous owners were a bit dishonest in the house issues and histories. That was frustrating but honestly once you buy the house there is not much you can do. They actually drywalled the basement over top of closed ducts. Our first winter, half of our house had no heat. Luckily our heating company was amazing and came out many times to try to problem solve until they finally suggested we cut into the drywall and sure enough that was the issue. Our home is gorgeous, our large front porch is amazing. My kitchen, dining area, and living area is completely open concept with a brick fireplace in the middle. I do love it but a newer home would likely have alleviated some stress.

  10. I love seeing all your changes over the years. Your bedroom is just stunning and the family room is just perfect - and that kitchen!! We also moved into a new house but now that we have lived here for 17 years (shocking that it's been that long!), we have made many updates as things have worn out or our style has changed. We had a bunch of builder-grade features in our home because we were young and extremely cautious with our money when we built the house...not that we are not now! Well, you know what I mean! I also love the fact that no one else has ever lived in "our" home. Great post!

  11. I absolutely love what you did with the living room. It's so much more open and inviting, it really came out beautiful I'm jealous!


I LOVE your comments, thank you! (I read every single one.)

If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here! Be sure to check out the FAQs tab at the top of the site and my Projects page for paint colors and DIY projects as well.

THANKS so much for reading!