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10 Low-Cost Ways to Add Character to a Builder-Grade Home

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Zachary Walston
Zachary Walston
 29 days ago
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Do you live in a builder-grade or cookie-cutter home that lacks character? Are you longing for that custom feel? While it would be nice to have thousands of dollars to upgrade or customize a space, budgets aren't endless. Can you add character for little cost? According to Atlanta-based real estate agent Lindsay Walston, you can.

My husband and I bought a builder-grade home in 2016. Though built in the 1990s, it still had many of the original finishes and overall just looked old and tired. As much as I would have loved it, our budget didn't allow for a huge overhaul so we made some small, low-budget changes. To be honest, I was amazed at how much these things transformed the space. - Lindsay Walston

Here’s how to make your home feel custom, even if you’re on a tiny budget.

1. Create a Feature Wall

Feature walls add character to a space by creating a focal point and giving a room personality that typical cookie-cutter homes don’t have. A feature wall can be a large, bold statement or a small nook. You can create it with shiplap, paint, wainscoting, board, and batten, or any other finish that makes the wall stand out.

2. Upgrade your Trim

Many builder-grade homes have standard trim along the floors, windows, and doors. But take a closer look at those custom homes and you will see they have trim that pops and gives the home more character.

Upgrade trim something as simple as a fresh coat of paint, or re-do the trim all together for a fresh, updated feel. - Lindsay Walston

3. Paint the Front Door

Want to give the exterior of your home a more custom look? Paint the front door. It will freshen up the exterior with very minimal time, effort, and money. Adding a pop of color can also help add a bit of interest and character too.

4. Add A Rug to Cover Up Damaged Flooring

Want to replace the floors but don’t quite have the budget just yet? An oversized rug can hide those imperfections or unfavorable flooring surfaces at a fraction of the cost. - Linsday Walston

This is a temporary fix, but it can make a space feel fresh and less dated.

5. Paint Cabinets

Installing brand new cabinets is the most obvious way to upgrade a kitchen or bathroom space, but that gets expensive. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is all you need to give the space an upgraded or customized look. - Lindsay Walston

While white kitchen cabinets still appear to win out from a popularity perspective, according to Lindsay, navy, black and gray cabinets are becoming more popular. If you have a kitchen island, adding a contrasting or pop of color there also gives the space character.

6. Add Window Treatments

New curtains or window shades can do wonders for a space. - Lindsay Walston

Floor to ceiling window treatments helps the ceilings feel taller while also making a space feel cozy and warm.

7. Swap out Light Fixtures

It’s probably safe to say that if you’ve ever lived in a cookie-cutter home you’ve had a boob light or two hanging from your ceiling. Swapping out cheap, cookie-cutter fixtures is an easy and quick way to really upgrade a space.

Lighting is an important part of the home and old fixtures can instantly date it. Sure, you can spend a lot of money here if you want, but there are also a lot of lower-cost alternatives that can really update the room. - Linday Walston

8. Upgrade Faucets

Once again, swapping out standard or builder-grade features will instantly make a home feel more custom. If a full bathroom or kitchen remodel isn’t in the cards then something as simple as swapping out faucet fixtures can update that cookie-cutter space. The options are endless

9. Frame the Bathroom Mirrors

Do you know how expensive large mirrors are? These things can run you hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially for a customized framed mirror. So, instead, how does $20 sound? That's about how much we paid to upgrade our builder-grade mirrors with custom-looking framing. The trick? Underlayment plywood with our favorite stain (or paint) and a little adhesive. - Lindsay Walston

10. Upgrade your Door Handles

The majority of builder-grade homes come with super basic and pretty boring interior door handles. Our home was built in the late 1990s and so came with old, scratched brass knobs everywhere that instantly dated the space. One of the first things we did to upgrade our home was purchase oil rubbed bronze handles and it instantly updated the home with very minimal time, effort and money. - Lindsay Walston

Lindsay and her husband completed every single one of these projects over a one-year period. It doesn't; have to be all at once.

Budget for the big renovations, but don't underestimate your ability to customize your dome.