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How to add character to a new build

Living in a new build has plenty of selling points, but owners can struggle to achieve the same character that can be found in older properties. Here we look at quick and easy ways to inject some quirky charm into your new build home.
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Living in a new build has its perks. The walls are free of damp and the floors don’t groan and creak underfoot. There are generally no hideous décor scars from previous owners to deal with (goodbye avocado bathroom), and you’re far less likely to encounter colonies of mice in the walls, or moths in the closet. But, despite the downfalls of older buildings, there’s no denying their charm. Solid oak beams, real wooden floors and sweeping bay windows are just some of the traditional features that make them so characterful. And it’s precisely this character that people living in new builds can find themselves longing for. Sure, newer properties leak less, they’re easier to maintain and they heat like a dream in the winter, but they’ve got no history. No quirks or eccentricities or dusty old fireplaces that, despite not actually working, bring an instant punch of vintage style to the room.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are tons of ways to add character to a new build, from simple tricks like hanging quirky wall art, to replacing floors and even front doors. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Floors, fabulous floors

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to achieving that rustic, period feel, starting with the real deal – solid hardwood flooring. If you want to go ‘all out’, it doesn’t get much more authentic than using genuine reclaimed wooden floorboards, which naturally already have that beautiful, lived-in feel. Likewise, choosing floorboards that have been finished using stains, colour-washes, hand-scraping or distressing techniques instantly gives your home an air of rural chic.

It’s also worth considering that, while some would claim steadfastly that installing real wood flooring is worth every splinter, there are some genuinely convincing wood-effect vinyl options available too. And don’t worry, they’re a world apart from their cheaper, laminate predecessors (great for student digs, not so great for adding period charm). Shop around and try to go for luxury brands where you can. You’ll be amazed at how authentic vinyl can look, and it doesn’t scuff like real wood, ideal for pet and child-filled households.

If wooden flooring isn’t your thing, there’s nothing to say you can’t go for something outrageously retro-chic like black and white checkerboard tiles instead. These can look great throughout the house, or as a statement feature in a hallway. We love them in the kitchen, alongside raw wood furniture and white-washed wooden cabinets.

Banish the blank walls

Blank walls are the enemy of character. Fact. And while many of us repeat the mantra, ‘I really must put some artwork up’ every time we have a guest over, most of us never actually get around to it. So, if you’re looking to give your newbuild some character, now’s the time to populate those glaringly white walls with a quirky wall canvas or two (or three or four). Offset your new solid wood floors (we knew you’d go for it) with a modern abstract framed picture like this one for a contrasting, effortlessly stylish finishing touch. Incorporating juxtaposing styles into your home is a great way to add period character while maintaining a sense of chic modernity. And the same logic works the other way around too. If you’ve gone for modern furnishings throughout your home, add a splash of vintage charm with something like this decidedly retro Cuban car wall picture.

First impressions count

One way to set your home apart from the newbuilds alongside it is to give it a bit of TLC from the outside. Changing your front door, for example, can have a huge impact, transforming your home and providing that lovely period charm from the minute you walk up the drive. Ditch the uPVC and replace it with something characterful like solid wood or timber to dial your property backwards in time, and up in effortless style. Complete the look with a bricked driveway (if it isn’t already) and plenty of thoughtful finishing touches to your garden or front yard. Think twinkling tealights in outdoor lanterns, hanging baskets and lots of lovely ivy.


Layer it up

You may not have plaster cornices or intricate cast iron fireplaces, but you do have an almost infinite number of ways to introduce texture and intrigue into your home with a little imagination. Fill nooks and crannies with footstools and ornate lamps, offsetting any antique furnishings with sleek modern additions such as statement mirrors or clean-cut glass coffee tables. Make use of rugs, and lots of them, even in places you might not traditionally find them – it’s all about layering up textures and adding that ‘oh isn’t that original’ atmosphere to your home.

Don’t shy away from bold, statement pieces, which can work wonders and bring that little bit of je ne se quois to an interior. Adding an eye-catching and ornate chandelier to your otherwise modern hallway is a great way to up your interior design game without a complete renovation.

Buying a new build may feel less exciting than moving into a characterful old property at first. But when you start to think creatively, you’ll unleash a world of hidden potential within those pristine walls, and realise there’s a lot of fun to be had too. Your home is a reflection of you, so don’t delay in injecting your personality in every inch of it. And all the while you’ll be able to enjoy the peace of mind that there are no horrors lurking under the floorboards, and not an avocado bathroom in sight.


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