How to add character to a new build home

So, you made the practical decision to purchase a new build home, because you didn’t want the hassle and expense of maintaining an old property. A sensible choice, given the current economy and prices of materials. But now you’ve moved your furniture in, it still just doesn’t feel like a ‘home’. So, what do you do?

It’s true that period properties have their own personalities and stories to tell, which all adds to the character and charm of chocolate box thatched cottages or Georgian town houses – but there are simple ways to add character to new build properties whilst still maintaining that contemporary feel.

Here are my top ten tips for furnishing a new build in a characterful way to create a welcoming home this Autumn;

  1. DON’T BUY MORE STUFF (yet). When you move into a new house it’s easy to get carried away buying furniture to fill empty spaces. The trouble is, you’re likely buying the wrong furniture, and once you’ve spent the money it’s hard to justify getting rid of things that aren’t right for you. Resist the temptation to do a ‘big shop’ at Ikea. Take the time to go through your possessions and sell/donate anything you don’t like, only keeping the things that you love or are really useful as your starting point.
  2. WRITE YOUR OWN BRIEF. Go room by room and write a list of all the functions of that room, who needs to use it, how many people need to use it (eg. how many people round for dinner on a regular basis), and at what time of day you’ll be in there. Don’t forget pets! If you think you want a ‘light and bright’ living room, but you’re only ever in there after 8pm in the evenings, it’s not going to feel light and bright when it’s dark outside, it’s going to feel stark and cold. New builds are often decorated in a light, neutral palette to appeal to those daytime viewers and give the impression of spaciousness – but this can feel unwelcoming when you’re actually living in there.
  3. ADD TEXTURE. Smooth, shiny surfaces everywhere? Porcelain tiles, stone worktops, flat panel doors and cut pile carpets are standard in new build houses. Adding architectural features such as wooden panelling, beading to cupboard doors, rugs to hard floors and wallpaper to walls enhances the tactile feel of a space. Don’t forget to mix up your fabrics too – linen, wool, velvet and cotton look and feel beautiful layered together.
  4. ACOUSTIC LAYERING. Sometimes new builds have that echoing feel to them, it’s just bad acoustics due to the hard surfaces. By adding texture as mentioned above, adding soft furnishings like curtains/blinds/cushions/rugs and bringing in natural materials like wood, the acoustics will soften and it will feel like a much more calming space.
  5. THROW IN AN ANTIQUE OR TWO. Even when we’re working on very contemporary projects, we always add at least one piece of antique furniture to the specification. Whether it’s a dining room credenza, a linen press on the landing to store towels, or a four poster bed to the master suite, an antique piece will add a sophistication to the space that you just don’t get with contemporary furniture.
  6. MIX UP SOME PATTERN. If you kept the backdrop of the neutral paint, beige/grey carpets and light coloured porcelain, you need to add some pattern to your furnishings. A patterned sofa or armchair is a wonderful thing and is actually easier on the eye than a big solid block of one colour. Same for rugs, bedspreads and cushions. If you have plain lamp bases, add patterned lampshades and if you have plain lampshades, add patterned lamp bases.
  7. CHOOSE SCULPTURAL SHAPES. Chances are you have lots of rectangular furniture. There are no cuboids in nature and all these linear boxes feel unnatural to us. Switch it up with some curved backed armchairs, a circular tub seat to your dressing table, tall sculptural standard lamps and asymmetrical mirrors.
  8. ENHANCE YOUR LIGHTING. It’s likely that some of your lighting is too bright/blue/cold, which is because the colour temperature is too high (developers and electricians like to use 3000K in kitchens and bathrooms for some reason, if you’re a developer or electrician reading this… Please stop doing that!). Change out your bulbs for 2700K to give you a warm white light that is still plenty bright enough for task lighting. Any evening lamps should have a bulb with a colour temperature of 2400K to create a warming glow. (And yes, for any electricians reading I know ‘bulbs’ are actually called ‘lamps’, but that’s just damn confusing when I’m talking about ‘table lamps’ in the same thread, so leave me be).
  9. CURATE YOUR ACCESSORIES. The accessories in your home should say something about you. If you’re an avid reader, display those books. Marathon runner? Frame your medals. Perhaps you’ve travelled extensively, if you brought things back with you then put them in view to remind you of those adventures.
  10. ADD ART TO EVERY ROOM. Most people find it difficult to choose art, so when decision fatigue sets in they end up not choosing any at all. Those bare walls are a reflection of you and your personality. Let go of the fear of choosing the ‘wrong’ type of art. I’ve been to Sothebys’, there is absolutely no common thread between what makes art successful or aesthetically emotive. Whether it’s a print of a famous painting, a simple charcoal sketch you saw at a car boot sale, or an abstract watercolour by a local artist, choose images that make you smile. Art doesn’t have to be expensive, you could even make your own should the mood so take you. Framing is everything, so it’s worth taking the time to choose the right size and colour frame to really enhance your art.

You can find STUDIO JQ on social media @thestudiojq where we share project updates, design tips and our daily goings on.

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