Eight easy ways to add character to a new-build home

From makeshift ceiling roses to feature fireplaces, here’s how to introduce the charm and personality of a period property into your own home, no matter its age…

Harlem Iconic Capri Chevron vinyl flooring, from £13.49 per sq m, Lifestyle Floors

There are plenty of perks to living in a newer property – they’re more energy efficient, have fewer maintenance issues and you can reap the benefits of brand spanking new fixtures and fittings.

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However, if you long for the grandeur of a Georgian townhouse, or love the Cottagecore look, a blank slate new-build just won’t cut the mustard. However, a newer home doesn’t have to be characterless!

Here, we suggest simple ways to introduce charming heritage style into your home; whether you’re looking for budget-friendly DIY or larger-scale renovations.

How to bring personality to a new-build home

Add wall panelling

Wooden wall panelling is an easy way to bring character to a space, and it can often elongate a room and make a low ceiling feel lofty. Plus, it’s surprisingly affordable!

Wooden wall panelling is an easy way to bring character to a space, and it can often elongate a room and make a low ceiling feel lofty.
Wooden wall panelling is an easy way to bring character to a space, and it can often elongate a room and make a low ceiling feel lofty.

Though it’s easy enough to attempt panelling yourself with a few supplies from a DIY shop, there are plenty of companies that supply ready-made MDF designs, such as The English Panelling Company.

Panelling, from £24 per sq m, The English Panelling Company
Panelling, from £24 per sq m, The English Panelling Company

Whether you opt for cosy half-height Georgian tongue-and-groove or a statement wall of Jacobean squares, your home will soon be filled with period drama…

Use wallpaper

If your home feels like a collection of white boxy rooms, wallpaper is a sure-fire way to introduce colour, texture and personality. Brick-effect designs give a stripped-back, industrial vibe that’s perfect for kitchens and living spaces, whereas an embossed tile wallpaper echoes the patina of age you’d find in an older property.

Wayoh red brick effect wallpaper, £59 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia
Wayoh red brick effect wallpaper, £59 per roll, Woodchip & Magnolia

Don’t fancy wall-to-wall pattern? You could opt for a feature wall – try papering above an old-fashioned dado rail (which can easily be glued onto a wall), or get crafty and découpage the back of a bookcase or cupboard.

Whatever option you choose, don’t forget to follow our guide on how to wallpaper like an expert for a professional finish.

Give your entrance a new look

Although new-build houses often come with traditional panelled internal doors, contemporary polished chrome or brushed nickel hardware in angular shapes can give a harsh feel. The good news is that there of plenty of ways to glam up your front door, but on a budget.

Beehive large door knobs, £68.50 for a pair, Grace & Glory Home
Beehive large door knobs, £68.50 for a pair, Grace & Glory Home

Why not swap these handles for a pair of classic beehive-style doorknobs in a warm antiqued bronze to give an instant heritage hit? It’s an easy DIY job to complete in an afternoon!

Why not copy Sharon’s idea and paint your wooden front door in a fresh colour? She used Dusty Lilac eggshell by Valspar. On the wall hangs an old map of Hertfordshire by Mapiful. To finish off her hallway, Sharon has installed period-style switches that she sourced from eBay. The umbrella stand is a marketplace find
Why not copy Sharon’s idea and paint your wooden front door in a fresh colour? She used Dusty Lilac eggshell by Valspar. On the wall hangs an old map of Hertfordshire by Mapiful. To finish off her hallway, Sharon has installed period-style switches that she sourced from eBay. The umbrella stand is a marketplace find. Take a look at the full home makeover here.

To up the style statement, try painting the door in a contrasting hue such as slate grey or blush pink. Don’t forget to finish the look by adding plenty of efficient coat storage in your hallway – this will help you to make the best first impression on your guests!

Replace the lighting

For a traditional feel, forgo cool-toned spotlights in favour of a dramatic central ceiling pendant. Those with glass lantern-like shades and accents of brass or copper will create a focal point in a room and help to emit a cosy, golden glow.

If you’re looking to go the extra mile, installing a decorative ceiling rose around the light fitting will help to create that classic, period feel. These ornate plaster numbers are cast from historic buildings and are best fitted by a professional, but you can also pick up polyurethane and polystyrene roses that you can glue directly onto the ceiling.

Above else, make sure that you take the time for planning, so you can work out exactly what kind of lighting scheme will be serve your space. Take a look at our lighting tips for every room if you’re not quite sure where to start!

Choose made-to-measure furniture

From bespoke storage units and wardrobes to alcove shelves and bookcases, few things feel more characterful (and look more expensive) than custom-built furniture, and it was a craft beloved by the fashionable Georgians and Victorians.

Bespoke fitted furniture, from £3,000 + VAT, Neville Johnson
Bespoke fitted furniture, from £3,000 + VAT, Neville Johnson

Many companies offer design and installation services, but if you’re DIY-savvy then why not attempt to build something yourself?

Sherbourne fitted bookcases in Dove, the Home Living range, from £1,500, Sharps
Sherbourne fitted bookcases in Dove, the Home Living range, from £1,500, Sharps

Don’t forget to fill the open shelves with an array of books, photographs and other knick-knacks for a look that oozes individual charm, and pick up an old ladder from a charity shop or salvage yard for an old-fashioned library feel.

Invest in new flooring

Exposed wooden floorboards are the perfect way to instil a sense of characterful charm in your living space, dining room or hallway – but parquet or herringbone designs are the ultimate in simple sophistication.

Harlem Iconic Capri Chevron vinyl flooring, from £13.49 per sq m, Lifestyle Floors
Harlem Iconic Capri Chevron vinyl flooring, from £13.49 per sq m, Lifestyle Floors

There’s a reason they were chosen for the Palace of Versailles! Installing reclaimed parquet block-by-block can be pricey and time-consuming, however new vinyl tiles in a distinctive herringbone or zigzag design is a way to achieve the look for a fraction of the cost. Simply top with a traditional sisal or Persian-style rug for an understated, chic finish.

Install shutters

Though we’re not all blessed with characterful sash windows, old-fashioned shutters are an easy way to transform uPVC frames into something far more glamorous. When used in street-facing windows they offer your home serious kerb-appeal with privacy from the outside world and, when paired with a blackout blind or curtains, provide near full darkness for bedrooms.

Thomas Sanderson shutters are made-to-measure so prices vary
Thomas Sanderson shutters are made-to-measure so prices vary

Though custom-built wood designs can be a little pricey, nowadays it’s easy to achieve a similar look on a budget with shutters made from plastics or polymers.

Thomas Sanderson shutters are made-to-measure so prices vary
Thomas Sanderson shutters are made-to-measure so prices vary

Opt for a colour that’s in-keeping with the rest of your scheme to create a look that’s cool and considered or, for real character, we recommend going bold with a striking shade.

Choose period paint shades

A little more muted and gentle than contemporary shades, paint colours inspired by heritage properties will bring understated elegance to your home.

Velvet Evening flat matt emulsion, £21.50 for 2.5L, Crown
Velvet Evening flat matt emulsion, £21.50 for 2.5L, Crown

Use the same shade of matt or eggshell paint across the walls, skirting boards and any cupboards or internal doors to create a cohesive and considered look – it’ll allow any wall decor or wall hangings you display to truly shine. In need of inspiration? Here are Farrow & Ball’s colours for 2021, according to their colour curator, Joa Studholme!

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For more inspiration, check out Elaine’s real home makeover: ‘I injected personality into my new-build!’