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How to add character to your new build home

  • Home decor
  • New build homes
  • Style guide
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Olivia Lowry
how to add character to new build homes

Loads of us long for beautiful period homes but in reality, the housing market tends to dictate where we’ll end up, especially for first-time buyers. It’s fair to say that most new builds aren’t packed with original features like fireplaces and real wood floors - the stuff that makes period homes feel cosy and characterful.

It’s not all bad news though. With a blank slate to start with and much less maintenance to worry about, new builds have a lot of potential. Check out our best ideas for adding character to a box-fresh interior space. 

new build house

Don’t go heavy with added features

If you only stick to one piece of advice when adding character to your new build, make it this. When working with new build interiors, decorative features can end up looking out of place and not in keeping with the rest of the house. Instead of forcing character where there isn’t, opt for more modern versions of period features.

velvet red armchairs

Model 06 armchair in Burgundy

If your heart’s set on a traditional style panelled wall, try modernising it by sticking to a shaker style instead of something more ornate. When panelling, work this across multiple rooms and through hallways for a more cohesive and natural feel. In living rooms, mock fireplaces are a great way to add a characterful focal point. Add an original piece of artwork above to complete the look.

mock fireplace

Avoid shiny and reflective surfaces

Textures play a big part in how inviting and lived-in a space feels. Protect that feeling of warmth by steering clear of polished or gloss-finish surfaces where possible. Gloss furniture, although practical, can give too much of a clinical feel which is exacerbated when placed in freshly painted white and grey rooms.

wooden table side table

When buying tables, chests and sideboards, opt for wood or matt finishes. Cosy up laminate floors in your new build with a high-pile large area rug, or a jute alternative for a more hardwearing option.

wood panelling wood bannisters

Model 01 armchair in Mustard

Switch to softer lighting

Overhead spotlights are great for some situations, and if you’ve got the option to dim your lights, this helps. In new builds, individual rooms can be more compact and ceilings are lower than period homes. This means that ceiling lights are often too bright for the space, again adding to that more clinical and less cosy feel.

table lamp mushroom lamp

Thankfully the solution here’s pretty easy. Create a characterful warmth by introducing more lamps - both the table and floor variety. Choose warm daylight bulbs over white LED’s for the most cosy feel, and stagger the height of where they’re placed in the room for the best effect. A large floor lamp in one corner combined with a table lamp in the opposite corner works well.

grey armchair

Model 01 armchair in light grey

Choose and combine furniture carefully

Picking out your furniture’s definitely one of the more fun parts of moving, especially when your new build house is a total blank canvas. The furniture you choose has a really big impact on the overall interior feel, so it’s important to choose wisely.

mid century modern table mid century style dining table dining tables solid wood dining table wooden chairs scandi style table scandi dining table cosy dining table

When you’re getting furniture for a newer home or flat, it can be tempting to buy everything at once, and make it match. Instead, give it that character feel by shifting your focus to mid-century style pieces. Visit your local furniture flea to pick up a bargain that feels much more homely, and shop with retro style in mind for the newer pieces. By making it your goal to slowly curate the space over time, you’ll be left with a home that feels much more characterful in the long run.

faux leather sofas

Model 02 sofa in chestnut

Be braver with colour choices

You’ve got the keys, and the place is finally yours - exciting stuff. Decorating can be daunting when you’ve not got character details to inspire you from the get-go. It can be tempting to just keep it simple and stick with greys and neutrals, but this can make adding character a little tough.

blue velvet sofa

Model 01 sofa in teal

For a characterful feel, try to resist the all-white and grey look. Instead, add in combinations of deeper and bolder colours. Pick your favourites and create a colour scheme with tones like burgundy, olive green, mustard, teal, peony and burnt orange. How much of these colours you use is totally up to you, as is whether they’re a wall colour, or simply accents in the soft furnishings. Make it your mission to add colour throughout your place and you’ll be left with a space that feels more homely.

neutral sofa

Don’t forget to add personality

One of the best things about period homes is their sense of individuality. This can be tricky to replicate in new builds when you’re yet to collect any decor pieces or similar trinkets. The key here is to curate a set of items that are personal to you, without having so many on display that they create a cluttered look.

living room cabinet

Sideboards, cabinets and shelves are all brilliant places to show off your personality. Add a collection of your own things like photo frames, gifts, and handmade items that feel like you. If you’re into thrifting, pick up vintage decor pieces like glassware and vases to add a little more character.

shelves with pink wall

Think about the details

If there’s one thing the Victorians and Edwardians got right in their homes, it’s the details. As much as we love intricate picture rails and weathered brass handles, it’s safe to say they’d look pretty out of place in a new build. Focus on the details when kitting out your new place, leaving no stone unturned.


coffee table books

In the living room, choose a few of your favourite hardback books and let them live on your coffee table for a warm and inviting library feel. The same can be done with bookshelves if your collection of them extends past just a few. Again, this is all about curation, so shop slowly, and introduce the smaller details bit by bit.

coffee table style

Have you added character to your new build? To show us yours or to get inspired, head over to our Instagram for on-demand interiors.

How do I add character to my new build house? 

Add character to your new build house by carefully curating a selection of items over time, rather than buying them all in one go. For a cosier, characterful feel, consider using bolder colours and more texture combinations in your new build home.

Is wall panelling a good idea?

Wall panelling is a great way to add more interest and texture to your new build house. To make sure it fits in with the modern feel, try to keep decorative mouldings less detailed and opt for large shaker style panels instead.

How can I make my new build more homely?

To make your new build feel more homely: 
  • Use bold, darker colours over greys and whites
  • Consider switching out spotlights for dimmable pendants
  • Avoid too many matching furniture sets
  • Display photos, trinkets and other personal items around the home
  • Add genuine vintage or vintage style furniture and decor
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