An in-depth list of do-it-yourself home improvement projects and budget decorating tips to add farmhouse character to a builder grade house (or any home).
You know that song “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert? It hits me right in the feels every time I hear it, and I’m usually hovering somewhere between misty-eyed and sobbing baby by the end of it.
Last week, while Olivia was at preschool and Robert was at work, I stopped by the old house for a moment, cranked that song up on my phone, and walked through our empty rooms one last time. As I walked around, it got me thinking about how many different ways we added farmhouse character to our once character-less builder grade house. (And if that sounds crazy, here’s why we didn’t buy an actual “fixer upper” to begin with.)
I realized that it would be perfect to collect all of them together into one big post to maybe give you some ideas to bring a little charm to your own house if yours is feeling a bit too plain Jane lately.
18 Ways to Add Farmhouse Character to a Builder Grade House:
- Trim out your windows.
We ended up trimming out every window in our house, and it made a HUGE difference in all of our rooms. It’s so quick and inexpensive, and the method we use is super duper simple to do. Add floor-to-ceiling curtains and some natural woven shades, and you’ve got instantly beautiful windows.
2. Add faux wood beams to doorways or ceilings.
If you have a plain trim-less doorway like we did, wrapping it in stained wood is an inexpensive, big-impact way to add interest to a space. In our next house, I hope to add beams to our ceiling, and I cannot wait!
3. Hang sliding barn doors.
I love sliding barn doors because they’re unique, but also because they add a little more useable square footage to a room. Our bedroom and master bathroom used to be a traffic jam in the mornings, but adding sliding doors on a track solved the issue beautifully. (And if you are using basic hollow core doors, you can even give them a chippy, distressed effect.)
4. Swap out your basic sink for an IKEA farmhouse one.
This sink we installed in our kitchen cost barely more than a basic white drop-in, and I’m convinced it helped sell our house. Plus, it’s huge! Washing dishes in this sink is a breeze.
5. Brighten your dark furniture with paint, distressing, and antiquing wax.
Paint is amazing and can change your entire room for less than $100. Transform your existing plain or dated furniture, hit up Craigslist, or go on a thrifting trip to find new potential. (Here’s a gallery of furniture makeovers with tips to get started if you need ideas.)
6. Install board and batten.
If you want more than plain drywall, board and batten is great at brightening up dark hallways, adding a formal element to a dining space, and best of all, it’s so classic that it will likely never go out of style. If you have non-textured walls, it’s even easier to do yourself.
7. Create interest with shiplap.
8. Paint outdated cabinets and swap out basic hardware for knobs and pulls with character.
Painting cabinets is time-consuming, but it’s so worth doing them yourself over hiring out, if you can. If you have a dark kitchen or bathroom, painting the cabinets makes a world of difference. (Here are my favorite places to shop for hardware too, if your knobs and pulls need a change.)
9. Spiff up your lighting.
Get creative with chandeliers and pendant lights, swap out lamps (or keep a lookout at thrift stores for ones to spray paint), and incorporate lanterns for a cozy feel. Here are a whole bunch of inexpensive chandeliers, if you’d rather not DIY.
10. If you don’t have a fireplace, build a faux one!
This one’s definitely for the more intermediate DIYer, but if you are craving a fireplace and aren’t ready for the $5,000+ price tag to add a real one, you can build this faux fireplace for about $600.
11. Bring coziness into your space with a textured rug.
If you have a room that doesn’t quite feel “pulled together”, a rug can make it feel complete and add a cozy factor. 8×10 sized rugs are usually best for living rooms and bedrooms.
12. Find unique ways to incorporate old architecture, farm equipment, and antique knick-knacks.
Keep an eye out at flea markets, in thrift stores, in antique shops, or on Craigslist for interesting items that can double as decor. A windmill can make a fun wreath. An old window is great as a picture frame. And something as simple as an old kitchen grater can be used as a towel rack (one that is dull already, of course because ouch).
13. Create texture with a healthy mix of glass, wood, metal, natural fabrics, and baskets.
Combine different materials together to create coziness. You can see more tips for how to do that here.
14. Hang antique style signs.
If you have some spare lumber lying around, making “antique” signs is my favorite way to use up old materials. You can see how to design your own with Picmonkey here. Or if you don’t want to go the DIY route, you can find all kinds on Etsy and eBay.
15. Implement whitewashed brick.
If you have dark brick in your house already, you can whitewash it for next to nothing to brighten up a room. Or you can make a backsplash or focal wall from faux brick panels.
16. Have fun with flowers and greenery (real or artificial).
A little bit of life in the form of flowers and plants can go a long way to perk up a room. Most of mine are fake and you’d never know the difference! Here are some of my favorite places to buy beautiful flowers and plants on a budget.
17. Incorporate reclaimed wood.
Reclaimed wood adds lots of gorgeous texture. Use it to build furniture, make signs, place on a bar, install on a ceiling, build shelves, frame mirrors, whatever you want. If you are having trouble finding the real reclaimed stuff, you can create the look yourself with new wood from the hardware store.
18. Use wood wash and antique wood stains for a natural look.
The combination of white and weathered wood is classic farmhouse, so it’s good to create a good balance between the two. If you don’t want to paint your wood furniture, you can whitewash and dry brush it or fake the look with paint if you prefer.
Whew! So. many. options.
Do you have any favorite ways to add character to a house? Have you found any great tutorials out there to make it easier or inexpensive? Have you done any yourself?! We’ll be gearing up for a whole bunch more in a few weeks.