I’ve Made a Career Out of Renovating New Builds—Here’s How I Give Them Character
Cookie-cutter no more.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:49 AM
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Jasmine Roth can spot a cookie-cutter home from a mile away. “It’s when you walk into the neighbor’s house for the first time and you don’t have to ask where the bathroom is because you already know,” she says. As the host of HGTV’s Hidden Potential, Roth isn’t tackling daunting fixer-uppers—the Huntington Beach, California–based designer is doing just the opposite. Instead of looking through the bad to see the good, she’s actually looking through the good to see the better. Her job: giving generic new builds their own identities.
While there is something comforting about a brand-new space, rarely does it feel like it’s truly yours (especially when your neighborhood looks like it has been a part of a cloning experiment). You might not be able to re-create the feeling of walking on slightly warped, 100-year-old hardwood floors or the charm of original molding, but with a little creativity, you can infuse a similar sense of history. Here, Roth shares her tips for faking that coveted lived-in quality.
Add Something Vintage
Your house might be new, but your furniture doesn’t have to be. “I always try to add one or two things that have some chippy paint or that you look at and think, That has a story,” shares Roth. Instead of purchasing new prints, thrift old oil paintings. While you could easily get an area rug at your local big-box retailer, scour Etsy for an antique one. The little things will make a big difference.
Paint Unexpected Places
Walls are the obvious choice, but a laundry room door or kitchen island? No one will see that coming. “A fun color can totally change how that whole area feels,” says Roth. If you don’t feel like whipping out the roller, experiment with larger furnishings in bright hues (we can’t resist a velvet pink sofa).
Exchange the Bath Fittings
Contractors prefer blank canvases, which is why the bathrooms in new builds often come off as cold and sterile. A quick, satisfying change you can make on move-in day: “Sometimes it’s as simple as taking down the builder-grade mirror and swapping it out for something that was sourced from an old school or warehouse,” says Roth. “I found one recently that looked like a porthole from a ship.” Shapely drawer pulls, an elegant faucet, and retro wall sconces will also do the trick.
Hang Candid Family Photos
Scraps of paper, blurry old photographs, or concert posters, while ordinary to you, feel extra-special when they’re framed and hung on the wall. When Roth is mapping out a gallery, she likes to see faces. “They don’t have to be these staged, stuffy portraits where you go out on the beach in matching outfits,” says Roth. To foster a sense of balance, opt for uniform frames and black-and-white imagery. If an eclectic display is more your speed, vary the size and material of the surrounds. Perfectly imperfect.
This story was originally published on October 26, 2018. It has been updated.
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