Buying a home on today's market takes a lot of work! After the stress of financing and the rush of closing, the move-in can be a let-down. But one of the true joys of homeownership is your ability to truly make your home yours - customizing and personalizing it to suit your tastes, your family and your lifestyle to a t.
Here are four smart strategies for customizing your new home (even if new just means new to you!):
1. Paint to create the feel you want, inside and out. Painting your home with the colors and effects of your choice is one of the most cost-effective ways to create a completely personalized living space. And studies show that color choices, in particular, can have a massive impact on the mood and even the happiness of a home’s residents!
There are several ways - across a wide spectrum of cost and time required - you can use paint to personalize your property:
- Exterior. The single fastest way to change your home’s look to match your personal preferences is to paint its exeterior. What did your lifelong dream home look like? What color was it? Repainting your home can make a massive change to its look and curb appeal, and can turn the home you can afford into the home you've always dreamed of.
- Front door, shutters and fences. If you bought a home that has a relatively fresh paint job or an overall color you like, consider painting just the front door to inject some color and your personal touch. Aquas and greens, rusty or brick reds and even chic greys and blacks all make for a polished entrance – and the addition of a kick plate or engraved knocker can create a 100 percent personalized look. Painting shutters, fences, eaves and other exterior accents a contrasting color of your choice are additional quick and inexpensive – but powerful – tweaks that can also make your home look buttoned up and, well, yours.
- Interior. The individual inhabitants of different rooms can pick their colors and custom effects, like harlequin diamonds or fun, personalized murals for kids’ rooms. Aim to match colors to a room’s purpose, so that bedrooms have a sense of restful sanctuary, bathroom walls read “clean,” and common living areas are warm or energizing, as you wish! Glidden has a fabulous interactive inspiration tool with amazing suggested palettes that coordinate with the various uses of individual rooms, like Growing Up Colors, for kids' rooms, Fresh Baked Kitchen palettes and my personal favorite: the palette dedicated to Man Cave Colors.
If you have a limited time or budget, or you're afraid you'll regret bold color choices, try accent walls - a single wall of color in every otherwise neutral room can go a long way toward customizing your home.
2. Inventory your space and your stuff before you unpack. Many people are buying smaller homes in an effort to manage costs of ownership and live closer to where their jobs are (gas prices certainly don’t look to be getting cheaper any time soon!). Even if you’re not moving into a small place, moving in – period – presents an opportunity to truly customize your living spaces for the activities you want to do and things you want to “live” in them.
There's no rule that says the table and chairs have to go in the dining room just because it’s called that; it's your house - take control! Maybe it’d be better as an office for you and homework space for the kids, and you can ‘dine’ in the kitchen or part of the living room. The windowless “extra” room might make for the perfect yoga room, craft room or space to plot your fantasy football world domination schemes.
Make a chart that divides all your home’s spaces – all of them, including any seemingly wasted spaces or nook-ey areas under the stairs or in the garage, before you move in. Then, decide what you want to (a) do, and (b) store in each area. This approach empowers you to make sure every person, activity and thing in your home has the right amount and type of space.
3. Build organization in. Built-ins make a world of difference, and I’m not just talking about the ones your home’s builder installed. It’s relatively low-cost and low-effort to build in items like:
a. closet organizers,
b. window seats,
c. desktops and bookshelves,
d. pantry-optimizing shelves, spinners and drawers, and
e. medicine and linen cabinets.
If you’re looking for some inspiration as to what sorts of custom organization systems are even possible, and/or you’re intimidated at the mere prospect of doing-anything-yourself, master carpenter and home improvement show host Karl Champley just released a great book on the subject, Same Place, More Space (Chronicle Books, 2011).
4. Match your furniture to your space, your activities and your stuff. Remember the space issues you couldn’t stand in your last place? Anticipate them, and as you plan to buy your furniture, look for things that offer extra organizational or storage features. I have a little “issue” with shoes at my house – they’re always everywhere! So, we put a cubby in the entryway for shoes, and each bedroom has a specific place to store them (an ottoman in mine, shoe shelves for my son.)
Also, if your space inventory (see #1 on this list) showed up lots of stuff with no place to go, make an effort to buy armoires, storage closets and sheds. To give your home a polished look that reflects your (perhaps newly!) organized personal style, a good rule of thumb is to make an effort to have a closed storage space for every item that has a label or would otherwise have to sit on top of a table or counter.
Article written by Tara Nicholle-Nelson