All About The House {adding character to your home}

One of the best things we did for our house in 2012 was to give it a face lift with new paint throughout.

I have a bit of wanderlust/ants in my pants:-)…whatever you want to call it and sometimes I need change in a big bad way!

We have been in this house for almost 10 years and that is the longest I have ever been in one house (even including the home I grew up in).

I grew up in an old farmhouse and our garage was the old barn.

I like big rooms, squeaky stairs (except when you were trying to sneak in late at night) and front doors with big windows.

I like the trees in your yard to actually be bigger than the house…not looking like a bunch of bushes around the yard.

But I don’t live in rural Illinois where property is affordable and you trip over old farmhouses as you go throughout your day.

We built our home and at the time we built it the neighborhood had planned to have “older” looking homes,  lots of color and big front porches.

9/11 happened…the economy happened…and our semi-custom builder and the other builder went out of business.

Sure, they waited until they had built our home to bail.

Life happens and some of our neighborhood didn’t turn out like we were told.

I am embarrassed to tell you that I used to walk along the “older” part of the neighborhood and cry that my street wasn’t going to look like that.



I would like to blame it on postpartum or something but that wasn’t it.

I am a crybaby. End of story.

I don’t deal with change well.

Sooooo……that brings me back to our home and making the most of our home.

Making it have that “feeling” even though we live in a new neighborhood with bushes instead of trees.

Even though when we need to borrow sugar we can just open our windows and they can pass it to us from their kitchen window.

I feel so blessed that we have a huge backyard (for a neighborhood), I have a big front porch and that our builder was semi-custom and allowed us to make changes that reflected the feeling I wanted for our home.

Here are some of the changes they let us make:

1. Divided Our Living Room

Our living room was actually a  much bigger room.

We knew that someday (didn’t know it would take us 10 years to start) we wanted a family room in the basement so we could handle our living room being smaller.

We asked them to cut the room short and create a library with the other space.

We had them add the fireplace on both sides and add a French door.

We couldn’t afford for them to build the bookshelves so Kelly built them for my birthday a few years after we moved in.

2. Took out their built-in entertainment centers

The builder had planned for a built-in entertainment center in living room and master bedroom.

I did not like anything about their design or the angle of the cabinets.

We had them take them out and leave a niche in the wall so Kelly could go back later and build shelves.

It worked out perfectly and changed the look of those spaces.

3. Took out the desk at the top of the stairs

The original plans of the house calls for a desk at the top of the stairs.

I thought this was the weirdest place to put a desk.

We asked them to take that out and put a window seat (with storage and bookshelves) in that space.

We drew out what we wanted and it has added so much to our home.

4. We had them paint all three of our fireplace mantels and trim white

All of the woodwork in the house was supposed to be oak and they painted it for us.

Of course we could have done this after the house was built but it would have been an enormous amount of work.

5. We upgraded all of our light fixtures

I didn’t like any of their light fixtures so I asked them if I could change them out.

They gave me the catalog they order from, the price limit on each room and purchased the lights I wanted instead.

We have continued to change some lighting over the years but I was so grateful to have a say in our lighting choices.

6. We upgraded our stove

This very simple addition has made a nice difference in our kitchen. It is nice to have the extra space for cooking and this would have been very hard to add after the kitchen was completed.

When our home has been appraised they always comment on it and confirm was a nice extra it was to include in our kitchen.

These are probably some of the bigger things we had done as our home was being built and over the years we have continued to try to add older character to our newer home.

Making your house a home is a labor of love and doesn’t happen over night.

We have spent 10 years so far adding moldings, wainscoting, trees, built ins and more.

We still have so many things we want to add, change, upgrade etc. but it all takes time or money and we rarely have lots of either!

As we work on our basement this year we will be sure to show you all the little things we are adding to make it feel older and full of detail.

We also want to focus on our front yard this summer.

I would love to add a picket fence (but I don’t know if I can get it approved with the HOA:-() and to add new landscaping in the front of the porch.

I want it to be more colorful and have more layers of flowers and plants.


Here are the new paint colors that we have added to our home.

Some are custom mixes but most of them are from Sherwin Williams, Home Depot or Lowe’s.

The paint names are written under the paint swatches and please email me or leave a comment if you have any questions.

I also am a big believer in shopping your own house first when you are getting tired of how your home looks.

You bought the things in the first place because you liked them.

Sometimes it just takes a fresh coat of paint or a new spot in your home to give it a completely new look.

In my e-course Creatively Made Home I did a video about shopping your house.

It gives four different looks for my living room with pieces I already had.

I have upload the video onto the creative network.

You just have to be registered (this is free) to see the video.

You will find this free video under Free Home Video {Shop Your House}.

One last thing!

While I was at my friend  Alexis’ home a few months ago I was admiring her windows.

I couldn’t place my finger on what was so awesome about them.

Guess what……she had taken out all of the screens!

As soon as I got home we took out all of the screens on our main floor.

It was free and made such a huge difference!

We kept them in our bedrooms etc. but our main floor living space was instantly brightened and looked “cleaner” and brighter.

I would also love to hear how you have added character to your newer home.

It is amazing what a few small things can do.


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  1. Karen

    We’ve lived in our house about 10 years now too – and for me, it’s also the far longest I’ve ever lived in one spot. Dearly needs new coat of paint in the main rooms this spring, I really like your neutral blue-gray shade. Your home is beautiful!

  2. Jen@thecottagenest

    There is nothing quite like making a home your own. I’ve always loved shopping my own home. In our old house I had a huge basement storage area to store unused things. I don’t have storage like that in an old house so I have a few things that get switched out but more than anything I probably just move things around. That’s what I love about our house and just buying what we love, you can move any piece in it to another room and it will look good there too.

  3. Candace Bertalan Horner

    I can’t wait to go home and take out my screens!! I agree about shopping your home, and as for me, I love to shop my closet!! I do need to update my paint though, and thanks for those great suggestions!!

  4. Michelle FOrtik

    Hi, Love the post. What brand is the bedford grey? I have a dozen grey swatches taped in the kitchen but i think i want to look at the bedford grey too!

  5. Melinda

    What a wonderful post Jeanne. I loved hearing about the things you did to your home to make it feel more homey and lived in. And it’s so true about the screens, it does look cleaner and allow more light in.
    Hope you have a lovely week.

  6. Kristi

    I take out my screens for the winter too. We need all the light we can get! Being a visual person, do you find that if you don’t like something in your house or the view out the window, it’s hard to live with? I feel a tug between being content and wanting to make everything more beautiful! Thank goodness my husband is willing to move the furniture when the inspiration strikes!

  7. Andrea

    I too live in a newer home (as opposed to a wonderful old home with creaks and groans). We are adding character to it in the form of moldings, art, fabrics and textures. Window treatments are a game changer for a room. I adore the look of a bamboo blinds (love the texture!) with a gorgeous fabric drape. I also think the mix of old/new, high/low adds interest and character to a space. A few well chosen antiques (and by antique, I mean anything vintage or old with patina and a story; it doesn’t have to be expensive, or worthy of being featured on Antiques Roadshow) in a room can be so interesting.

  8. Alicia Hutchinson

    I would love to know what people do too, because we’re looking at buying a house soon and it’ll probably be a newer house. (not my choice, but all that’s available) I know we’re going to be having to make it look older too. I love the no-screen idea and all your paint colors are gorgeous! Bedford Grey is my new favorite…my (probably) honey oak cabinets are gonna get a coat of Bedford Grey and I wold LOVE some gorgeous marble countertop to offset the grey.

  9. Katy Noelle

    Don’t you know, your video on ‘shopping your own home’ had a wonderful impact on me this past November. For some reason, I thought that if I got something to work, it had to stay that way forever. But, you said, if I can’t ‘see’ something in my home anymore, it’s time for a change and what a new lease on life we got here! I think that I need to do more, though – got the winter blahs! 😉 and…. I’m not joking about that ‘new lease on life’! It’s been tremendously encouraging! =]

    Jeanne – I love your home! It’s beautiful, refreshing and cozy just for us to even look at! =]



    Jeanne, we moved into our house last summer. We chose the home quickly and then went into shock. It is large and beautiful but very different from what we were used to. Our last house had huge moldings at the ceiling and the floors. This house has very little molding and rounded corners. For awhile, I cried because my cottage vision wasn’t quite working on. I’ve decided we can do whatever it takes (within reason) to transform spaces. We are working on it.

  11. Gina

    Love your window seat. It is perfect and much better than a desk. Completely agree with you. Love your sense of style. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Lana

    Hi Jeanne,
    I am in love with your home. It feels so inviting and just the look I would love to have in my home. What great vision you had when you were building to make the changes. We built our own home 21 years ago. I was only in my 20’s at the time and my taste has really changed and become more clear over the years. We have renovated our kitchen 4 years ago and it is much more my taste. I have changed out some lighting although I don’t have as many chandeliers as I would like. I really love all the paint colors you used and want to paint the house this year. I will use some of yours for inspiration. That will be a great start.

  13. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage

    Great changes, Jeanne – we, too have been adding old character to a 80s ranch over 8 years and I agree that little changes go a long way. The things I enjoy everyday are the ceramic door knobs, French doors, and light fixtures we added. Oh, and of course, lot’s of white paint. 🙂

    Oh! And we remove the screens every winter – it’s amazing how much light that lets in during the gray, dreary months here in Oregon.

  14. Michelle

    Your house is beautiful. We have lived in our house for seven years and my story is similar to yours. We bought our dream home but not so much our dream neighborhood. Our builder went under and after seven years of living here we finally have a neighbor. I did a few changes as well to our house. Small changes that added a huge impact. I changed out all of the interior doors hardware. I added a six panel glass door leading to the basement and we had crown molding installed to almost all of our rooms. I still have a list of things I would like to get done but I’m happy with our home that’s located in my not so dream neighborhood.

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