I remember when my parents bought the house we spent the majority of our growing up years in. I was in sixth grade and for two years my mom had been driving us 45 minutes each way to school. My parents committed to our education even more once they knew our schedules would get crazier with after school activities and we moved five minutes from school. I remember going to the model home and seeing the four or five different options of homes you could purchase. I remember going to a store for hours with my parents while they chose lighting fixtures. I remember how they chose really wisely when making decisions for that home… they customized where it would be hard to change later on, like when they added a mini hallway into the builder’s plans in between the kitchen and bathroom so you wouldn’t feel like the toilet as practically siting on the kitchen table. Then with some things they realized either it wasn’t in the budget at the time or just over the years their tastes changed. While I was in college they added stainless appliances and hardwood in the kitchen.
Every time I pass this custom house in Beverly Farms I think about how it has such good lessons to teach about upgrading a house that looks like every other one in the neighborhood. It reminds me of things my parents chose wisely on when making decisions to build.
I’m not sure how most builder’s grade houses are built now… I remember every house in our neighborhood had clapboard but many of the ones I see popping up around here have vinyl siding. It will cost a pretty penny but adding cedar shingles or clapboard siding as opposed to vinyl siding would definitely make your home look custom. The composite siding now is really incredible if you want a nearly maintenance-free option and our neighbor, who has a gorgeous pre-fab made a customized decision for wider clapboard and I love it!
Consider refinishing your attic. It’s square footage you already have (which will save you from having to put on an addition!). If this is something that is feasible for your family the dormers on this house add a lot of interest to the exterior of the home while adding some great light to the third floor. Growing up ours wasn’t large enough for a room and it was only accessible through a ladder in our hallway (it’s the same way with our current house which is why we just vaulted our master ceiling and utilized the attic space).
Make things more “substantial”: add trim like you see here on the first floor windows. I’ve seen many builders grade houses with front porches that have just 2x4s or something similar for the posts. Look at this entry way, it’s incredible… what makes it so great? The pillars are substantial and the molding and trim work right below the roof line are gorgeous. If you have a front porch or entryway that is looking a little dinky to you consider boxing in your 2x4s. Play around with ways you could add some trim work to the roof line to get a similar substantial feeling that this house has.
Do you know that replacing your front door will usually get you around 100% return on your investment? (I definitely don’t think this applies to incredibly high end doors!) Add a door with character, like this gorgeous one with bead board. We have this store near us called the Building Supplies Company (it’s in Peabody for those of you who are locals!). It seems like a place where bigger stores send their leftovers but we’ve been able to score great doors for incredible cheap there. A place like that would be an amazing spot to get a gorgeous wood door for a song! Look around your area for something like it!
This stone area adds a great focal point to the front of the house. It certainly wouldn’t be an inexpensive update but there are certainly ways to make a statement in other ways… go on Pinterest and see what makes some houses pop out to you more than others.
Upgrades Six and Seven
Work it with that garage! It’s funny but to me on of the ways I can tell if a home reno or build is a high end one is by the garage doors. Am I the only person who thinks that? Maybe. 🙂 Think about how different this house would feel if the owners had installed a bottom of the line garage door. This gorgeous stained ones add to the overall charm of the house… and let’s not forget that pergola. It is stunning even if there isn’t one vine on it!
Please know that I understand everyone has different priorities for their houses and for where their money is allocated… these are just some ideas taken from one house for making your home more custom, especially if you plan on making it your forever house. I definitely know that these ideas have the potential to be (very) pricey but some of them, like adding trim above the windows or boxing in porch pillars are more feasible projects that don’t necessarily need to be saved up for for years.
What are some of YOUR ideas for taking a builders grade colonial and making it more “you” (because after all, shouldn’t that be what custom is?)?