Giving a new build home some character with interior design – 8 practical ideas

av home bedroom

A new build doesn't have to be soulless or samey – instead, think of it as a blank canvas on which to paint your personality! Whether you want to suggest a period feel, add a touch of flair, or just make your space more distinctive, there are lots of simple, savvy interior design tricks you can use to add warmth and personality to your new home. 

Here are some simple, practical ideas for making a new build unique…

1) Add subtle architectural features for a timeless feel

Your new house may be lacking in original features, but you can evoke a more traditional, lived-in feel by adding in some subtle architectural details. Traditional features such as coving, beams and picture rails will provide depth and interest, while introducing some stylish wall panelling will instantly add warmth, texture and character to a room. 

You don’t need to go overboard with a historical theme – too much and there’s a danger of feeling a bit ersatz and phoney. But a few select pieces will bring life to your home, and there are some lovely contemporary versions of traditional features available, so you can find something that suits your space.  

For inspiration, have a look at the way the wonderful Arthty Ragupathy (@av.home on Instagram) has turned a new build in Hampshire into a beautiful, timeless home.

In the bedroom (picture top), she has used subtle panelling to provide texture and character. Arthty says: “Paint and panelling are so incredibly powerful and often less expensive than structural changes. We immediately added wall treatments to the most utilised rooms in our home, from the entryway to our primary bedroom. I stepped out of my neutral comfort zone and dabbled in colour, predominantly green, which acts as the perfect backdrop to any design.”


2) Create a focal point with a fireplace

…On a similar subject, new builds can often lack a focal point or central feature in the main sitting room to bring the space together. A fireplace provides a fabulous focal point in any room, and can really add character to a new home, as well as providing a lovely warm welcome. 

Whether you’re looking for a traditional style fireplace complete with decorative wooden mantelpiece, or a contemporary recessed or wall-mounted affair, a fireplace is guaranteed to provide instant interest, and make a room look and feel cosy and inviting. 

Add a striking mirror overhead and a pair of stylish wall lights on either side to frame the fireplace and create a sense of balance and symmetry. 

 As part of her new build personalisation, Arthty added a chimney breast to provide character, interest and a visual anchor to her sitting room. Image: @av.home

3) Be bright, bold and fearless with decor and furnishings

One way to eliminate blandness in a new build is to banish the neutrals completely and go to the opposite extreme when it comes to colour and pattern. Be fearless and mix and mismatch those wallpapers, paint colours, pictures and textiles until your newbuild is completely unrecognisable from the original showhome.

For inspiration, check out the amazing Amara of (@thepajaamahub), who can turn any space – however small or unpromising – into a glorious visual riot.

Amara proves that even awkward attic rooms can become wondrous visual feasts. Photo: @thepajaamahub

4) Mix vintage and new

Vintage or antique furniture can be a lovely, cost-effective way of adding character and interest in a new build house, and it can look all the more vibrant against a plain or neutral background. 

The trick is to choose a few key pieces, and make sure they sit well with the other items in your home in terms of style and scale.Try combining a quirky vintage armchair or sofa with an antique side table or footstool. You can then add extra layers of interest with some carefully chosen vintage accessories and furnishings that will draw the eye (and minimise the more vanilla features), such as a beautiful rug, some colourful cushions or throws, a striking lamp or a distinctive ornament. 

Arthty again: “I’m a lover of pre-loved pieces and cannot stress enough how much character they can add to your home. I always urge people to shop around for vintage/ antique decor or furniture, whether it’s on Facebook Marketplace or in a local Charity Shop. These finds can compliment newer pieces and work together in harmony to give your home a ‘lived in’ feel that new builds often lack.”

5) Customise the kitchen with simple changes

In the kitchen, replacing standard cabinet doors with high end custom ones – or even just changing the door knobs and handles with designer or vintage versions –  is another easy way of personalising a newbuild kitchen. 

A classic material such as unlacquered brass or bronze will suit most spaces and it will develop a lovely patina over time, adding to the overall effect. 

holly kitchenInstagram renovation star Holly (@holly_homestyle) made subtle changes to personalise her kitchen, including cabinet handles and installing wall lights. 

6) Layer your lighting to create mood and atmosphere

Lighting is one of the most effective ways of introducing warmth and atmosphere to a home, as well as helping to delineate different zones – and it’s also great for making a design statement. Newer builds typically come with a lot of downlights or spotlights, but by combining different light sources, and by layering your light, you can create a range of different moods and effects. 

A large statement pendant light – or even an eye-catching chandelier – will create a fabulous focal point in a room, while providing plenty of general ambient light. Add in a set of designer wall lights or sconces for an additional layer of warm, atmospheric lighting; and for a touch of drama (or as an alternative to overhead lighting) try introducing a designer floor lamp or two. Finally, a selection of table lamps placed in alcoves or side table adds a decorative element, and they will emit a glow that’s perfect for creating soft, low-level accents.

Find out all about warm lighting and colour temperature in our guide.


7) Put your own twist on the feature wall

Fashion-wise, feature walls come and go, but there are many ways to do them, and the key is to add variety and interest to a room. You can do it with paint, flamboyant wallpaper, a wall hanging or a gallery of prints or photos.

Or how about a series of large bookcases or some open shelving? Positioned across the length of a shelving wall gives you a chance to inject some colour, texture and personality  (not to mention some useful extra storage), and you can change it up and rearrange whenever you get bored of it. Add in a combination of your favourite books, framed prints, and some interesting objets d’art, together with a lovely Pooky cordless table lamp or two.

hernanPooky’s cordless rechargeable Hernan table lamp - perfect for lighting a feature bookshelf


8) Change up your lampshades for instant colour and texture 

New build homes often come with a neutral colour palette, but you can instantly change the look and feel of your space just by changing your lampshades. Whether you want to introduce gentle colour accents or make a flamboyant statement, lampshades are an easy and affordable way of introducing colour, warmth and texture to a room. 

Designer lampshades come in a huge range of different styles, patterns and materials, from sleek contemporary metallic shades, to tactile jute and soft silk, or bold and beautiful Arts & Crafts prints, so you can create just the right look for your space. View our range of beautiful designer lampshades.

bayleaf manilla morris

Pooky’s scalloped empire shade in bayleaf & manilla silk pimpernel – part of our lampshade collaboration with Morris & co.

Visit the Pooky blog for more design tips and inspiration. View our full range of beautiful, affordable designer lighting and home accessories.


See also:

Home lighting design: A guide to layering light  
How to choose a lampshade - the complete guide 
How to light a room with floor lamps 
Meet the interior designer: Amara of The Pajaama Hub
Meet the interior design star: Arthty Ragupathy (@av.home)