A newly built home is often a blank canvas for interior design. But decorating a home that features builder-grade materials can be challenging, especially on a budget. That doesn't mean you have to settle for a cookie-cutter house. With the right resources, a little ingenuity, and a bit of elbow grease, you can upgrade and customize builder-grade materials into designer-style features that will make your house feel more like a home.
What are builder-grade materials?
In new-home construction, building materials are rated according to their quality. From the lowest-quality materials to the highest, building materials fall into the following categories:
- Builder grade
- Quality grade
- Custom grade
- Ultra custom grade
Most builder-grade materials are prebuilt or mass-produced furnishings such as particleboard cabinetry and furniture, but can also include plumbing fixtures, lighting, flooring, and paint.
The best places to start upgrading your home's furnishings are the two most valuable rooms in the home: kitchens and bathrooms.
Upgrade your kitchen
There are several ways you can upgrade furnishings in a builder-grade kitchen.
Cabinets. Builder-grade kitchen cabinets are usually plain with little to no detail or character. You can update them by adding decorative trim molding and hardware, and by painting them. If you have a little extra room in your budget, you can also replace the builder-grade cabinet doors with a higher-quality cabinet door, such as doors that have glass panels. Just replacing the doors is still considerably less expensive than completely replacing the framework, while giving your kitchen a totally new look.
Countertops. Replace low-quality, laminate countertops with acrylic, granite, or quartz countertops. Granite is a porous material and must be sealed each year to resist stains and bacteria. Quartz is the most durable option as it's easy to clean, nonporous, and resistant to scratches.
Flooring. A budget-friendly flooring upgrade for low-quality, laminate floors could be done with luxury vinyl flooring. Luxury vinyl flooring can mimic the look of high-quality hardwood flooring as well as ceramic and natural stone tiles. Luxury vinyl flooring is water resistant so it can be used in any room.
Backsplash. Many builder-grade homes do not have any type of backsplash installed. Adding a backsplash will greatly improve the appearance of your kitchen. There are also different materials and installation techniques for do-it-yourself backsplashes that can work for a variety of budgets and experience levels.
Upgrade your bathroom
You can give your bathroom a designer look without replacing any of the pre-installed furnishings, unless you want to.
Mirrors. Greatly enhance the look of a plain-looking, frameless bathroom mirror by adding a custom frame. This can be easily done without having to remove the mirror from the wall by using a bathroom mirror frame kit. Several companies sell these kits online and even provide instructions for installing the frame, which is custom built for you once you provide the measurements and other information specified on the order form.
Cabinets. Transform and customize the look of builder-grade bathroom cabinets by painting them; adding wood trim; incorporating decorative hardware; or putting finial feet at the base of your bathroom cabinets.
Double swag shower curtains. Give your bathroom an upscale look by adding a double swag shower curtain. This type of shower curtain mimics a window treatment consisting of a fabric valance and two fabric curtain panels with tiebacks. A vinyl shower curtain liner keeps everything nice and dry.
Upgrade your home's lighting
Lighting plays an important role in a home's design scheme. You can quickly improve the look in your home by replacing unattractive, low-quality fixtures with higher-quality or refurbished lighting options.
Look for lamps, chandeliers, and other types of light fixtures at thrift stores or online at places like eBay and Craigslist. You can use these items to create unique, custom lighting for your home. Refinish a lamp base, chandelier, hanging pendant, or wall sconce to give it a classic vintage or antique look.
Track lighting, recessed lighting, under-cabinet lighting, ceiling fans, outdoor lighting, and dimmer switches are other lighting options that can be added over time to improve the aesthetic quality of your home.
Upgrade your interior paint
Adding color to the walls of each room in your home is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to upgrade and improve the look and the atmosphere of your home. In addition to color, you can also add interesting textures with one of the many faux painting techniques that can give walls the appearance of aged plaster, stucco, or even marble.
Wallpaper can also be used for accent walls and borders, or to add interest with patterns and textures.
Contact paper is another great medium you can use to update the look of furniture, shelving, glass, or cabinet doors.Don't forget about the windows
One of the easiest ways to dress up a room is by adding a quality window treatment. Go for decorative curtain rods with finials, such as wood or wrought iron. Hang insulated curtain panels, which have a protective liner that helps block out heat, cold drafts, and sound when closed. These curtains will help you save on both heating and cooling if you have builder-grade windows. Use a double curtain rod if you want to hang a lace or sheer curtain inside of the insulated curtain panels, allowing natural light to enter the room while still providing some privacy. Add a valence and tiebacks for a more tailored look. If you prefer blinds, wood blinds are durable, easy to clean, and attractive.