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6 Affordable Ways to Add Character to Your Home

Published on July 12, 2023

Take a scroll through social media and you’ll find older homes brimming with wood-beamed ceilings, exposed brick, unique windows, and charming fireplaces. While those original details are beautiful, not every home has them—and that’s okay!

Here, we’re sharing six approachable (and budget-friendly) ways to add character to your space through the lens of Jo’s most recent mini renovations. Whether you’re looking to infuse personality into a new build, rented space, or a house you’re renovating, read on for a few ideas you can bring home.

01: Paint

One of the simplest—and most transformational—changes you can make in a space is a fresh coat of paint.

The first (mini) renovation Jo and the team tackled, they had to make a decision in order to stay under budget: update the outdated flooring in the living room or paint the space. Ultimately, they decided the latter would make a bigger impact, so they opted to prime and paint the ceiling, trim, and walls all one color for a dramatic, bold look, and rolled out a large area rug underfoot to cover up the outdated flooring.

In the living room from Mini Reni 02, the homeowner loved the color green, so Jo and the team painted previously cream walls an earthy green to add dimension and interest. Thinking beyond the walls, the team also opted to play with tone by painting the ceiling and trim in a subtle blue hue.

Although scouring the internet or perusing the paint aisle at your local hardware store can be a helpful starting place for choosing paint, sometimes, the best inspiration for color can be found right outside your door.

For this room, Jo was inspired to pair blue and green together after noticing how a vast green field met the blue sky on an afternoon drive. Nature can often be a better teacher than any textbook or design course, so heading out to the garden or taking a walk around your neighborhood is a great way to gather inspiration. Observe how color plays together—visualizing which tones pair naturally—then bring them alive in your home.

02: Wallpaper

Admittedly, wallpaper isn’t as DIY-friendly as a fresh coat of paint, but it can be just as (if not, more) transformational. It's a timeless way to play up personality in any space and takes the eye on a creative journey. If you’re planning to install wallpaper on your own, try choosing a peel-and-stick option to make it easier. That’s what Jo and the team used in the Mini Reni 02: Dining Room transformation.

Whether you opt for florals, plaid, stripes, or any other pattern, it’s important to ground the space with neutral furniture pieces, light fixtures, and rugs. Layering in moments of pause amid pattern helps ease the eye and prevents the space from feeling too busy.

03: Lighting

Updating light fixtures is another small change that can make a big impact. Lighting is equal parts functional and aesthetic and can completely change the look and feel of a space. Think of light fixtures similar to jewelry. Just as you’re drawn to certain metals and finishes to accessorize an outfit, an intentionally selected light fixture has the power to elevate and accent a room in a similar way.

In the dining room from Mini Reni 02, Jo and the team switched out a small, older chandelier with a dynamic, modern one. The new fixture creates a better sense of balance thanks to its larger size, offers better lighting, and draws attention with its playful design.

No need to worry if your budget is limited here—there are plenty of eye-catching options around $200 (like the sputnik chandelier featured in the living room from Mini Reni 01).

04: Trim

Some of our favorite character-filled rooms feature elegant crown molding, board and batten, beadboard or the like. Many older homes have those details already, but if your home doesn’t, there are plenty of DIY trim and molding options at your local hardware store.

In the second Mini Reni, Jo and the team added a lattice trim as a quick, budget-friendly way to add detail to the fireplace wall in the living room (left). To accentuate existing charm in the dining room (right), they added traditional crown molding bordered with egg and dart trim, plus a thin piece of screen molding near the top of the wall for an added element of interest.

For situations where an accent wall doesn’t feel right, detail can also be added to the ceiling. In the Mini Reni 01: Dining Room, Jo and the team installed repeating 1x6” boards with 4” of exposure across the ceiling to add dimension, and bordered the room with classic crown molding.

05: Tile

Tile can often be mistakenly reserved as an accent solely for kitchen backsplash and bathrooms, but we love the way it can add a layer of interest to unexpected places throughout a home.

In the Mini Reni 02: Breakfast Nook, Jo and the team tiled the accent wall in an eye-catching color palette and pattern to help set this space apart and make it pop. Incorporating tile into smaller spaces is a great way to keep material and installation costs down while still making that real estate feel special.

06: Highlight Existing Character

There are always ways to add additional charm to a home, but the first step can be finding the places where it already exists.

In the Mini Reni 02: Living Room, Jo and the team used an existing motif from a built-in phone niche in the hallway as inspiration. They cut a similar motif out of plywood and applied it to the fireplace mantel—taking that original detail and putting it front and center in the living room.

The original windows in the breakfast nook from Mini Reni 02 were really beautiful, and in good shape, so Jo and the team made it a point to design around them—thinking through different ways they could incorporate color, pattern, and texture.

They found a way to accomplish all three by tiling the entire wall with gold and white weathered tile in a vertical stacked pattern. They also used a dry stack method of installation—meaning no spacers or grout—to make the wall feel more artisanal and less utilitarian, like it might in a bathroom or kitchen.

Interested in more design tips and inspiration from Jo and the team? Watch Jo’s most recent (mini) renovation on Magnolia Network—and shop the collection here!