How To Make A Cookie Cutter Home Look Custom

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What is a cookie-cutter home?

There was a time when most homes in a neighborhood were unique. It wasn’t uncommon to find a ranch-style home next to a two-story brick colonial. Due to a sudden increase in demand for housing, the cookie-cutter home was born.

In the real estate business, they are referred to as tract homes as streets were lined with the same perfectly-spaced homes. Builders were able to mass-produce homes and save money by repeating the same bare-bones design and ordering building supplies in bulk. Just because your home started off looking like everyone else’s doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

View of loving room that used to have bare walls like a cookie cutter home but now has builtins

Velvet sofa | Coffee table | Drapes | Drape rod | Picture light | Woven boxes

While tract homes may have slight variations, the available design choices are usually limited. If you purchase your home before construction starts, you’ll be presented with a few choices for things like countertops or flooring. The same few choices that everyone else has to select from. Keep reading for some great ways to add personal touches to your cookie-cutter home to make it stand out from the rest!

Light fixtures

Replacing those builder-grade boob lights should be a priority on your to-do list. You’ll probably want to change out all the light fixtures, but boob lights should be the first to go. Turn an otherwise boring space into something spectacular with beautiful and unique light fixtures.

white room with unique light fixture that replaced a boob light that would be found in cookie cutter home

Flush mount light | Sconce (similar)

There is nothing like the soft, warm glow of wall-mounted lights. Hang picture lights above artwork or at the top of a bookshelf. In the bathroom, replace the vanity lights over the mirror with a beautiful sconce. When a light source is lower along the wall versus at the ceiling, it creates a completely different feel.

I’ve changed my kitchen island pendants a few times over the years, but they are a huge part of my kitchen lighting design. Layering light will give your home that designer look and makes it stand out. I have a post about how to choose the best kitchen lighting that will help you make decisions about what will work for you.

Update hardware

Along with painting your interior doors, you can change out the handles and hinges to give them a new look. Black is a versatile option that goes with everything. If you have shiny gold-painted handles and prefer to stick with a gold-tone, try using a brass finish instead.

Brushed nickel is common in new construction homes, but it gives an outdated vibe. To keep the silver look, go for polished nickel instead. It has a warmer tone than chrome and adds an upscale touch to any cookie-cutter home.

person opening white closet door with black handle and hinges

The same goes for cabinet hardware. Swapping out hardware to something that goes with your personal style is so simple! Like most interior designers, I prefer the look of brass hardware these days.

Give your walls some love

In an open-concept home, having a cohesive color palette will give you a solid foundation to start customizing your home. Pick a few complementary hues that reflect your personality and work them into each room. Just make sure rooms don’t have a completely different theme causing guests to wonder if they’ve stumbled into a different house!

I did go dark and moody in my basement, but personally, I love the look of a crisp white wall and neutral colors. It brightens my home, allows furniture and decor to stand out, and makes it easy for updates along the way.

Paint is a pretty standard change to make, but don’t be afraid of wallpaper! There are some really beautiful selections out there to fit any budget. Plus, it’s a great way to decorate a big blank wall.

Are you considering wallpaper, but hesitant about its “permanent” nature? Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a great alternative. It’s easy to hang and won’t damage your walls when you decide to make a change. Check out some of the neutral wallpaper patterns I have in my home in the images below.

You can install wall molding in many different patterns and styles which will give your cookie-cutter home the ultimate custom look. High-end homes have more dramatic details along the walls. Things like taller baseboards, thicker door casings, and trim around the windows. Trust me…it makes a difference!

In my shared boy’s room, I installed a 7″ shiplap along the wall and kept the details simple for a casual and masculine feel.

wood console table against a shiplap wall not found in cookie cutter home

Console table

The DIY wall molding projects around my home reflect my own personal taste, but you can easily use my step-by-step instructions to create your own look.

Built-ins are not basic

I really challenged myself with other DIY projects as well…built-ins! I started upstairs in the loft space, building a window seat and shelves on either side.

white builtins with window bench , sconces, shelf decor

Flush mount light | Sconces (similar) | Rug | Coffee table

The fireplace in my living room left a lot to be desired when we moved in. It just had a boring brick surround and the walls were bare. So, I built shelves to create additional space to show off my shelf-styling skills.

living room with updated white fireplace surround and building bookshelves, boucle chairs, velvet sofa, shelf decor

Boucle chairs | Rug | Coffee table | Velvet sofa

The most recent DIY built-in project was in my office. By adding metal cabinet door inserts and painting both walls and trim BM Storm Cloud Gray I created a designer look that would never be found in a cookie-cutter home.

The simplest way to dress up your walls is with artwork. For large blank walls, go with more substantial art pieces or add a gallery wall to fill in the space.

Materials matter

Choosing natural, high-quality materials is never the wrong choice. Marble countertops and solid hardwood floors aren’t usually offered as choices when designing your tract home. Engineered wood floors and laminate are more common, but nothing is quite like the real thing if it’s within your budget. Installing wood floors in your main living space is definitely an upgrade from wall-to-wall carpet. Wood is easy to clean and will always be a classic design choice. When asked for advice, I always recommend going with a traditional stain color as opposed to whatever is currently trending. For example, super light or dark floors go in and out of style.

Quartz countertops can be a really beautiful, less expensive alternative, but nothing compares to the look of real marble. The unmistakable veining and depth are almost impossible to replicate. Is there anything more beautiful? Didn’t think so!

close up of Carrara Marble countertop showing depth and veining

Brass mill | Cutting board

Treat windows to a makeover

Don’t leave your windows bare. Not just for privacy purposes, but for aesthetics which is equally important. I started with wooden interior window shutters in my living room and loved how simple it was to control the light coming into my home.

Once I discovered the famous Amazon drapes and learned the best way to hang them, I added them to just about every room in my home. The first image below is just with shutters…perfectly fine. But in the next two images, you can see how adding drapes makes it seem just a little cozier and elegant at the same time. For the price and quality, I can’t recommend them enough.

Maybe Roman shades are more your style. Instead of traditional plastic or wood blinds that don’t offer any character, try a woven shade instead. It gives the sense of a custom treatment (like old-fashioned valences and swags used to) with a fresh and modern feel. Mine is from Willow Bloom Home.

white kitchen with woven shade over window, brass sconces and cabinet hardware

Sconces | Latches | Knobs | Pulls | Refillable soap dispeners

Curb appeal – making your cookie-cutter home stand out

Making changes to your exterior and landscape is the first thing that visitors will notice that makes your cookie-cutter home stand out from the rest. Planting a garden of beautiful hydrangeas and shrubs in the front will make a statement. If you are able, changing out your front door is another great way to stand out.

idea to make cookie cutter home garden stand out with row of white hydrangeas and shrubs

Who doesn’t want their backyard to be an oasis where they can relax after a long day or host friends for dinner and drinks? Instead of a basic concrete paver patio or plywood deck, give your outdoor space an upgrade with a classic bluestone patio. Now all you need is some cozy patio furniture and you’ll have the space you’ve always dreamed of.

bluestone patio with cozy patio furniture and planter with flowers

Here are a few options for conversation sets:

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