Adding Character to a New Build

Building or moving into a brand new home is an exciting time, and there are so many advantages over an older home. But unless you're lucky enough to have had it architecturally designed, a new house can sometimes feel a little plain, lacking in charm, or, dare I say, soulless. At our recent styling evening in Havelock North, I was asked if I had any tips on how to add character and interest to a newly built house, so I have put together this blog post with some of our ideas.

There are actually plenty of ways to inject interesting elements that will add depth and interest to your new home, one of them is to add panelling to your walls. There are a number of ways to do this and it's amazing how quickly it will elevate a room with it's subtle layer of texture. Vertical panelling is a classic look that can be made to look both traditional or contemporary depending on how it's executed. Pictured above with lovely thick skirting boards, this panelling creates a classic look. Another fun way to use it is to run it part way up the wall, top with a dado rail, and either paint or wallpaper above. The powder room below has turned what was a small, plain room into a fun, personality-filled space. The thinner panelling is a nice contrast to the door and works well in a smaller space.

By square setting the panelling from the ceiling to the floor without any skirts or architraves, you create a contemporary look for your home. The entrance below has cleverly lined up the door and wall panelling for a clean, seamless look. This is trickier to execute, so although the first versions (above) are possible to DIY, I would recommend getting the experts to help you with this square set panelling. This look really needs to be decided on before the building stage, so talk to your builder early on in the process.

We often use vertical panelling in our kitchen designs. With very little fabric or furnishings in a kitchen, it's a nice way to introduce texture. The home below uses the panelling in quite a contemporary fashion, also running it up the walls and on the door in the hallway to create a sense of continuity.

Below are more examples of vertical panelling, this time using it in natural wood for a hit of warmth as well as texture. This sort of application doesn't have to be used everywhere in your house, instead use it to create a feature in key areas.

Another form of wall panelling that you're probably familiar with is board and batten. It features wide boards covered by long flat strips (battens) about 5cm wide. This is one of the oldest, most traditional style of panelling and is often used on the exterior of houses. If using it on the interior of your house you can create the same look by just attaching the thin strips over a conventional wall. I love the character it adds, and it can also be used on just the lower half of your wall with paint or wallpaper above.

One of my favourite wall features is box moulding. This is something you can do yourself if you're a clever 'diy-er', or have a handy man in the house. Keeping it white adds subtle texture, or paint it dark to make more of a statement.

Built-in furniture pieces are not for the faint hearted, as they become a semi-permanent part of your home once installed, but they help to add that architectural detail that may be lacking in your new build. If well designed and built they will be a fantastic addition to your home and are often great for utilising otherwise unused or awkward spaces. Built-in bookshelves are the most common piece we're asked for by our clients. The one below is so handy for storage and display, and they've included box moulding - win, win!

When you're installing a new kitchen, the cabinets are custom made to fit. But there's nothing to stop you fitting cupboards similar to the ones below along a hallway, in an entrance, or a kids' play room for valuable extra storage. If possible, take them to the ceiling so they look like they're supposed to be there and not an after thought that has just been tacked on.

The bookshelf below is our ideal living room built-in piece. Open storage for books and favourite pieces, closed storage at the bottom for things you don't want on display, and a space for the TV. This setup is also great for ensuring that the television is disguised a bit and not the centre of attention in your living room.

One of our most favourite ways to add interest to, and elevate a space, is wallpaper. Powder rooms, laundries, and entrances are great spaces for wallpaper. Because you don't spend a lot of time in any of the rooms you can get really brave, go bold and wallpaper every wall. Of course, if you're open to wallpapering all four walls of your living or dining room we applaud you, but even a single wall, like the bedroom below will create a lovely feature. This grasscloth wallpaper provides beautiful texture but is otherwise quite subtle.

If pattern is your thing there are a multitude of gorgeous wallpapers to choose from and we're more than happy to help you choose - patterned or plain.

In any good design, contrast is a key component. When you have a brand new home, we like to add some vintage or antique pieces to give the place some depth. I love this little vintage table (below) against the crisp, new white walls. Have fun hunting on TradeMe or your local second hand shops, or if you're really lucky you may have one or two special pieces you've inherited from your parents or grandparents. 

The antique dresser below has been repurposed into a vanity adding some weight and character to the brand new bathroom.

Interesting tiles in your kitchen and bathroom will instantly add character and style. I would strongly urge you to choose a beautifully tiled splash back over a coloured glass one. There are so many shiny, hard surfaces in a kitchen, and a glass splash back is just one more. Tiles can add texture and pattern, even a plain subway will be so much more interesting than flat glass.

The kitchen below belongs to our clients, and although they didn't build it, the house was still very new when they bought it. Because the kitchen was so new they didn't feel the need to rip it out and start again, but they did want to breathe a bit of life into it, and stamp their own mark on it. It was as simple as replacing the handles on the bottom cabinets with a more contemporary matt black version, and removing the top ones altogether for a cleaner look. We then replaced the glass splash back with the soft green subway tiles, and added the gorgeous fish scale tiles under the breakfast bar. You can see before photos in our previous blog post.

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Below is the view from the above kitchen, where I can illustrate two more simple ways we added some character to the simple white interior. Other than the furniture and accessories, the two things we love about this space are the curtains and the chandelier. There were initially plain white roller blinds over the large bi-fold doors, but by replacing these with beautiful linen curtains it helped to soften the room and add texture. Fixtures like lights are a brilliant way to spice up a simple interior. We used the stunning chandelier to do just this, as well as to help zone the living room in the open plan space. A similar light was used over the breakfast bar above.

Lastly, paint is an oldie but a goodie... it is by far the quickest and most cost-effective way to change and lift a room. A simple colour can make the world of difference! The use of the multi colours below creates the illusion of an architectural feature.

In conclusion, not everything above will appeal to everyone, and you obviously don't have to include each tip into your new build. But we do hope that you have gained some inspiration to take your shiny new house up to the next level.

We always love your feedback, so feel free to comment below on ways you have added interest to a new build. And if there is anything you would like our advice on, let us know, it could be the next blog post we write.

Belmont Home Design

We hit the client jackpot when we got an email back in 2016 from an awesome young couple, Emma and Ian. They had just bought a new family home in Belmont, Auckland that they felt had great bones but lacked personality, and they wanted our help. Of course we love these kind of projects, as we relish any opportunity to bring a home to life and help it to reflect the people that live there.

Emma and Ian had only some very minor structural renovations in mind, but wanted nearly a full fit-out of new furniture, window treatments and accessories. Their brief was to create a home that had a holiday vibe - "a sub tropical deluxe retreat with an edge" were Emma's exact words.

The back of the house is beautiful, light and airy with a high vaulted ceiling and large french doors opening out onto the back lawn. It contains the kitchen, dining area, and a living room which was zoned by a rectangular piece of in-laid carpet.

A coat of fresh, white paint, and swapping the roller blinds out for beautiful linen curtains created a timeless base to work with. The curtains add a softness, and when pulled the gentle folds add lovely texture to the room. Removing the carpet and replacing the floorboards was a rather costly option, so we got a rug custom made to cover the carpet, and because it was a bit larger, it gave the living area a bit more breathing room. The beautiful large chandelier also helps to zone the living room in the open plan space.

We chose a large four seater sofa that can withstand a couple of boisterous (and adorable) young children, it's super comfy and very cool - for that edginess that Emma wanted. It's long and low profile hunkers down into the room allowing the view outside to be accessible from throughout the room, and the back creates a clear divide between the living and dining areas.

To fit the space between the kitchen and living area, the dining table is long and narrow. We used a bench seat on one side, which is perfect for kids, and it helps to keep it from looking cluttered - which is key in an open plan room. When not in use it can tuck under the table discreetly. Roman blinds in a blue and white batik fabric replaced the original roller blinds.

The wall between the two smaller windows was a great spot for some art, so the wall light was removed and we anchored the large print with the wooden bench below.

photo: Florence Charvin

We kept the colour palette to shades of blue, green and white to create the tropical feel, with wood and brass accents for warmth. We also wanted to reflect Emma and Ian's love of travel by using pieces they've collected over the years, and by introducing new pieces with a global influence. The large stool in the corner is a vintage Indian grinder table picked up in Hawke's Bay when we took the couple shopping in some of our favourite shops.

The kitchen was quite new and Emma and Ian didn't feel the need to replace it, so we had some simple solutions to help them update it.

The original kitchen had a lot of silver handles everywhere. We replaced the ones on the lower cabinets with the same size handle but in a beautiful matt black. The upper cabinets had their handles completely removed and a push-to-open mechanism was installed inside, giving a cleaner, more contemporary look. The light over the breakfast bar echoes the one in the living area and helps to zone the kitchen area.

We replaced the painted glass splash back with gorgeous soft green subway tiles to add texture and interest.

For another layer the scallop tiles were added to the front of the breakfast bar. They compliment the subway tiles beautifully and continue the tropical holiday vibe without being too literal. A strip of LED lighting runs along under the bench to subtly highlight the tiles. The bar stools are low in profile so they can also tuck away when not in use, keeping the look unfussy.

Emma and Ian picked up the 'lady with the green lips' while they were in Bali, and she works so well in this space. We commissioned the small resin planes from Michele Bryant, each has an international destination on it  - cities or provinces that Ian has worked with Air New Zealand.

We chose the large marble and metal coffee table for it's scale as we wanted a piece big enough to work with the sofa. A pair of rattan armchairs face the sofa and can also be pulled outside for extra seating when needed.

The master bedroom is off the living room and has large bi-fold windows that open onto the back garden. We wanted the room to have a sophisticated holiday vibe, and to be a place of calm and quiet for Emma and Ian to retreat to.

We chose a deep teal blue for the walls, fresh white linen bedding and a quilted blue throw to ground the end of the bed. We had the green velvet headboard custom made, and also made the pink & gold cushion and bedside lampshades specially. The palm tree lamp bases, scalloped bedside tables, and fish trap pendant light all continue the tropical theme.

The light oak drawers compliment the blue walls and pick up the tones in the artwork by Chris Sisarich.

The bathrooms were similar to the kitchen - Emma and Ian chose not to completely replace the fittings and fixtures, but instead to simply 'zshush' them up.

The shell mirror was bought on Emma and Ian's shopping trip with us in Hawke's Bay, and it instantly updates the room. The walls were freshened up again with a bright white, and we bought a little rustic wooden stool in to add some warmth and texture.

The seperate toilet room got a similar treatment with the mirror replaced and some beautiful wallpaper added. Little touches like a colourful hand towel and pretty soaps are so simple to add and can make all the difference.

photo: Florence Charvin

Blake and Isla share a bedroom and Emma wanted us to give it a whimsical, playful makeover.

We defined each child's side of the room with their own wallpaper. Blake's is blue and white with a striped linen duvet and denim pillowcase.

photo: Florence Charvin

Isla's side of the room is in soft peaches and dusty pinks, and her wallpaper has the same sense of whimsy as her brother's but in a much more girly way.

The front living room was lacking the natural light that the main living space had, so we removed the door frame and opened it right up, replacing the door with an internal slider. The walls were painted and the furniture was updated.

A pair of vintage armchairs were screaming out for some love, so we recovered them in one of our favourite kilim fabrics giving them that global vibe we love so much.

The linen slipcover sofa is another favourite of ours and perfect for a family with kids. All of the covers can be easily removed and thrown in the wash whenever necessary. The larger door opening lets in much more light during the day, and can be closed up in the evenings if the kids are sleeping.

The entranceway was another area that just needed tweaking. The little built-in box was removed and replaced with a bench seat. A piece of art was hung above it and an antique runner was introduced to lead you down into the heart of the home.

It was an absolute pleasure working with these guys, and seeing their home come to life, we will miss them terribly. Make sure you come back to Hawke's Bay for some more shopping trips, Emma and Ian :)

Colour Crush | Green

Green is one of my favourite colours to decorate with. It's a restful colour and is known to have a calming effect; it's gender neutral - not overly feminine or masculine; and it's a reflection of the beautiful environment we are lucky enough to live in here in New Zealand. You only have to look to nature to see how green goes with every colour.

The Bogart Block sofa in lush forest green velvet available to purchase via Bibby + Brady

I was asked to write an article late last year predicting what 2017 would have in store for us in terms of interior design. I suggested that we would see a lot more green this year, and sure enough Pantone released their colour of the year as Greenery - "satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalise. Greenery symbolises the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose".

My favourite green tones are slightly deeper than the 2017 colour of the year, I prefer emerald green and forest green tones, or soft muted sage greens. But I do think "greenery" looks beautiful in smaller doses mixed in with deeper tones. I was inspired by the colours in the photo I snapped (below) on a morning walk - dappled light and a carpet of green overhead.

Green is beautiful in an entranceway where it truely brings the outdoors in and creates a lush and fresh welcome.

We used a gorgeous emerald green on the ceiling of one of our client's entranceway. It's slightly unexpected to see a coloured ceiling, which creates that 'wow' moment we were after.

Green and white is such a classic colour combination and one that will never fail to look fresh and beautiful. I'm a huge fan of this home (see the two photos below) which has a clean white base and light parquet floorboards throughout the house, peppered with pops of green.

I also love this image (below) where the picture wall and that burst of green completely take the focus away from the TV when it's not on.

You can create great impact whether you use green in large or small amounts...

A green and white combo is particularly beautiful in kitchens...

We did a bank of green cupboards in this kitchen (below) of our client's and combined them with tall white cabinetry on the other side. It looks amazing with the plantings outside the window.

For a bold move in your kitchen choose a classic subway tiles in a deep green, as seen on the exterior of L'Americano Bar in Sydney - how amazing is that?!

This kitchen (below) has taken advantage of the greenery outdoors and really brought the outdoors in by adding a low window instead of a splash back.

Of course the simplest way to bring green into your home is through plants, whether it's potted plants or some leaves snipped from your garden. As well as colour, plants add instant texture and life.

Here are just a few ways to brings green into your home (many of these items can be ordered through us)...

clockwise from top left: print | paint | wallpaper | sofa | plant | stool | cabinet | vase | quartz verdant tile