Cookie Cutter to Custom

Our cookie cutter house from 2005-2008My cookie cutter home circa 2005

Over the years I have owned many houses old, new and in between. I will say there are some things about having a brand new house that are pretty great, everything works and nothing leaks but builder grade finishes are no fun. When houses are popping up by the hundreds what gets left behind are the detail. But don’t worry here are ten great budget friendly ways to make your cookie cutter builder home feel custom.

Upgrade lighting Most builder grade light fixtures are pretty blahh. Changing out the lighting is easy and worth every penny, If you’re on a budget can also be done one room at a time.

Add crown molding and Paint your builder grade cabinets. Paint is probably the most valuable home upgrade tool there is. Look at the difference is can make in standard builder grade cabinets.

Photo Via Little House Big Plans

Photo Via Glitter and Goat CheesePhoto via Glitter and Goat Cheese

Add to your island. Add bead board, corbels, or columns to your kitchen island for a custom made look.

kitchen for blog 1

Change hardware or add hardware. Put classy or even quirky knobs, drawer pulls on cabinets you can even upgrade your doorknobs


Add trim to doors and windows. Some newer homes have no casements at all especially on windows these are great details to add.

DIY-Craftsman-Window-Trim-AfterPhoto via Tea and Lime

Add crown molding. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, crown molding is well worth the effort

Photo via

Beef up the baseboards. Often new homes have standard trim throughout the house deeper base board can give a home a high end feel. You can also give the illusion of deep baseboards by placing a smaller trim a few inches above the original base board and painting the wall in between to match.

House Remodel and Park 054Photo via House of Smiths

Add wainscoting or picture frame molding. The details in great homes are what make them stand out. Add your own details even on the walls.

Photo via BHG

Paint your doors. Everyone knows the front door should make a statement but what about the rest of them. Check out the big style you can get from painting your interior doors.

Black-Interior-doorsPhoto via SoulStyle

Update the builder bathroom cabinets and mirror. Whether you paint the one you have or go with a new pedestal sink, or unique vanity cabinet this upgrade is relatively inexpensive and will make a huge difference in a small space like a bathroom. While you’re at be sure to frame out the mirror or even replace it with something more fun.

finial-feet-cabinets-4-wm_thumbPhoto via the Idea Room

Even if you add only a few of these updates your boring builder home will feel custom in no time.



  1. Beautiful ideas!

  2. Lisa in AL says:

    Great ideas Maggie. I have been meaning to frame out our mirrors for 4 years now, lol!!

  3. laura says:

    Great blog! One tiny suggestion: you used “your” instead if “you’re” in several places. Thanks for the tips. We’re possibly moving from our character-filled 1930s home soon, and I’m dreading our cookie-cutter options. This made me feel better about the process and our options.

  4. Glenn Parker says:

    Maggie, several times you used “weather” when you meant “whether”. Nice article, though. I especially like the illusion of creating a deeper baseboard.

    • Thanks for catching my error Glenn, I wrote this post two years ago when I first started my blog. Looking at it today has all kinds of errors screaming at me. Amazed how much I’ve leavened in that time and keep learning every day. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Brd says:

    Under ‘add to your island’ can anyone please please tell me about those pendant lights? I love them but can’t find them to buy anywhere!

  6. Kerry Biordi says:

    Any ideas on distressing existing builder’s cabinets? We are building a home, and we chose an ivory cream for the perimeter cabinets, and a dark peppercorn (almost black – espresso) for the island. All are topped with granite. I want to give the cabinets some character, but not sure how. I have seen rubbed edges – where the cabinets were then rubbed with a darker stain oil into the distressed edges. Have you ever seen that done?

    • Yes Kerry this is fairly easy to do if your cabinets are wood. Once the cabinets are painted just sand them lightly in areas where you might find natural wear like the corners, along edges or on details. Sand these areas until you get through to the natural wood but don’t over do it or it will not look natural. Now u come back with a wood stain in these areas. The stain will soak into the raw wood but only lightly tint the paint giving everything an aged/worn look. I would suggest testing out the process on a sample piece first just to be sure you are happy with the look and the stain color. Good Luck

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