Originally published in July 2021
Think about the last time you walked into a home and felt something. Maybe it was curiosity, a sense of calm, or a shift in energy you couldn’t quite place or describe. A home’s character isn’t limited to unique accents, charming windows, or original hardwood flooring. It is the culmination of individual expression within its walls. It’s the way we add life to an otherwise empty shell. It’s what makes our homes personal.
Limited budgets, Instagram envy, and overwhelm can all contribute to the feeling that having “character” in your home is out of reach. I am not immune to wishing I had someone else’s floor plan, budget, or broad sense of style. It happens to all of us. So why not look for ways we can embrace what is ours and let the character come from within? It can be easier said than done, but this post is meant to give you a head start.
Having an understanding of the details of your home you won’t change is a great place to start. A large aspect of building “character” in a home is figuring out how to create a unique combination of elements that represent your personal style. The easiest place to start is to decorate your home with pieces that contrast the style of the architecture.
If your space is super traditional, the contrast of midcentury modern pieces could be a great way to infuse more character. Geometric-printed pillows on a traditional couch would make for a beautifully unique statement.
If your space is industrial, a crystal chandelier could shine in a totally different way.
If your space is modern, a bold de Gournay-inspired print on an antique chair would create a stunning focal point. Take the (very) modern apartment where Joe and I first lived together, pictured below, as an example. Amid all of its sharp lines and white walls, I did what I could to infuse character. I added antique pieces, like the trunk pictured below, and substantial furniture that contrasted against the otherwise airy feel of the space, like the adjacent oversized leather chair.
There is nothing I love more than a little bit of effortless-looking wear and tear on a piece of decor or furniture. From the worn spines of books to the nicked edges of a coffee table, imperfections = LIFE, and life breathes energy into a home. A piece like a vintage rug with holes shouldn’t be immediately looked over when shopping. With a patch or repair, it can contribute its own unique quality to the overall story of your home.
This is a particularly helpful thing to keep in mind when shopping thrift stores, antique shops, and FB marketplace. Those imperfections may be just what your home needs, which brings me to my next point.
A home’s character isn’t limited to unique accents, charming windows, or original hardwood flooring. It is the culmination of individual expression within its walls. . . . It’s what makes our homes personal.
Nothing makes a home feel more unique than one-of-a-kind pieces. I love shopping at places like Target as well, but I find myself more attached to the pieces I’ve found amid the things no one wanted, knowing that sourcing the same item elsewhere is unlikely.
The hunt can feel overwhelming at times, and if your first few trips to the antique shop are not fruitful, you may want to give up before realizing the magic of finding that perfect item hidden behind a bunch of junk. But I assure you, if you stay the course, the search will almost always be well worth it.
For my shopping tips, read this article: “7 Thift and Antique Shopping Tips to Help You Find Items You Love.”
Much of my decor is centered around things I like to collect—vases, brass figurines, colorful candles, and lace tablecloths, to name a few. Small decor elements look great in odd numbers (three, five, seven) and can add visual interest to bookshelves, coffee tables, and side tables, especially when styled in varying heights and sizes. Just about anything can become a collection!
In addition to showing off your collections, dedicating space to the fruits of your favorite hobbies can add some life to your home. Love puzzles? Add a little cafe table in front of a window, drape it with a tablecloth, and stack some of your favorite puzzle boxes on top. (Anthropologie always has a lovely selection of puzzles!) Suddenly you’ve added a new seating area, a bit of fabric for texture, and a pretty little vignette that also works as a refuge after a long day’s work.
Whether it’s through fresh flowers, contrasting throw pillows (these pillows are so pretty), patterned blankets, or prints on your wall, every space benefits from the life that color brings. That doesn’t mean painting an otherwise “dull” room with a warm coral color is right for everyone, but sometimes we forget that even in the most minimal of spaces, we can find a purpose for something dynamic. It could be a large rug in royal blue or a small-scale patterned print on curtains.
Some homes scream color, while others use it in ways that make you feel it before you notice it.
For more on the power of colorful home decor, read this article: “5 Colorful Homes and Exactly What I Love About Each One.”
One of my favorite ways to make blah windows look “complete” is to add blinds AND curtains in differing textures. Woven wood shades (these are my favorite) with striped linen curtains? So so lovely and layered, with zero construction required. Valances have a bad rep for feeling stuffy, but if you are decorating a bedroom that lacks architectural interest or simply needs some “oomph,” this can be a great way to make it feel polished.
Tell me, what’s your favorite way to add character to your home?
Editor’s Note: This article contains affiliate links. Wit & Delight uses affiliate links as a source of revenue to fund the operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. Wit & Delight stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.
BY Kate Arends - April 24, 2023
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
Our living room took years to decorate. Before the pandemic I had so far added a seating area, which only took up half the space; the other half was book-marked for my (future) desk. Then the pandemic hit, and my girls were suddenly home schooling. We brought out two wood folding tables which we put together to make a huge 6′ square school desk. I quickly realized how much I loved that work space! When school wrapped up in June, I immediately re-arranged the desks and it’s now my desk / art / computer area, with enough room for three… Read more »
It sounds like you found an ideal use for the space! Decorating slowly over time is such a good approach.
This is how most women used the separate dining room in the days of a breakfast room and a separate dining room. They became the woman of the houses private room for whatever she wanted/needed. Crafts, art, office writing or even tablescaping.
Very inspiring article for my future creations.
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You might be interested in my creations of wax candles and tealight holders with inlay of plants. Do not hesitate to give me a feedback.
Cyril (de L’Atelier de Cyril)
Hello! Right now, I’m digging using my kids art as legit decor. We have a few items of their schoolwork framed but what looks really homey are the pictures I asked them paint on canvas!
I love that idea! Thank you for sharing!
Great article! The pics really helped the ideas land for me, and I’m inspired to add antiques in my newly built home. Love the idea of buying secondhand… better for the planet too. Thank you so much for a well-considered piece!
These are such great and simple tips. I think I’m definitely going to add an area rug. I usually don’t like rugs because they can be difficult to clean but I think something colorful with short pile will be easy to manage and roll up when it’s time to clean the floors and it will add some coziness to the space.
I’m so glad you found some of these tips to be helpful! I can’t recommend rugs enough, specifically when you want to add warmth to your space.
Good day Kate I found it dificult to decorate my home after moving to another house My TV room is black white and grey And only use texture for scater cushions but it feel as if something is missing and my.couch is a light grey with black chair and n dark grey carpet. The light grey couch I choose the material and in the big peach it look like it is to light. I do like rosegold How do I do this all together? My walls is just a light colour and I change the dark shutters to very soft… Read more »
I’m curious to know the colour of the wall in very first picture please?
Thanks for the sharing informative post. SkyWard Alpine