4 tips to add character to your home

My grandparents’ old St. Louis home was a time machine to mid-century Americana. Molded by Cold War concern and Moon Landing hoopla, that bungalow on Blackthorn Drive doubled as a child’s wonderland and a booby-trapped danger zone.

From the seafoam rugs to the Pepto-Bismol sofa and the carpeted toilet seat, each room carried the colors and scents of a bygone era. Nothing was child-proof, everything was lead-based and coated in tetanus. Weekend stays during my turn-of-the-century childhood were a crash course in hard knock academy. The usual suspects included:

  • Jagged edges of the petrified wood coffee table—perfect height for little heads and grownup shins.
  • The unforgiving stone stoop leading down into the den—toddler head bumps galore!
  • Rickety dining room folding chairs—plenty of rusty bolts to pinch little fingers.
  • Backyard pine trees with low-hanging branches—easy to climb up, hard to climb down.
  • The overgrown outdoor patio—littered with broken bricks and chestnut burrs.

And then there was the unfinished basement, my grandparents’ forbidden West Wing. When my dad was little, my grandma convinced him an elephant lived down there. Murky lighting, sloping stone floor, washing machine leaks—this subterranean bunker was the ideal Cold War bomb shelter. That dusty old house was far from perfect, but it was one-of-a-kind and always felt like home.

In this age of cookie-cutter developments and cliched home décor (Live-Laugh-Love kitchen plaques, anyone?), personality and good vibes can get lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, full-length windows, open floor plans and swanky furniture are great. But are they homey? Unless you’re planning to sell in the immediate future, don’t be afraid to turn up the charm. Here are four tips to add a little character to your home.

Get thrifty

Secondhand shops are full of surprises. From vintage furniture and artwork to funny mugs and knick-knacks, these shops are up to their ears in unique home décor. At bargain-basement prices, thrift stores are well worth exploring. Remember—eclectic home décor doesn’t have to be an eyesore!

Hunt for inspiration

Home decorating inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest places. Don’t limit yourself to Pinterest boards and Tumblr posts—art museums, theater sets, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and even the great outdoors can spark interior layout and design ideas. Happy hunting!

Theme dreams

Are you a nautical enthusiast? Turn your living room into a waterfront wharf with shiplap siding and maritime memorabilia. Got a dart board and a wet bar in the basement? Go for a classy English pub theme. Get your kids involved! Give your children creative control of the design, color and furnishing of their rooms. Or cover their walls in chalkboard paint for endless entertainment and drawing practice.

Don’t sweat it

Don’t obsess over home values and every interior design fad. You paid good money for your home and you deserve to live it up on your terms. Let your kids invite their friends over and throw a party every once in a while. Cleaning up a mess isn’t fun, but neither is a party that never happened. Think of dents and stains as beauty spots instead of blemishes. Cleanliness and order are virtues, but a lived-in home is a happy home!

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