Making Our [Builder Grade] House a Home

Our living room after decorating for Christmas

When Jason and I made the decision to build a new house instead of buying one, we were ecstatic. The housing market in the Denver area was — and still is — booming, and the median home price was rapidly rising. We felt blessed that this opportunity fell into our laps, as well as into our budget. Yet, a little piece of our hearts broke when we realized how little character comes with a brand new, builder grade house.

We were not at all unappreciative of the work that went into building our first home, but to be honest, it’s a tract home. That means there were five-to-seven models to choose from, and we picked one. In no way was this a custom home that we could put together with the builder.

While I was hoping I could see what the model home version of our house looked like, there wasn’t one. Therefore, we had to learn to make due with what was built. The living room felt like a big white box with some wall cubbies and some windows. The original floors were carpeted, so the first thing Jason and I (and a handful of our amazing friends and family members) did was tear out that builder grade carpet and install locking hardwood floors. To save money (and because we have a very energetic puppy), we actually went with a Pergo Max laminate flooring because it is more durable than hardwood and engineered hardwood. This is the only photo of our living room I have from before we installed the hardwood:

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…and this was what our living room looked like once the floors were installed:

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Let’s briefly go back to before ground was broken. I immediately began scouring Pinterest, Houzz, and HGTV for ideas that would help Jason and me add some warmth and style to our cookie-cutter house.

Mostly inspired by three of my favorite designers (Joanna Gaines, Becki Owens, and Studio McGee), I pieced together a plethora of style ideas to form what is now our living room. I didn’t care if the looks didn’t all come from one design theme; I went with what I liked and figured out how to make it blend together. Some might call our style “transitional,” but I like to call it “Modern Bohemian Farmhouse.” Most of my pins were, after all, Modern, or Bohemian, or Farmhouse style ;)

I love having natural colors and varying the textures in our home. From the faux fur cowhide pillow and wood accents, to the leather pouf and warm mixed-metal accents, I’ve learned that if you love it, you should find a way to make it work.

Here’s a picture of our living room concoction, taken from the same angle as the first picture.

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My handy husband Jason built the mantel and installed our floating shelves. He also stained and hung the wood feature on the wall above the fireplace. This isn’t part of the living room, but Jason also built that beautiful cedar and iron dining table.

When I decided to do a gallery wall, I wanted it to be not only symmetrical, but also personal. Jason and I are both photographers, so we wanted the art in the frames to be original works that we shot and edited.

Here are some more shots from other angles:

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Jason’s mom was kind enough to offer her superb painting skills a couple weeks after we moved in. She painted our entire great room (living and kitchen/dining)! The paint color on the accent wall is called “Carbonized,” by Sherwin Williams, which is a dark matte grey (basically black). The light grey/hardly off-white paint color on the other walls is called “Basalt Powder,” by Sherwin Williams.

Anyways, now that Christmas is quickly approaching, we’ve decorated a little bit. We are both excited for future projects, and I’m looking forward to sharing our progress as we take our new home from builder grade to beautiful!


Stores where we purchased many of our accents:

West Elm (Urban sofa with chaise)

World Market (chandelier, candle sticks, wall sconces, geometric terrarium, faux cowhide pillow)

Target (wood vase, mirror, fur mini-stockings, gold frames)

T.J. Maxx & HomeGoods (club chair, end tables, burlap stockings, throw blanket, decorative tray)

Bed, Bath and Beyond (natural fiber blinds, curtains)

Overstock.com (coffee table, poufs)

esalerugs.com (area rug)

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