Simple Ways to add Charm to your Home

When Mr. Marvelous and I were first married we had a short-term lease on an apartment while we started house hunting. We found and fell in love with this darling little cape code style house in a historic district that was built about 1930. I can still remember how excited we were when we wrote our offer on that house! Looking back, hindsight really is 20/20, because as charming as the house was, it was also rather . . . um . . . dilapidated. Probably explaining why the house was listed at less than $100,000 and why those charming hardwood floors were sort of sloped from room to room. Regardless, it was true love-I loved that house! Then came the dreaded house inspection and the inspector’s repeated use of the terms “not to code,” “fire hazard,” and oh ya, “money pit.” In fact, at one point, I think we heard, “run and don’t look back.”

Needless to say, we didn’t close on the house and withdrew our offer. As a completely reactionary measure that I regretted in years to follow, we did a 180 and bought a brand new track home in a neighborhood that can best be described as a sea of beige with lots the size of shoe boxes. I worked as hard as I could to add some character to that plain jane house. The biggest transformation was in the kitchen. I painted the kitchen cabinets myself-it was a tremendous amount of work, but worth every bit of it in the end. We also added glass inserts to the cabinet doors, which cost less than $100 since we were able to borrow a saw from a friend.
New hardware and a kitchen island from Martha Stewart’s Kmart line completed the look.
As for the rest of the house, we added DIY wainscoting and crown molding.ย  A small cost, a decent amount of sweat equity and big pay-off.

When we built theย New Oldย House, I tried to incorporate as much old charm as I could in our new build: a wrap-around front porch, hardwood floors, beadboard, farmhouse sink, old fashioned front staircase, lots of pedestal sinks . . . In fact, I drove the builder crazy. It was worth it in the end.

I recently came across this article on simple ways to add charm to any house and knew I had to share it here. The following are ways to add charm to any home, regardless of the age!

1. Add a Picket Fence

2. Add a dutch-door (and enjoy breezes and natural light while you are at it)

3. Dress up your porch

4. Add Beaded Board

You can buy beaded board by the sheet at Lowes and Home Depot and have it cut to size in the store. It’s very affordable!

5. Install a Farmhouse Sink

I love, love, love our farmhouse sink! When we were building the house I fell in love with Kohler’s Dickinson farmhouse sink but it was way outside our price range. I searched Ebay for months and months until I found one for 10% of the original cost, new in the box! I joked with Mr. Marvelous that I was going to sleep with it at night when it arrived since we had it stored in our garage for several months while the house was built. You can get good deals on farmhouse sinks at Ikea.
6. Embrace Open Shelving

Take the doors off some of your cabinets and show off your pretty dishes or collections.

(update, see how we included open shelving in our current rental house: The Little Kitchen that Could)
7. Plant Window Boxes

We have done window boxes in all of our houses andย it really does add instant charm.


Alright, so now it is your turn! Please leave a comment letting me know how you have added charm to your house. I am always looking for new projects and ideas!

(Reposted from July 2009)


  1. What an amazing transformation in the old kitchen! Seriously – why don’t builders start embracing white cabinetry? Are there really still people out there that don’t “get” it? Thanks for all the fun tips, too.

  2. I’m not sure if I’ve commented on your blog before but I’ve been following it for awhile now and I just wanted to let you know how much I love all of the ideas that you have. My husband and I just started to rent our first house and it has been so fun looking for ideas to decorate with. We’re lucky to have a very open-minded owner who is allowing us to do work to the main floor and are also lucky that we have an older house with lots of cute charm. Thanks for the great ideas!

  3. Hi! Love your blog! I love trying to make a house cozy and charming. One way we tried to do this was by adding open shelves, baskets, and beadboard cabinet doors in our guest house kitchen. You can check it out on my blog, just click on Guest House in the sidebar. Disclaimer: it is still a work in progress!

  4. Thanks for posting that list! Our 2-year-old duplex is in serious need of some charm. The outside is nice, but the inside is plain! I’m trying to decide how best to convince my husband that our kitchen cabinets should be painted. We’ll see how it goes when we get that far ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Thanks for posting that list! Our 2-year-old duplex is in serious need of some charm. The outside is nice, but the inside is plain! I’m trying to decide how best to convince my husband that our kitchen cabinets should be painted. We’ll see how it goes when we get that far ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Thanks for posting that list! Our 2-year-old duplex is in serious need of some charm. The outside is nice, but the inside is plain! I’m trying to decide how best to convince my husband that our kitchen cabinets should be painted. We’ll see how it goes when we get that far ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Girl, we are so on the same page with the charm. I know their are a lot of new homes that are really pretty, but they seem to lack the charm of an older home. I’ve commented on your blog before about finding a house. We finally found one. It’s an older home and I can’t wait to get in and start fixing it up. Your kitchen transformation is awesome! We’re going to paint the cabinets too. I noticed you made some of yours with glass fronts. Can you tell me more about that? I’m going to be posting before pics on my blog soon.

  8. How annoying to see your painted cupboards painted brown again. Tragic! Mine are blue right now, and I’m trying to decide between going dark brown or white in our future renovation. Both colours are in fashion, but I’m wondering if white laminate will go yellowish in the kitchen. Anyone know? Wendy xx

  9. Well we did #1 and installed a white picket fence and I add to the flower beds weekly. It is amazing how many plants it takes to fill a bed around an entire yard.
    #3 dress up your porch: look here
    #5 WE are redoing our kitchen now and are headed to Ikea on monday to get the apron front sink
    #6 and we will have open shelving on one side of the kitchen
    and of course I have tons of flower is so hot they don’t look really great but as soon as it gets rid of this humidity wave and heat they look awesome.
    So, guess I am on my way to having the list done.


    • I just wanted to add that the big chain Lowes hardware has a 1 year guarantee on all plants. I’ve been trying to add charm to our track home for the last year and started saving my garden tags and receipts. You can’t help that some plants just don’t survive in the soil, sun and water situation unique to your yard. It’s nice to know I can get a refund on the plants that died and try different ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. What a fantastic post. My husband and I just bought our first home and moved in last week(!!) and while I love this house, it’s not the little 1940’s bungalow cottage I had always imagined myself in. These are great tips for creating a charming “cottagey” feel. I must ask, though- where did you find that fantastic island in your earlier kitchen? I’d love one of those!

  11. We have a new home and the design center scared me out of a white kitchen. They told me that no one does white kitchens anymore and I would de-value my home if I did that! I do love my home, a lot. We have added crown molding, wainscotting, and beadboard to try to give it some charm.

  12. WOW what a transformation!! It’s gorgeous!! I love the island you put in, too. Such charm and sophistication. Thanks for the inspriation! We live in a cookie-cutter townhouse, and I’ve been trying to spruce it up so it doesn’t look like every. other. townhouse in my neighborhood. Not much we can do with the outside, but we’ve re-done a LOT of the inside. We’re hoping that when it’s time to put her up for sale, she’ll stick out in buyer’s minds as being unique and charming. I’ll definitely incorporate some of your ideas as well- LOVE the beadboard!

  13. It’s been an afternoon of drinking coffee, eating a lemon bar and clicking links and someone’s blog brought me here and I AM SO GLAD THEY DID – can you see me jump up and down? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fantastic post….love it love it love it…

    I’d like to guest post it at my blog? pretty please ๐Ÿ™‚ lylah

  14. Hi Erin I am Madison! I love your blog and will be visiting often!!! Have a great day!!!

    Love, Madison

  15. We love these ideas!

    We’re linking you on our new craft blog ( your style and creativity reminds us of ours and we also share a heart of faith.

    -Sarai (of 3SG)

  16. I’m looking for a kitchen island like the one that you have pictured here. It looks as though they were sold by Kmart, but I can’t find them anymore. Any help you can offer would be great.

  17. I love farmhouse sinks! As soon as we get out of our condo into our forever home, it’s the first thing I’m having installed! That, and a clawfoot tub! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Great post! I have always decorated with things we love, not necessarily the “style right now”. We tend to pick timeless pieces and change out just a few accessories when bored with the look. I love fresh flowers in a home!!

  19. Super duper post!
    We are already blessed with all the charm and character in our very own old money pit and I can’t imagine living in a new home, but, if we did then we would definitely be doing all the above!


  20. I love this post! We moved into a new home in November, and while it has some charm, I have still been adding more of my own. Board and batten is my current favorite. We had window boxes in our old house and I *loved* them. Trying to figure out how to incorporate them in the new one too!

    Thanks again – I’m a new follower. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Love it all~especially the sink and the fence…and the beadboard…um…All of it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. Just followed here from The Nester’s idea page.

    Thanks for the reminder about beaded board. We are just finishing (so I thought) our (really, really inexpensive) kitchen re-do and I think beaded board might be the answer.

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  23. such great ideas! i love all your pics, and definitely agree on the adding charm. we’ve just recently left our small little bungalow, and while i’m not missing our lack of space, i infinitely miss our charm and character! i’m busy trying to add it to our newer more modern house, but it definitely takes a little work!

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