19 Ways to Add Character to Your House

A Tennessee family finally settles down and personalizes their place with unique touches. HGTV Magazine offers a look at the details that make this home special.
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Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer/Studio D

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Miki Duisterhof (styled by Liz Strong)

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Photo By: Courtesy of the manufacturer

Personalizing Their First Place

For more than a decade, as they lived in rentals in New York and California, Katy and Ken Byers were squirreling away design ideas for their future forever home. So when they relocated to Nashville, TN, in 2013 and snapped up a new-construction Craftsman-style bungalow, they knew exactly how they wanted to modify it. “After being nomadic for years, we were excited to own a home and finally make it ours,” says Katy. The couple, free of the decor restraints imposed by landlords, started customizing almost every inch of the 3,100-square-foot space. 

Creating a Livable Look

Working closely with the builders over a nine-month stretch, Katy and Ken (pictured here with Reed, 4, and Brayden, 2) added character-rich details, like exposed-brick walls and stainless steel kitchen countertops, to create a rustic-modern style. Salvaged and industrial materials, one-of-a-kind accessories the pair made themselves, and timeworn hand-me-downs from Katy’s dairy-farmer grandparents also help give the interior a lived-in look. “Our goal was to make a house that is super comfortable, reflects what we love in life, and inspires us,” says Katy. “I think we pulled it off!” 

Living Room

1: The sleek concrete fireplace, topped with a weathered 6-inch slab of reclaimed wood from a lumber mill in Athens, GA, is a mash-up of contemporary and country. 2: Matching sets of French doors flood the living room with light and offer big views of the backyard. 3: The home’s hardwood floors gained a sophisticated look from a dark espresso stain. The charcoal tweed sectional is from West Elm, and the leather chair is vintage. The wall color is Zircon by Sherwin-Williams.

Get the Look: Chair

Jericho Mid-Century leather, chrome, and steel chair in tan, $280, overstock.com

Get the Look: Pillow

Loloi 22" x 22" cotton pillow in blue and ivory, $59, shopcandelabra.com

Get the Look: Pillow

Loloi 13" x 21" cotton pillow in pink and green, $59, shopcandelabra.com

Get the Look: Art

Warm Day 20" x 20" unframed painting, $398, jagodamodernart.etsy.com

Living Room Art

4: The art in the living room includes a grain sifter used by Katy’s grandparents and an Ork Posters print of Brooklyn, where Ken lived for three years. 5: With help from midcentury-style hairpin legs bought on Etsy, a plank of rugged wood was transformed into a console.

Get the Look: Table

Flynn Hairpin 48"W x 25"D x 30"H acacia, MDF, and veneer desk, $300, worldmarket.com

Get the Look: Poster

Brooklyn Neighborhood Map 18" x 24" unframed print in tan and navy, $22, orkposters.com; Studio Décor Home Collection 18" x 24" distressed-wood frame in black merlot, $63, michaels.com

Dining Room

6: After DIYing shelves out of secondhand wood, the couple installed them at staggered heights so there would be enough space to display the 30-inch-by-40-inch print from minted.com. The wall color is Peppercorn by Sherwin-Williams. 7: For simple no-sew curtains, Katy attached canvas drop cloths to a curtain rod with drapery clip rings. 8: A set of four minimalist chairs found on craigslist.org contrast with the distressed lumber of the homemade dining table, which Katy’s sister built out of oak and pine.

Get the Look: Vintage Rug

Ottoman Kashkoli Sumak 57530 6'11" x 8'6" wool rug, $359, ecarpetgallery.com

Kitchen

9: The rough-textured brick wall looks solid, but it was actually made with ½-inch-thick veneers sliced off full-size bricks. 10: With chunky 6-inch-wide legs and a butcher-block top, the 8-foot-long custom prep table delivers lots of personality. The metal counter stools are from Target. 11: They’re not a typical choice, but the restaurant-style stainless steel counters “are tough,” says Katy. “They handle pans straight from the oven.” 12: The room’s opening is framed by repurposed wood planks, which mimic the appearance of solid beams but cost a fraction of the price. 

Get the Look: Pendant

Kichler Sayre 44 ½"H x 10"-diameter metal single-bulb indoor pendant in antique pewter, $217, build.com

Brayden’s Nursery

13: Katy’s solution for adding oomph to particleboard shelves in Brayden’s nursery: spray-painting large-scale metal brackets neon yellow (Fluorescent Yellow by Rust-Oleum). "Neutral white walls and a simple white crib let me go wild with the accent colors,” she says. 14: A doorframe-draped flower garland — whipped up by Katy from fabric circles and twine — echoes the hues of the hand-braided cotton rug from Nuloom that’s “soft on toes,” she says.  

Reed’s Bedroom

15: The bottom level of the IKEA loft bed is Reed’s favorite fort-building spot. The bookshelves are made from IKEA spice racks.

Master Bathroom

16: The couple personalized the master bath with black slate floor tiles that continue up and around the tub, Capital Lighting sconces and a Carrara marble vanity top.

Master Bedroom

17: Katy fell hard for the Victorian chair at a Manhattan flea market around 10 years ago. “I was smitten with the orange velvet and the tufting,” she says. 18: For a cocooning, go-to-sleep feel, Katy painted a wall in the master bedroom soothing night sky blue (Rainstorm by Sherwin-Williams). 19: The simple West Elm bed helps everything in the room seem cohesive, from the mini CB2 desk to the antique wool rug. The tiered side table was a castoff they found in a house they once rented.

Get the Look: Bed

Mid-Century eucalyptus wood and acacia veneer bed in acorn finish, from $899, westelm.com

Get the Look: Lamp

Ranarp 17"-tall steel lamp, $40, ikea.com for stores

Get the Look: Desk

Manchester Wood Shaker 25"W x 14 ¾"D x 40 ¼"H secretary in golden oak finish, $350, wayfair.com