Fall in Love with Your Starter Home

This builder-basic home was adrift in a sea of neutrals until its crafty homeowners took matters into their own hands. See how they turned this once brown-and-beige beginner house into a light, bright haven for their young family to enjoy.

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    Blank Canvas

    When Ashley and Jamin Mills of the blog The Handmade Home purchased this little builder-grade home, they knew it wasn't their dream home, and they didn't plan to stay for long -- until one day, they decided to turn it into a space they could love.


    The makeover began with paint and then grew into DIY artwork, sewing projects, and repurposed vintage finds. Ashley sewed favorite fabrics and a vintage sugar sack into pillows to punch up the neutral living room. A collage of the family's Instagram photos on a hardboard panel, topped with plexiglass and framed with crown molding, became large-scale art.

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    Mantel Masterpiece

    The homeowners customized almost every corner of their home, including the nonworking fireplace, with handmade artwork. To make it a fun focal point, they filled the fireplace and mantel with one-of-a-kind artwork.

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    Bargain Buys Made Beautiful

    Scored for $25 each, reclaimed planks from an old peanut barn became striking shelves in the dining room when placed on metal supports welded by a friend. An overhead projector was used to trace a damask pattern on a long skinny board before painting it and hanging it on the wall between two shelves.

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    Barely-There Storage

    In the dining room, a wall of shelves combines storage and display. Baskets along the bottom shelf hold china, napkins, and other entertainment supplies.

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    Look a Little Closer

    What looks like a large mirror is actually a series of small affordable glass tiles affixed to medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and framed. Another large handmade frame fills the wall opposite the windows. Cutouts in a large painted board showcase cork tiles and 8×8-inch photos mounted on MDF blocks for a dimensional display. The couple balances big projects with easy upgrades, such as the simple cloth for the table.

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    Easy Centerpiece

    The homeowners made this wood box and painted it with checks and stripes. When filled with jars of flowers, it's a high-impact centerpiece. It also holds art supplies during crafts sessions.

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    Adding Farmhouse Flair

    Using "down with the brown" as their motto, the couple turned what was once a dark space into a light, bright kitchen brimming with farmhouse flair. They painted the particleboard cabinets white and removed some of the doors to create display areas and a more open feel. The walls and island were painted light blue.

  • farmhouse sink with yellow curtains 8 of 17

    Curtain Call

    The cleanup zone gets a charming pop of color thanks to a DIY curtain and sink skirt. Affordable beaded board serves as the perfect backsplash in this eclectic farmhouse kitchen, and doorless cabinets maintain the room's open, airy vibe.

  • loft bed 9 of 17

    Nautical Retreat

    The boys share a custom loft bed complete with rope ladder. Monograms identify each brother's side. Stitched curtains suspended from a copper pipe hide the bed's legs and create a fun nook for the boys to play. The couple made the toy box, and Ashley painted the "Mills Bros" sign.

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    Vintage-Inspired Girl's Room

    A neutral base and soft pastel accents keep this darling bedroom light and airy. Framed vintage paper dolls found on eBay and a DIY embroidery hoop mobile create a whimsical vibe.

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    Fresh Beginning

    Ashley's childhood dresser, once dark brown, was painted green, then blue, then sanded in places to expose bits of the green paint. A mini dress form found at a flea market becomes a pretty jewelry stand with the addition of paint and a tulle tutu.

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    Play Place

    A toy kitchen made from old nightstands and a dresser is the hub of activity in the playroom. A magnetic display area for kids’ artwork was created by sewing together pieces of fabric and adhering them to metal.

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    Cool and Calm

    Watery blue walls and bedding promote peace and quiet in the master bedroom. Ashley sewed together bright strips of fabric to create a cover for the body pillow. Large mirror tiles treated with acid wash achieve a mercury glass look that bounces light throughout the space. 

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    Indoor Porch Retreat

    The couple hired a contractor to turn an underused back patio into a more useful enclosed space. They painted what was once exterior siding in stripes of white and robin's-egg blue, then cozied up the space with plump pillows, greenery, and family photos.

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    Jazzed-Up Patio

    A few simple DIY updates personalized this small backyard patio. The couple created a harlequin pattern on the scored concrete patio by painting it in two shades of concrete paint. The table is an old door, topped with glass and attached to a base constructed by Jamin.

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    Sweet Escape

    In the backyard, the couple built a playhouse for the kids to enjoy. A large arrow crafted from painted pieces of wood points the way, while pillows and cushions make it a cozy place to hang out. The kids' artwork is framed in plexiglass and hung throughout the space.

  • Next Slideshow DIY Art for a Lot Less Than You Think

    DIY Art for a Lot Less Than You Think

    Who said artwork has to cost an arm and a leg? With some crafting supplies and a little imagination, you can create your own DIY art in no time! Plus, each of these fabulous art ideas is surprisingly low-cost, making decorating your home that much easier.
    Begin Slideshow »
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