Fall in Love with Your Starter Home

play house
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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