What to do with a 'cookie-cutter' house?

binsdJune 6, 2010

Our final plans to complete on the purchase of the house we were leasing fell through. It was a 1970s brick ranch that needed a LOT of help but had great bones. I got some great ideas here a few months ago and had actually started utilizing some ideas. LOL - our landlady better be grateful - we're leaving it in much better shape than in which we received it!

Now, it looks like we're moving to a master-planned community which will likely be our final landing place (crossing fingers). This was a little hard to swallow as DH & I have always lived in older neighborhoods in "character" homes. Our first was a 1929 Spanish Revival. Although only 1400sf, we could have lived there happily the rest of our lives.

We moved to Texas a couple of years ago & have been in limbo for various reasons. We've finally prioritized what is most important to us & our family and find ourselves moving into a great MPC with all the family-friendly amenities you could want.

The house we're going into for the coming year is a 1999 Perry Home with this floor plan. It's not quite as large as this one as our plan does not have the "sun room". Floor plan is linked below.

I honestly do not know what to do with this house (we have the option to buy it at the end of our lease) in terms of style, etc...

Everything we own is geared towards a Spanish Revival house (well, with the exception of the Ikea play kitchen, the neon Ikea children's tables & chairs, Disney Princess car, John Deere tractor, etc...).

Even with the house we're going to be leaving, it would have worked to keep our style while paying homage to more mid-century designs along the lines of Cliff May - again thanks to many here who reminded me of his influence on the California (Spanish) ranch!

With this new one, I just don't know what to do!

Most of our friends who live in similar neighborhoods with similar builds have done their homes in Tuscan or Pottery Barn style. No offense to anyone, but that's just not my style.

For anyone who lives in a similar style house/community, what have you done to make your home uniquely yours?

Would love to read what you've done AND see photos. While a good price and finding that we really like living in this neighborhood will definitely trump "Binsd's need to have a house more akin to her style", having some ideas will make me feel better. :p

Not that it matters in this discussion, the house has a fairly large property - 1/4 acre - for a relatively small house in a typical newer MPC.

Here is a link that might be useful: Perry Home

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Well, I think you can make any home into a more unique version, cookie cutter or not. I think you usually have to address architectural elements because that's what's usually missing or what has been made generic. I start there as one of the first concerns.
As far as the the style, you can combine your style with the architecture of the home. So, if you like more mid century and you have a Spanish style house, for example, you can bring more contemporary elements and have them mix together. There's no reason you have to pick one style of another, it can be eclectic.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:24AM
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Oh what a bummer. I'm sorry the deal for the house you'd prefer fell through, that is disappointing, however when things like that happen, I always figure it's for a reason. Who knows maybe fate protected you from a money pit or in the end, you'll find this newer home was really what you needed instead. It seems like a fun challenge from a design perspective though and depending on how you look at it, could be fun.

Although our home isn't a newer "cookie cutter home", it desprately lacks some of that character and is an issue we have been dealing with as well. Ours was a fixer, so we've been trying to add small interesting details as we go, and it has helped a lot. I agree with htnspz, there is no reason you have to pick a style for the intererior and going eclectic is a great solution. New doesn't have to mean Pottery Barn or Tuscan.

Our house is a center hallway Colonial and we've been trying to stay true to that by adding more traditional trims and moldings. It's a very inexpensive way to add interest and easy medium to get creative with. For example I desprately wanted a mud room so we converted our hallway closet by removing the doors and building in a entry to the space. We added interest to the molding with carved decorative trim and get compliments on it all the time and we plan on carrying that to other parts of the house. Before this was just a closet with those old wood bifold doors. So ugly.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 8:36AM
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I know what you are going through. I have lived in many different style houses myself. Of course, I didn;t run out and buy new stuff each time. I have found myself moulding the house to fit my style. This can be done in any home. Cookie cutter gives you a fairly bank canvas to work with.

SOme interior options to consider- darker paint colors, adding faux wood beams to some of the ceilings Add fancy iron work grills to any available openings (like a bar pass through), COnsider switching out some of the interior doors for wooden doors (we were able to get several at habitat reuse store), heavy, dark hardware for the doors and any cabinets, etc., heavy drapes might help make the rooms more cozy and human scaled.

Which facade do you have?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 9:18AM
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Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder that I CAN mold the house to my style.

Your posts reminded me that I've walked into dozens of cookie-cutter model homes & ooh'd & aah'd, LOL...so obviously, there are things that can be done to make a home look unique even though it may have the same bones as every other house on the block.

lukkiirish - I love the mudroom you created out of your closet. Now YOU have given me an idea for an extra hall closet just off of our garage door. :)

Below is a link to the listing photos of the house we're moving into.

Here is a link that might be useful: House

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 12:51PM
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Oops. Way too much personal info on the link above.

New link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: House Pics

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Sorry you didn't get the home you planned on....but I agree...things happen for a reason. The exterior of your house is great, you should be able to landscape to a style you like with that much space. The current residents are lacking in decor talent, but that might be a good thing as looks like you won't have a lot of work in removing borders, painting and adding architectural enhancements.

I live in a Del Webb community...definitely cookie-cutter. I am not a gardening enthusiast, so the outside of my home is the standard drought-resistant landscaping. I have learned to just ignore that aspect and concentrate on the interior.

I am into theme decorating, so each room is different and guests seem to like the eclectic blend. My living room is off the entry (like yours) and I turned it into a Tiki Lounge with lots of color, a 1950's rattan bar, bamboo shelves, game table, fridge, etc. When the HOA guy did a final walk-through after I had moved in, he said "That's the best use of that room I have ever seen." I share that with you mostly because I think if you have a style you like, no matter what the bones are in the space, you can work around it and mold it into what you want. It doesn't happen overnight, but if you get your furniture placed and work with the feel of the room you can add color, texture and love to transform it. Think outside of the box, don't be afraid to experiment. I look forward to seeing the transformation of your new home from cookie-cutter to showplace.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:12PM
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How restrictive is the "master plan"?

Can you un-cookie-cutter it outside too?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:31PM
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I think the outside of your new home is quite charming. It reminds me a bit of a cottage. You have quite a blank slate on the interior just waiting for the introduction of your style. I can already imagine the changes that dark hardwood floors, tall base, crown and window moldings, richer paint colors, colorful area rugs and great furniture would make.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:52PM
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I lived in San Antonio, TX for 18 months, from 1997-99. Thought I'd be there longer, so I built a Perry home (2300 sq ft) in the Vineyards subdivision (GREAT amenities). I had a fabulous lot, which I hired a landscaper to landscape with Buffalo Grass, native plants, xeribefoscape, etc...and the yard was just fantastic. Something in bloom nearly every month of the year, attracting butterflies, birds, hummingbirds, etc. AND, very water conservative. I LOVED that yard! I had quite a few live oaks in the backyard, too. It was j ust a great lot.

As for the house, my floor plan resembled yours quite a bit... Your master bedroom & bath/closet look exactly like what was in my home. Also your kitchen, walk-in pantry (I modified mine before construction began to enlarge the pantry so it was HUGE), morning area opening to the Family Room looks like mine. I LOVED that configuration. The Master Bedroom was away from guest rooms. I absolutely loved the 2 walls of windows meeting in the corner of the Master bedroom, which looks like you're going to have that, too. It made the room feel like it just opened into the back yard.

My Dining Room was a bit larger. The length of the DR backed onto the pantry, so it was easy to step from the kitchen into the formal DR. That room was my favorite DR of all the houses I lived in. The windows on the end of the DR were floor to ceiling and opened into my beautifully landscaped side yard, so the view was just fantastic. Loved that room!

I only lived in the house for 13 months, but I truly did enjoy the house. Very well built, very well designed. My house was a 3 bedroom. As house was being built I converted the 4th bedroom into a LR, and put glass doors across the LR to make it stand out...the window pane glass doors....it looked very nice because it had that diagonal threshold to work with...just like your house has.

There are some minor differences between your house and mine, but there is a lot of similarity.

Unfortunately, that house was 3 houses ago, so I don't have photos.

I can tell you that I decorated that house just as if I lived anywhere. I've never gone into geographic decorating...it's just not my style. I use my furniture and style....a combination of traditional and Asian...in every house I live in.

For window treatments in that house, I had plantation shutters installed on every window EXCEPT the windows running across the back of the Family Room, which opened onto the beautiful back yard...fenced in, as yours is. I left those windows uncovered because they faced north so no sunlight came in, yet lots of natural lighting came in. And the huge windows, uncovered, drew one's eye outside into the backyard. I also had them put the patio (not covered) from the Morning room to the Master Bedroom, so it ran along the back of the house.

For flooring, I put tile in the long hallway that runs the length of the house (just like yours does), the bathrooms, utility room & kitchen/pantry. The LR, FR BRs and DR were carpeted. The tile in the long entry/hallway was perfect because it kept the dirt out of the carpeted areas.

My house was beautiful. I received many compliments on it from friends and family....and, when it came time to sell after living in it only 13 months, lots of compliments came in from prospective buyers. I really hated to sell that house!

When I think about that house, I have so many fond memories of how easy it was to live in, how well laid out it was, how easy the kitchen was to cook in, yet be accessible to FR, and I loved all of the windows in the house.

I really think if you decorate your house so that you're true to your own style (without regard to the geographic area you're living in), you can't go wrong.

Good luck! I hope you enjoy living in your Perry home as much as I did.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 3:39PM
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The living room and most of the other rooms are just begging for some color. The beige is just too light. Could see a nice accent color above the fireplace area to help make it a focal point of theroom.

How about a new countertop to go with the white cabinets, and include the pass-through from the kitchen. You can make a bar area out of that.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 3:49PM
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binsd, that's great! I love when that happens! If you go into the gallery link there is a thread with tons of inspiration photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: laundry / mud room gallery pics

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 3:57PM
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Others have written about the interior, so I just looked at the exterior. This is just one opinion, but the landscaping in front of the house masks the lovely part of the exterior and makes the garage the focal point. I'd trim the bushes in front of the windows way down, and take out the shrubs in front of the walkway and replace them with low growing plants with some color and texture (e.g., short golden yellow grasses, gold or red barberry, colorful perennial blooms, etc.) I'd want to make the front door more of a focal point, so the landscaping would lead the eye there rather than almost blocking it like it does now. Maybe add a big urn near the front door with some colorful flowers, etc.

IF you purchase the home and stay there, I'd replace the garage doors with doors that have more character; windows in the doors, possibly a beautiful wood finish or steel doors that look like white painted wood. There are lots of great looking garage doors out there that could really change the front view of the house.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 5:23PM
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We, too, live in MPC in Houston area. There are Perry homes all around. As with all builders in the area, and in order to sell fast, they are bending over backwards with crown moldings, great counter tops and lovely pillars and arches to attract the masses. Just keep all and I mean all your papers and for ever little thing that goes awry, document it and call the builder. They usually stand behind their products. That also goes for the landscaping they put in. If your lawn isn't draining, make them put in drains. We have a Village home and they have just been wonderful. Yup, all the homes are similar yet different. If you got to pick your own choices, good for you. Have fun and decorate it as YOU and your family want it to be. You aren't decorating for the neighbors and if you're feeling good about your house, you will leave the corporate beige walls behind and use some wonderful color.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 5:59PM
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Wow! Thanks for all the feedback!

vampiressrn - yes...we do feel that with most things in our situation, things DO happen for a reason. :) If your taste in Tracy Porter tableware is like your decorating style, then I am sure you have a showplace!

lazygardens - I am really not sure how strict the HOAs are for exterior "improvements"; I think it might depend on the neighborhood. There is one neighborhood here called The Cottages and the house colors include palest of blue, yellow, pink & lavendar (not all at once, lol - per house). The house we were in escrow with had much more color than any other house I'd seen which is what drew me to it in the first place:

We were crushed when things didn't work out; I really thought that house was meant for us especially when I found out the neighbors on either side actually "knew" us from seeing us at church (one even called the owner & said we would be a perfect fit for the neighborhood) and on a funny note - the accent colors on the facade of the house look like what I had JUST painted in our current dining room: Valspar's Earthen Sienna & La Fonda Antique Red.

Other than that, I haven't really seen much variation from what definitely looks like original builder spec.

forhgtv - thank you for putting such a nice positive spin on the house. We definitely want to put in darker wood floors. I have acacia wood flooring in mind like this:

I should probably mention that I also am drawn to Asian design but running more along the lines of European colonial influences in the Philippines, Indonesia and former British Colonies.

Beth4 - wow! I don't even know what to say. Thank you so much for writing about your Perry home in SA. It's great to know that you were able to infuse your style into a tract home - especially one that sounds so much like the one we are moving into! I am definitely copy/pasting the text here to reference.

gsciencechick - I couldn't agree with you more! I am hoping that the owners will let me add some color (with our promise to bring it back to its original neutral pinky-beige if they want us to if/when we leave).

lukkirish - thank you for the additional link! I even posted one of the more elegant laundry rooms on my FB page. LOL

chicagoans - thank you for focusing on the front exterior. Will definitely keep your notes as they are good ideas - some of which DH & I had already discussed - namely the removal of some of those bushes that look they were planted for the sake of being planted.

Here's a pic of one of my very favorite exteriors of a small Spanish house in our old neighborhood:

While it's a bit crowded, I just love the colors (& wow...I just realized how much I miss that old camera!).

Nanabella - we will likely not be building but you definitely provide some good tips that I will pass on to my brother who is planning to build around here.

Thanks again! Any & all suggestions are welcome!

btw - here are some of our old house in SD:

I painted the kitchen over the course of 2 nights after visiting my then-boss's "new" mexican hacienda in santa barbara county one day. I probably overdid it but I sure had fun & much preferred working in this outdated kitchen after giving it some life.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 3:14AM
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Here's something to consider: if it's lease-to-own, I have learned from experience to sink the decorating budget into things I can take with me unless I own the house. Nice artwork over the fireplace, if you own appliances - upgrade, if you want better carpeting - buy a great area rug, build the furniture collection to what your ideal is, then when you move, no regrets, and if you stay, then tear into the more structural elements. I would still rip out that border and cover the windows before summer heat gets going, but try to install something you can take with you. Until you are sure it's your home, you will be happy you didn't spend money enhancing your landlord's equity purse. Just an opinion. I used to change faucets, appliances, light fixtures etc. on rented places just because I couldn't stand them. It was a big waste of money. I learned to invest in things that can go with me. Now I own and it's wonderful to have all kinds of great stuff already paid for.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 8:32AM
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Spanish architecture is my favorite exterior too, probably a throw-back to my childhood in San Diego. That first picture you posted is to die for. Love the tile roof, the arches and the lush tropical foliage. Your old home was beautiful...what a fun kitchen!!!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 8:43AM
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I, too, love the charm of an older home. Since hubby and I disagree about owning one, we compromised and built one to look old. Although my style may be different from yours, some of the details we focused on may be of interest to you in making your house "your own".

To give our home a customized feel we really focused on the trim work. There's crown moulding everywhere, lots of wainscot, built-ins, and custom interior doors. We also searched high and low for interesting light fixtures, door knobs, and cabinet hardware. Also, the bathrooms can become pretty special by taking out the standard cabinetry and installing some unique pieces. Paint definitely makes a personal statement :: our painted ceilings have made for lots of interesting conversation.

Your new home is gorgeous, and has so many possibilities. I suggest an afternoon in Borders with a nice big cup of coffee to sip on. We spent many a day there browsing through books and becoming inspired while designing our "forever home". Have fun!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our home and garden

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 6:39PM
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binsd, I love what you did in your former kitchen. That paint job took guts, imagination and talent. After seeing that, I KNOW that your house won't look cookie cutter for long.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 6:47PM
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