The Handbook
The Handbook

A new build comes with its advantages – no need to replace that leaky roof and far less likely to come across dry rot (fingers crossed), but those boxy, white walls do tend to make you feel like you’ve seen the same flat a million times over.

There are however still myriad ways to make a modern new build a wow-factor home. If you’ve always dreamt of the charm and character of lofty high ceilings and panelled walls but in reality have a completely blank canvas to work with, here’s how to take your new home, whether you’re taking your first steps on the property ladder or are renting,  to wow factor.

Don’t go straight in with the paint brush 

If the builders have literally downed tools as you’re picking up your keys you should wait a while before cracking open the Farrow & Ball. Your home will have absorbed water from the build and that will need to dry out. This can take up to a year, so be patient.

A whole host of other things can appear on a new build, hopefully nothing serious, but the good news is many brand new buildings will be covered under warranty for the first year – another good reason to pause before slathering Hague Blue all over the bedroom.

Try to keep the house at a consistent temperature and well ventilated throughout this time too as it will help to dry the building out and allow for cracks to settle.

Plus, taking time to pause amidst all the excitement of a new home will help you to make more considered choices – do you really need that House of Hackney wallpaper in the loo? If the answer is still yes in a year’s time, then you definitely do.


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Be careful when it comes to vintage

By all means go vintage and pre-loved with your furniture and accessories, not only for the charm factor but to keep costs lower (sometimes!) and your project more sustainable, but try to stick to clean, modular shapes such as mid-century modern design. 

We love the way influencer Monikh Dale incorporates cult classics like a wishbone chair into a stark white colour palette.

Antiques can work but they need to be considered 

Again, lean to more modular shapes or work a cherished family piece into a curated nook or bookcase to ensure it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. That regency console may have been passed down from grandma, but will it look right in a white boxy room?

Light it well

The built-in ceiling lights that often come with so many new builds can feel cold and impersonal. Create warmth and atmosphere with well placed light. A table lamp on a side table will make things more cosy  and give off a warm glow, while pendant lights hanging over a kitchen counter will create a dual-use space and double up as a breakfast counter – just add some bar stools. 

Pendant lighting is also great if you’re short on space in the bedroom as you can free up space either side of the bed by not using bedside tables.

Create a gallery wall

A gallery wall is the perfect DIY project to undertake if you haven’t got a big budget to play with or you’re renting and can’t make any big changes to your home.

Make it work by sticking to somewhat of a colour palette to create a formula. – look to Instagram star Sara Waiste’s Brighton home for inspiration. Sara is a champion of making a rented space your own and her knack for eyeing a good print is second to none.

A good tip to figuring out your order is to lay the framed prints and art on the floor first before you commit to putting them on the wall.

Bring the outdoors in 

From huge banana trees to your weekly pick up of Columbia Road blooms, add life to a blank space with flowers and botanicals.


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Even a fresh bowl oranges in a a Matilda Goad shell bowl à la Monikh Dale will breathe character into your home.

Invest in good curtains or shutters

Good quality curtains do not come cheap, especially if you have to have them custom-made, but trust us, they make a home look so much more luxe. If you can factor that into the budget, do so, or invest in built-in shutters, which will not only help to regulate the property’s temperature but create a cosy atmosphere too.

Measure and measure again 

Make your measuring tape your new best friend. There’s no room for error with a new build, especially one that’s tight on space, so make sure any furniture you buy has been thoroughly thought out and fits.

Reshuffle furniture until you get the set up your want and that works best for your lifestyle. Make space for the things you really need – bed, sofa, coffee table – and work everything else around that. 


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Don’t overfill 

Clutter, even of the organised kind, might look charming in an old country pile but not in four white walls. 

Be considered with what you shop. Start with what you need and and introduce things you want thereafter. It will also help you to stick to a budget and not end up with rash pieces you’re actually not all that keen on.

Shop savvy storage 

Some new builds will have great storage built in or at least one big cupboard where you can dump the really ugly stuff – suitcases, vacuum cleaner, etc, but if you’re starting from scratch, be aware that you might need to buy smaller furniture and storage solutions to fit the space.

An ottoman bed is a great investment for storing everything from shoes to out of season clothes (winter coats take up a ridiculous amount of space in the wardrobe).

Shop skinny furniture

Ikea also do a great range of slim-fit furniture – the shoe storage units are genius and will practically go unnoticed in a tight hallway.

If you’re lacking space in the kitchen, try some open shelving to show off some well curated crockery just like this kitchen here.

To save space in a dining area which, let’s face it, is probably doubling up as a living space, use benches as seating so they can be pushed under the table to create space when you’re not using the area. 

Think about your sofa before parting with your cash. Buying one with metal feet, so it’s slightly off the ground, will create more space than a clunky one with a plinth base and valance.

And created the illusion of more space with a cubic coffee table to let light in and around it.

Add charm to the bedroom 

There are many tricks to add depth and warmth to a bedroom – lots of cosy soft furnishings and layers are always a good shout – but it’s worth investing in a headboard.


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Look to Studio Ashby (the interiors dream) to see how they have used a textured headboard, matchy matchy art and stylish pendant lighting to turn an otherwise blank space into something really special. do a range of options for a modest price point.


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Stick to a colour scheme 

Unless you really know what you’re doing when it comes to interiors, eclectic doesn’t really work in a modern space,

Stick to a colour scheme which will help you create some rules in the space – a selection of three or five colours is usually enough to play with whilst also being realistic.

Be cautious with colour

You may have always dreamed of a millennial pink living room but hold off before committing to anything bold.

Instead introduce colour through the furniture and accessories – how awesome does this velvet pink sofa look against blank white walls?

Soft furnishings and accessories

Add texture and a bit of individually with lots of layers of soft furnishings, from cushions to curtains, throws to gorgeous bedding. it’s worth budgeting for the best rug you can afford.

Rugs do not come cheap if you want them to look good so plan, save and make sure you’re shopping one that you know you love and will last.

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