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My heart beats faster when I hear the words “cookie cutter” – except when they’re referring to a home and not to the promise of buttery baked goods. But here’s the delicious upside: With a new build, you don’t have to tear down walls, replace the roof or reconfigure plumbing. A blank canvas awaits and you can get to work creating your masterpiece instead of dealing with demo dust.

You can’t turn a new build into Downton Abbey, but it’s relatively easy to layer in some personality and patina. A big part of having a home with character is the inclusion of things that not only look good but also feel good to the touch.

Your first order of business is to remove any lightweight hollow core doors. They’re unattractive and do nothing to dampen sound. Replace them with solid wood doors and, while you’re at it, invest in quality doorknobs and hinges. Simple shapes in a warm metal or an oil-rubbed bronze finish (which look black) are timeless.

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Staying with the theme of feel-good fixtures, consider upgrading plastic switch plates and outlet covers with metal. With these small changes, you’ve already raised your home’s visual and tactile appeal before even filling out your change of address.

Let’s move on to matters a little more decorative. Millwork and moulding are your friends, delivering instant impact.

You could add applied trim panels to those doors you just changed, or go big on the walls. Try rectangular panels above a chair rail for a more formal look in a living or dining room, or a square grid pattern with MDF strips – often called applied box moulding – for a modern Shaker vibe in a bedroom or bathroom.

Paint all applied trim to match the wall colour for the most cohesive look. Installing crown moulding and chunkier baseboards make a big difference, too.

Under no circumstances should you keep the builder’s basic light fixtures. Instead, hunt for one-of-a-kind vintage pendants, flush mount lights or chandeliers to infuse each room with a wow factor. Better still, install a ceiling medallion to highlight the light fixture – faux plaster versions look like a million bucks when painted to match the ceiling.

One last tip: We often focus on curb appeal, but why should the exterior side of your front door get all the attention? Paint the inside a bold, look-at-me colour. There’s nothing cookie cutter about that.

Need some advice about home decor and design? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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