Jasmine Roth knows a cookie-cutter home when she sees one.
“It’s when you walk into the neighbor’s house for the first time and you don’t have to ask where the bathroom is because you already know,” she says.
As the star and host of HGTV’s latest series, “Hidden Potential,” Roth isn’t tackling daunting fixer-uppers. In fact, the Huntington Beach-based designer is doing just the opposite. Instead of looking through the bad to see the good, she’s actually looking through the good to see, well, the better. Her job? Give generic new builds their own identity.
“The concept of the show came about when we realized that a lot of the homes in Huntington Beach are cookie-cutter homes in cookie-cutter neighborhoods,” Roth tells Domino. “I think a lot of the United States is like that. Builders will come in and build 10, 15, or 30 homes and maybe there are one or two or three-floor plans, but, at the end of the day, they’re pretty much the same.”
Turning basic suburban abodes into inviting, character-filled retreats, much of what Roth brings to her client projects is based on her personal experience with construction. “I grew up building sheds and playhouses and dog houses and swing sets—all kinds of weird stuff—with my dad on the weekends. He wasn’t a builder, it was just a hobby. But it taught me, ‘Hey, girls can use circular saws and hammers and pliers.’ It got me comfortable with being on a job site,” says Roth.
When the Virginia-born designer and her husband left Boston for his home state of California a few years ago, the pair decided to purchase land and start their dream home from scratch. What was only intended as a straightforward build, however, quickly took on a new life as an all-consuming project. “We started building and we realized that we knew nothing. Absolutely nothing,” she recalls. “After two years, I ended up leaving my job to manage that project full time. I traded in my business suit and heels for a clipboard and a hard hat and the rest is history.”
While there is something fairly comforting and safe about a brand new space, it’s hard for a cookie-cutter home to feel like your own, especially when your neighborhood looks as if it’s been a part of a cloning experiment. For any homeowner who has ever listed “character” as a must-have, the idea of new construction can be really disappointing—and it’s not just the subtle charm of slightly warped hardwood floors or the old world ambiance of original molding that make a space feel like it matters. Despite any structural flaws, there’s something endearing and slightly nostalgic about a home with history.
In an effort to recreate this same inviting feeling, Roth has made it her mission to make generic new builds stand out from the crowd. Ahead, the designer shares her go-to tips for creating that coveted “lived in” quality.
ring in vintage pieces.
So, your house is new… that doesn’t mean your furniture has to be!
“[After you buy a new house], it can easily turn into, ‘Okay, the walls are up, they’re painted, the doors are hung, the faucets are working… that’s it. We’re done.’ But, instead, I want to make each house feel really unique. I think the best way to do that is to add something vintage,” suggests Roth. “I always try to add one or two things that have some chippy paint or that you look at and you’re like, ‘That has a story.’ It’s those types of items that make a house feel like it’s okay to live there.”
A strong collection of aged decorative objects and weathered furniture will impart that same storied energy to the overall space. Think thrifted artwork, antique rugs, and retro dining chairs. Once filled with textured goods that speak to your personality and travels, your average home won’t feel so ordinary anymore.
Add unexpected pops of color.
“I think another great thing to do to make a space feel like it’s not too new—if there is such a thing (because I think there is)—would be to add a pop of color,” says Roth. “Pick a color and use it in interesting ways. Even if it’s just painting the door to your laundry room! A fun color can totally change how that whole area feels.”
The exterior (or interior!) of the front door is a great way to make a stellar first impression—and extend major curb appeal. Inside, have fun with some of your larger statement pieces, like the living room sofa (we can’t resist a velvet pink couches) or a graphic dining table. Hits of neon and happy tiles in smaller doses will make the space feel complete.
Swap out the hardware.
Builders almost always favor blank slates, which explains why the bathrooms and kitchens in new builds often feel clean, cold, and indifferent. The simplest design change you can make on move-in day? Exchange smaller hardware and other easily removable fixtures like knobs, pulls, mirrors, and lighting.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as taking down the builder grade mirror that they’ve hung in your brand new bathroom and putting up a mirror that, maybe, is from an old building somewhere or an old school. Or, maybe it has chippy paint on it or looks like a porthole from a ship—It’s a way to add texture and story to a room that otherwise could be pretty darn boring,” says the designer.
Hang candid family photos.
“I’m big on the family photos. And they don’t have to be these staged, stuffy photos where you go out on the beach in matching outfits—I love candid photos. Even photos of dogs and pets. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but by framing those, it feels like your home.”
Get creative with a large-scale gallery wall in the living room or front hallway. For a coherent look, uniform frames and black and white imagery will foster a sense of balance. If an eclectic display is more your speed, vary the size and materials of your frames in a scattered look leading up the staircase.