DIY Magic & 64 Plants Turned This Builder-Grade Home Into a Custom Showstopper

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on August 24, 2022

When Melissa Wagner and her husband Isaac found their new home in Boulder, Colorado, they saw literally nothing but potential. “It was a typical late-90s builder-grade home,” says the Havenly interior designer. “There was really nothing exciting about it — we have the exact same floor plan and exterior as several other homes in the neighborhood.”

Fortunately, the previous three owners left the 1997 home pretty much untouched, so the challenge lie in refreshing dated finishes and adding personality to the builder-grade space. “We weren’t dealing with anything bizarre design-wise, just…basic,” she adds.

Minimalist design | Houseplant decor

With the help of her father, a retired builder, the Wagners managed to refresh most of their home within four months of moving in. “I really focused on adding personal touches and carving out a space that felt special, but not too precious,” adds Melissa. “While there are still so many things I’d love to change — the doors, the flooring, the baseboard trim — what we have updated truly feels like us.”

Ahead, see how Melissa added new life into her builder-grade home, from genius DIY projects to houseplant decor tips and beyond.

Update the Basics *Before* Moving In

Mid-century modern living room | Houseplant decor

After signing on the dotted line, the Wagners immediately began priming their canvas with basic, aesthetic upgrades. “We ripped out old carpeting, upgraded light switches, added child-safe outlets, made minor repairs, and gave the entire home a fresh coat of paint, all before moving in,” she explains. “It was a whirlwind, but I can’t imagine living here without those basic refreshes!”

Mix & Match Different Design & Furniture Styles

Creative living room design ideas
Modern-rustic dining room | Houseplant decor

From a furnishings and decor standpoint, Melissa stuck to the cardinal rule of modern interior design: mixing different furniture styles. “I wanted it to feel dynamic, natural, personal, and full of life, not overly prescriptive,” she explains, noting the sculptural bouclé chairs and fireplace mural. The finished space is brimming with pieces from different design sensibilities and eras, from the oversized, mid-century modern lantern pendant to the more rustic dining table. 

Splurge on New Lighting & Hardware

To give the home an elevated touch, Melissa splurged on new hardwired light fixtures from Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Crate and Barrel. “I had a strict budget, but still wanted to go beyond builder-grade options,” she notes. In the kitchen and bathrooms, she invested in beautiful drawer pulls from CB2 and matching knobs (meticulously) sourced from Amazon. “These little details really added a cohesive, custom touch to our home,” she adds.

Embrace a One-of-a-Kind DIY (Or Three)

DIY headboard
Nursery design ideas

To cut costs and add truly one-of-a-kind touches, Melissa gave the fireplace, main bedroom, and nursery creative DIY upgrades.

“Our living room fireplace was an eyesore, but not something we wanted to completely overhaul,” she explains. “So, I painted a solid teal blue stripe up the center tiles and wall to make it fade into the background a bit.” (Find her full tutorial here). 

In the bedroom, she created a 14-foot upholstered headboard in roughly three days. “Our new bedroom is so much bigger than our old one, and it felt so empty, even with all of our furniture,” she explains. “The new headboard really leveled out the look — I love the rich navy and textural corduroy against the white walls.” (Find her full headboard DIY here).

Finally, Melissa also DIYed the cornice trim around the drapes in her daughter’s nursery. Inspired by her fiery, spirited personality, she brought in pops of bright red and blush via the valance and pom trim.

Carve Out Cozy Nooks

Enamored by the natural light and gorgeous maple tree in front of the kitchen, Melissa carved out a cozy breakfast nook for her family. “This is easily one of my favorite spaces in the house,” she explains. “We eat most meals here instead of the dining room, my daughter loves to color at the table, I work here on the weekends; it truly brings so much joy to our family.”

Finish With Personal Details

Houseplant decor
Houseplant decor

To round out the custom look, Melissa embraced a heartfelt, personalized approach to decor. On the living room shelves, you’ll find scattered rocks collected from the couples’ travels, framed artwork from her daughter, and approximately 64 houseplants (and counting). “Even the plants represent our love of nature and life,” she adds. “When we find our ‘forever home’ one day, I’d love to have an attached greenhouse!”

Havenly Designer Melissa Wagner

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Words by Kelsey Clark