Ask the Designer: Customize for Character

4 Easy Ways to Customize Your Home

By Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS

Many of us love the look of a custom-built home, but for practical reasons, aren’t able to go the custom building route. If you’re attached to your move-in ready home, but still want that stylized look, here are four easy ways you can upgrade its design to make it your own.


#1. Custom Hardware. 

Think of hardware as jewelry for your cabinetry – nothing is better for dressing up a cabinet like an unusual or exquisite knob. Today, you can find hardware in an endless array of styles, shapes, and finishes.

Size it Right: The right size will depend on the look you’re going for. However, a big trend now is oversized pulls or knobs for a bold statement.

Tip: Crystal and stones can make hardware a statement piece.


#2. Custom Moldings. 

Beautiful moldings can give character and substance to a room that looks incomplete or inexpensive. If you have a traditional home, consider adding a dentil molding detail. For more transitional homes, a large cove crown is the ticket.

Size it Right: Your average 8-foot tall room can handle as much as a 5-inch crown and taller ceilings can handle even larger.

Tip: You can beef up an existing crown molding by adding a small 1- to 2-inch molding below it and painting them together to give the illusion of a bigger crown.

#3. Custom Window Treatments. 

In my opinion, rooms usually look somewhat unfinished without window treatments. A popular trend today is to use a beautiful material in a simple, clean, tailored style. Unless you have a sheer drapery, all draperies should be lined, or for a deluxe look, interlined. You can also never go wrong with basic pinch pleats. Unusual rods and hardware, along with trims, can help turn a simple fabric into something special.

Size it Right: My rule is that draperies, in most cases, should hang right below the crown to give the window an elegant look and make the room appear taller.

Tip: If you like a clean, simple look, even just a roman shade or bamboo blinds can make a window look more complete.

#4. Custom Light Fixtures. 

A beautiful hanging light fixture can set the tone for a whole room and give it its own unique style, whether that be rustic and casual or elegant and sophisticated. Both decorative hanging lights and sconces can layer a room with light and give it a finished, upscale, designer feel.

Size it Right: A basic rule of thumb is to add the width of the room to the length, so a 16-foot by 14-foot room would need at least a 30-inch chandelier. When in doubt, go slightly larger.


Haskell Matheny, ASID, CAPS is the owner and principal designer of Haskell Interiors, located in historic downtown Cleveland, Tenn. Visit online at