I want to be clear in that I don’t care for the term “starter home.” In 1976 when tall ships were bustling through the Hudson River headed to lower Manhattan, Apple computer was formed, the $2 bill was issued, and Nadia Comaneci won 3 gold medals at the Montreal Olympics, my parents put $1200 down on a $26,790 house in Hampton Roads, VA. It was there – in those 3 bedrooms, galley style kitchen, living room, dining room, and utility room – that they would raise 6 kids over the next 28 years. Even though it was their first home purchase as a married couple, it was no starter hour. It was there house and they turned it into a home.

As real estate prices continue to soar and the square footage of homes outpaces the size of families, the starter home is becoming as elusive as a Sasquatch in a Navy barber chair. So when folks talking about the starter home I cringe thinking that with just a few small improvements and renovations such as the ones below, a starter home can easily be a home for the duration, providing shelter, happiness, safety, and the backdrop for a multitude of memories.

PICK SURVIVOR FURNITURE. Just like the television show, survivor furniture has to overcome obstacles, be versatile, and work harder than the next guy. When decorating a room in a starter home, choose furniture that will do double duty (even triple duty) and will survive tough situations…like toddlers, rowdy Christmas open houses, Super Bowl Sundays, and years of wear and tear. Choose pieces like a sectional sofa that can act as a room divider. Choose a coffee table that has drawers for games, toys, books, knick knacks, and more. You may event want to go with an indoor/outdoor rug that is stain resistant and water-resistant.


TAKE NOTES. The days of neon colored Post-It notes are over partly because of whiteboard paint and chalkboard paint, but also because no one wants to posture their new home as a boring office space or soccer mom haven. In your new home consider chalkboard paint on cabinet doors, a whiteboard wall in a multi-purpose space, or “landing strip” spaces that allow for To-Do lists to be written.

TAKE IT DOWN. A new home or a starter home may traditionally be small (or may actually be small) but that doesn’t mean you can’t designate a corner or a spot for downtime. Consider adding a built-in bookcase, furnishing with a comfortable chair, accenting with a warm light, and surrounding the area with framed photos and memoirs that escort you to that “happy place” for some true downtime.

SHED SOME LIGHT. Oftentimes a small space can appear dark and in the case of so many starter homes, it actually is dark (such was the trend for almost 20 years during the Vietnam era). Make a small investment in lightening things up. Consider painting the ceiling and walls a shade of white as well as bringing in white furniture pieces to showcase clean, clear, light, lines.


GET ORGANIZED. The best tip for upgrading a starter home is to make the best use of storage space possible. Whether the space is a closet or a set of upper cabinets, make the most of them. Consider purchasing organizing systems from box stores or organization outlets and using them to make the most of each square inch. Then go through the process of downsizing, organizing, and labeling, so that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place!

What have you done to upgrade your “starter home?” Is it truly a starter home or is the home you are realizing is where you want to be for the foreseeable future?