One positive byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic is incredibly low mortgage interest rates. For those that are able, this has made an incredible opportunity to buy a new home. As evidenced on Maui, listings that are priced right are being snapped up almost as soon as they hit the market. If you just purchased a home, congratulations on taking this big step! Whether it’s your first one or the next landing spot on your ohana’s journey, you have a new opportunity to design the perfect tropical living space for you and those sharing your household.

There is something about an empty house that is like a blank canvas about to come to life. With a little planning, inspiration and a splash of color, your home will soon be a vibrant masterpiece.

Can’t wait to get started? Here are 6 tips to customize your space, starting before you move in!

  1. Spend time with an empty space

empty homeThere is a fleeting moment of opportunity when you first get the keys to your new home and before you start moving in. Take advantage of this time to photograph and measure each room while empty. Make sure and photograph different angles, and even different times of day. Lighting and colors change throughout the day and evening, affecting the mood of each room. Once you start moving in, you will not have this chance again to really evaluate your space without furnishings. Even after boxes start filling up each room, you can look back at photos and envision how you want the space to look.

Not only can you evaluate what colors would work best in each room, you can set some priorities. You probably don’t want to repaint the whole home, so focus on those areas that critically need maintenance or simply will not work with your design vision. Goodbye den painted palm-tree green!

Before you think about placing your existing furniture, imagine what would look best in the space. It may be a piece you don’t yet own, or furniture you may be using elsewhere that you never imagined in the space, such as an entryway bench now creating an extra seating area in the bedroom under a low window.

  1. Use what you have

3-D Home DesignWith measurements in hand, sketch out your interior using free interior design software. This is a great opportunity to see which of your major furniture pieces will fit in your new space, and what you might need to buy. You can even generate a 3-D model from your sketch with most design software.

Re-using items you already own is a budget saver- especially important since you likely just signed a mortgage loan. However, if the oversized L-shaped couch is a foot too long for your new living space, it may be time to sell it and find a better alternative. But don’t be afraid to hold on to unique smaller items, even if you don’t yet know where they will be placed.  Having familiar pieces around will make your new place feel like home as you get settled.

Make sure to carry the measurements with you while shopping. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the “perfect” table or chair at a store or garage sale, lugging it home and realizing it won’t fit where you thought it would (while your spouse gives you “I told you so” looks).

  1. Be timeless

painting do-overPainting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to change the look and feel of a room. However, to do the job well is no easy feat, and one you don’t want to repeat next year when you realize deep ocean turquoise maybe wasn’t the best choice for the dining room.

Look through Pinterest, Houzz or interior design websites to hone in on your personal style. Consider the livability for those you cohabitate with. Are your styles more casual or formal, coastal or country?

Once you have a style in mind, it’s time for execution. Keep the background colors timeless and the furniture neutral, and you won’t have to paint or replace major pieces for quite some time. But that doesn’t mean a boring design. Splash an accent color on one of the smaller walls, add colorful accent pillows and art. Kids rooms can have a fun theme through bedding, wall art and décor items that can be changed out as the child grows and their tastes mature.

  1. Choose inspiring décor

displaying a collectionYou may have brought some hidden art with you to your new home. Art does not have to be just a framed prints, photographs or oil on canvas.

Groups of collectible items, from hats and plates to plants and mirrors make wonderful three-dimensional displays. The trick is to make an artful display without looking cluttered. Stick with a theme- like Asian inspired ceramic vases and small sculptures, an assortment of different sized Delft blue plates, or your grandmother’s hat collection from the 1940s.  This article from RealHomes provides ideas on how to arrange collections.

  1. Buy some new basics

bathroom decorOn our last move, we brought all of our favorite linens, towels and area rugs and ended up using almost none of them. They just didn’t “go” with the new space.

Bathrooms are an ideal space for a new décor splurge. The limited size of the room means new essentials and accessories won’t break the bank.

Another area to consider is window coverings. Blinds, shades and curtains from your previous dwelling may not work in your new home due to size differences or color mismatches.

  1. Grow with the flow

Lanai LightingDon’t forget a few outside touches to bring living outdoors. Get the family involved in planting some flowers by the entry or install some decorative lanai lighting to enhance night time entertaining during warm summer nights.

There is no rush- you are home and will be here for a good long while, so enjoy every moment of making your hale truly your own.