Q. I'd like to build some "character" into my plans. Can you give me a few suggestions on how to add charm without breaking the bank?
A: Charm and character are added to a home at two different levels: first in the planning, then in the details. When planning, create rooms that are destinations rather than transition spaces. Be sure to include areas that are just big enough to accommodate two or three people. Somewhere just to sit and be comfortable.
At the detail level, simple is your best bet. A bracket at the bottom of a drywall arch or applied molding that is correctly proportioned will look great and won't strain your budget.
There are hundreds of books that document old interiors and details. Go through a few until you find a detail that catches your eye. Then, study it and try to figure out what makes it attractive. Once you've determined what the essence of the detail is, find a way to recreate it with less expensive parts and labor. As a rule of thumb, one "wow" feature per room is generally enough.