Stand-out Homes in a Sea of Greige

Greige is an actual color that blends gray and beige. It’s the epitome of nondescript, and it’s almost always the color of choice for tract homes. It fits, too: From floorplans to finishes, most tract homes aren’t built with individuality in mind. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a cookie-cutter design.

Tract homes, which make up most newer subdivisions in Northern Colorado, offer affordable amenities—think neighborhood swimming pools, golf courses and convenient locations—which are especially attractive for families with young children. They also add inventory to a housing market that desperately needs it.

These homes remain basic because that’s what helps keep them affordable. However, personalizing one is possible for a wide range of budgets and can start before the foundation is even laid. In many cases, it’s even easier than remodeling an older home as building permits require them to be brought up to code.

“Tract homes account for about half, if not more, of the homes I sell,” says Alexis Foster, a Realtor with Windermere Real Estate in Fort Collins. “I would say over 80 percent of buyers go in and make some changes after they purchase a tract home.”

This is exactly what she and her husband, Jared, did when they bought a new home in a Johnstown neighborhood a few years ago. It was a great location for their work, it backed up to an open space and they loved the layout. Still, they wanted the home to have a more personalized look and feel, so they had the cheapest finishes put in by the builder so that they could go in and make upgrades after closing.

The couple replaced the basic stair railing with custom wrought iron, swapped out the builder-grade fireplace with a sleeker design and spruced up the kitchen. They also replaced light fixtures, redid the flooring and changed up the landscaping both in the front and back yards.

“I feel every home is a fixer-upper,” Foster says, “at least until you make it your own.”

A living room Anna Becerra of Revive Home Interiors redesigned. Photo by Calvin Baines Photography.


Start with the easy stuff

The most cost-effective changes you can make to a tract home begin with the paint on the walls. Then experts recommend upgrading your hardware—think door handles and cabinet knobs—as well as your lighting and plumbing fixtures.

“These are the easiest changes because they are just plug and play,” says Anna Becerra, owner and principal interior designer at Revive Home Interiors in Fort Collins.

After that, many of Becerra’s clients refinish their floors to eliminate transitions from wood to carpet to tile. Other big impacts can come from replacing paint-grade interior doors with stained wood doors, she says.

Replacing banisters, upgrading trim and window casings and implementing ceiling beams or custom woodwork can also make a home look more personalized and elevated. However, Becerra cautions buyers from over-improving their home.

“Otherwise, you will price yourself right off your street,” she says.

A good rule of thumb, according to Becerra, is to spend about 15 percent of your purchase price on remodeling projects so that they are paid back via increased home value in about seven years. Kitchen and bathroom remodels are less common with tract homes, she says, at least right away.

Stacy and Aaron Alms of Illusions Complete Home Solutions. Photo by Rachel Cox, Lumen Creative Co.

Bringin the pros

Hiring an interior designer can help you save money, Becerra adds.

“If you shop with a designer, you can often get their discount…and avoid buyer’s remorse when something doesn’t look the way you expected it to,” she says.

In fact, many buyers bring in a designer before they close on a house, says Stacy Alms, partner of Illusions Complete Home Solutions, a design-build team serving Northern Colorado.

“We are often hired on the front end to help make decisions, knowing what the vision is after closing,” Alms says. She recalls a client whose tract home had a kitchen island that was half wood and half drywall. After closing, Illusions wrapped the entire island in wood, giving it a much more custom look.

One great mid-priced customization Alms recommends is adding windows or larger doors.

“Builders often only offer standard placement of windows or smaller doors,” she says. “These upgrades can give the space a lot of impact, and they tend to be universally pleasing when it is time to resell the home.”

Sarah and Dave Ellis, owners of Green Thumb Plantscape, an indoor and outdoor plant design business in Loveland, bought a tract home just a few years old in south Fort Collins. The home had a spacious floor plan, a large backyard, it sat opposite a park and, as a bonus, was below their budget.

After closing, the couple replaced the carpets and blinds, refinished the floors, had the house professionally painted and added custom trim. They completely redid the back patio, adding a fireplace and creating the outdoor oasis they knew was possible when they first laid eyes on the home. Most recently, they renovated the kitchen.

While they live in a neighborhood with homes that appear replicated, Sarah says theirs stands out: “It took the home from feeling very plain Jane to having a lot of character.”


Design Tips

Play with paint. While a consistent paint color is more on-trend right now, grey or greige is definitely out, says Anna Becerra, owner of Revive Home Interiors. Instead of grey, look to more organic, earthy colors. Creamy whites and browns are hot right now, she says, as is painting trim, ceilings and walls the same color.

Upgrade the lighting. Becerra recommends getting rid of overhead lighting by adding wall sconces and lamps for a more personalized look. Stacy Alms, partner at Illusions Complete Home Solutions, adds, “The price range of lighting is all over the place. You can find more affordable versions of expensive fixtures easily.”

Add hardware. If your cabinets don’t have hardware, add knobs or pulls, Alms says, for another easy and inexpensive upgrade to the kitchen and bath.

Create flex spaces. Look for ways to add flex space, Becerra says, especially if you plan to finish a basement. “Make sure the space you design makes sense for multiple uses,” she says, particularly if resale value is important to you.

Bring in a designer. Becerra offers hourly rates for smaller jobs, and Alms provides free one-hour consultations. If an interior designer is out of your budget, some websites can help. Windermere Realtor Alexis Foster recommends, a site where you can hire an online designer for cheap. And don’t forget the old standbys of Pinterest and Instagram for design inspiration. Artificial intelligence programs can also offer a wealth of design ideas using photos of your home, Becerra says.